New photo and interview of Taylor Schilling with Evening Standard
From Evening Standard:
Declaring one’s principles is often quite easy; living them out, however, can be another challenge entirely, as Taylor Schilling is discovering. ‘Intellectually speaking, in line with my politics, I would always say: “The real me is who I am on the inside.”’ The actress shoots me an exaggerated eye roll, and makes a self-deprecating ‘blah blah blah’ motion with her right hand. ‘But that’s me talking the talk. I am finding it is so much harder to walk the walk. I am finding that I actually had a real attachment to being a certain size and shape, to being a thin person.’
Three weeks previously, the star of Orange is the New Black wrapped filming on Fam-i-ly, an independent comedy-drama in which she plays the emotionally stunted aunt of a 13-year-old niece. Schilling’s character, Kate, has ‘some food issues’, which required the actress, ordinarily Hollywood-issue-slim and yoga-toned, to gain 15 pounds (just over a stone). That wasn’t, she reports, the tricky bit. ‘Are you kidding me? I’m a 32-year-old woman. I just had a lot of dessert,’ she laughs. ‘It was, like, “Yes, I’ll have that. And that. And I’ll have an extra order of fries too, thank you.”’
Leaving her new eating habits was harder. ‘Somehow I had thought that filming would end and everything would go back to normal, but it doesn’t work like that. It took me almost two weeks to stop having sugar cravings, and my pants still don’t fit.’ For the record, nobody else would notice — and she’s refusing to crash diet the extra pounds away. ‘Like every woman in the western world, I have a very complicated relationship with my food and my body, so I’m really not one for detoxes and fasts.’
The result has been some radical rethinking of her self-image. ‘It’s been really powerful and revolutionary to walk around being a different size. I feel liberated. I’ve realised that my body was one standard I held onto, thinking I was always going to be this little size. And that’s about being “f***able”. But I don’t make [career] choices based on that. When you start caring about vanity, you are inhibiting yourself.’We are sitting across a very large square table, in a pair of very large leather chairs, drinking fresh mint tea in the bar of a hotel close to the southern tip of Manhattan. It’s a little stuffy, and deeply masculine, populated by grey-haired, power-broking Wall Street sorts.
When Schilling arrives, we giggle at the incongruity of it — we’re the only women in here, except for the staff. She’s stylishly casual in black wide-legged trousers and a leather jacket, her blonde hair tied in a messy bun. The Brooklyn resident is currently in the midst of promoting the fifth series of OITNB (on which more later) as well as her new film, Take Me, a dark, twisted comedy produced by the indie film-making brothers Jay and Mark Duplass, about an entrepreneur (Pat Healy) who specialises in high-end simulated kidnappings. Schilling plays Anna St Blair, a wealthy would-be victim/punter who turns the tables on her captor. ‘This is somebody who knows what she wants, which in her case is a very specific recipe of being dominated and then dominating, and winning the game,’ says Schilling. ‘And I do think, in that way, it’s something of a feminist piece.’
Part the appeal of the role was, she says, that Anna ‘has something that’s a little antithetical to Piper’. Piper, of course, is Piper Chapman, the protagonist of OITNB, the middle-class white girl who ended up in prison thanks to a decade-old drug-mule incident with her former girlfriend, and the role that catapulted Schilling into the acting major league. Which is not to say that Piper is a sympathetic character; indeed, she is often cited as one of the first female antiheroes in popular television. ‘I don’t think there’s anything likeable about Piper,’ agrees Schilling. ‘But everything she’s doing is in reaction to being a fish out of water — she’s trying to find her feet.’
But Schilling’s own sexuality, outside of prison walls, has been the subject of scrutiny too; she has reportedly dated actress and musician Carrie Brownstein in recent times, but has never spoken about her private life. ‘I think it’s pretty invasive,’ she says. ‘I’ve had very serious relationships with lots of people, and I’m a very expansive human. There’s no part of me that can be put under a label. I really don’t fit into a box — that’s too reductive.’ She’s single right now. ‘I’m working all the time — I don’t really have anything else going on,’ she shrugs, without self-pity. ‘But I’ve had wonderful relationships. I’ve had a lot of love, and I don’t have any qualms about where it comes from.’
Whether she wants to have a family, she’s more unsure. ‘I don’t know. Not really. So, maybe that means no…’ she ponders, fiddling with the lid on her teapot. ‘I really crave stability. But I don’t know what that looks like yet.’
Schilling spent the first few years of her life in West Roxbury, a working-class area of Boston. ‘I was the only white kid in my class until I was eight,’ she recalls. Her father, Bob, a former assistant district attorney, and her mother, Patricia, an administrator at MIT, moved the family to the wealthy, predominantly white, suburb of Wayland, ‘for better schools’.‘But it was a real culture shock for my brother and I,’ she says. ‘I felt like an outsider, and I was always wanting to fight for my rights, and telling the other kids: you guys don’t know how privileged you are. There was a fire in my belly, I was a bit angry.’ Where did the urge to act come from? ‘My family are all goofballs, they like to talk and perform. Acting was also something I was good at, and I didn’t really want to spend that much time at home.’ Her parents divorced when she was 15, and the years preceding that weren’t the most harmonious. ‘Like it is for so many people, it was complicated. Some day I’ll write a good book about the whole thing.’
Perhaps, though, because she hustled hard until the right role found her, she is cautious about the trappings of fame. ‘I still think there’s a difference between celebrity and acting,’ she says. ‘And I’m really not comfortable with the celebrity role. ‘I love talking to people who also really love the show,’ she explains. ‘When I was young, and I was having a hard time, my life was impacted by shows I loved, and I can really see that in some of the girls I meet. But I can’t get that experience via… [she looks unimpressed] …Instagram.’ She does have an Instagram account — with 2.1 million followers no less — but is a less than enthusiastic participant. ‘I can’t find my sea legs on it. I’m not interested in having a public identity outside of my work, and it’s also not a place where I want to share what I did with my girlfriends last night to two million people.’
Having campaigned for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, speaking to college students on campuses around the country, she’s been made even more wary of social media. ‘We’re so vulnerable to information, and I’m trying to become a more conscious consumer of everything that enters my brain,’ she says.‘The more time I spend on social media, the more I find that I’m getting a very narrow slice of the world. And that is, I think, part of what got me to the place where I thought that it was a no-brainer that Hillary Clinton was going to win. And I don’t ever want to go back there. I was so complacent.’
That fire in Taylor Schilling’s belly is definitely still very much in evidence.