Here’s a new interview of Taylor Schilling with Gotham Magazine
As parole on Orange Is the New Black begins to look imminent, Taylor Schilling trades prison walls for outer space in the new sci-fi flick The Titan. While driving through New York City, she reveals her future predictions for Instagram, what it’s like to play a mom and that someone special who may – or may not – be living in Gowanus.
I think the Manhattan Bridge is faster. It will be faster when we get out of New York.
Taylor Schilling is heading home to Brooklyn after perusing the David Hockney exhibit at The Met with Yael Stone, her co-star on the wildly popular Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, which premieres its fifth season this June. “I’m a backseat driver,” she informs me and the Lyft employee who’s transporting her.
Schilling is 10 minutes late for our call because her phone’s battery was at only 4 percent and she was trying to find an outlet to charge it. She is wholeheartedly, authentically apologetic, as most multitaskers tend to be. “My phone always goes dead,” she says seriously. “It happens. But I snuck down from The Met to the Apple Store,” she explains. “The thing about Apple Stores is… outlets.” You get the feeling this happens to Schilling often.
“This is me and I embrace myself; I’m slightly absent-minded,” she confesses. And while you get that she may be distracted, she’s immediately as witty and self-deprecating as—if not more than— Piper Chapman, her character on the hit show.
“There ends up being a lot of circumstances that are absurd [in my life],” she replies when I ask if she knows she’s funny. “I’m in awe of the minds of actual funny people. Whatever humor is in my life is more unintentional.” Perhaps that’s why she picked up practicing transcendental meditation in earnest two years ago. “I find my brain moves very, very quickly and it isn’t on my side,” she says. “It tells me so much. Meditation slows it down and [creates] more spaciousness in myself and in my day to have deeper thoughts.”
Schilling says she was always a little out there as a kid. Growing up near Boston, she would pretend her house was a bank and charge people to pay her with paper if they wanted to enter. “I had an active imagination,” she says. While she started being creative at a young age and performing in school plays, Schilling didn’t work professionally as an actress until her early 20s, after she moved to New York City to attend Fordham University and while she attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts graduate acting program. But during childhood, if she wasn’t squeezing her family for entry fees, she would play a game called Ghost with her younger brother. “He was such a trooper,” she says. “I would turn off all the lights and scare the pants off him. He’d be upstairs crying—just traumatic sibling stuff. I was developing my craft!”
And while she hasn’t translated her early penchant for frightening people into a horror-film career just yet, she is taking her first stab at the scifi genre with Netflix’s original film The Titan, out in March. She co-stars with Sam Worthington as well as Ruth Wilson and Tom Wilkinson.
“It’s like a dystopian future where the Earth is no longer inhabitable, and we’re starting to play with making modifications to humans so they can live on other planets,” she explains. As far as acting, “it’s a lot of substitution work and playing a lot of pretend.” Aside from getting to do cool sci-fi stuff, Schilling found something in the script that moved her more. At its heart, she says, “[The Titan] is a beautiful, sensitive story of a family trying to stay together in the midst of heartbreak and great loss. I knew that if the director could pull off this sensitive human story in a sci-fi world, that would be an interesting contrast.”
With climate change, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and the recent discovery of huge water reserves on Mars, does Schilling see any correlation to reality? “It’s extremely resonant to this particular moment in time. The parallels [between The Titan] and the world we’re living in are incredibly uncomfortable,” she answers. In the flick, Worthington is an ace Air Force pilot who undergoes an experiment to become superhuman so he can survive on one of Saturn’s moons. Schilling plays his wife. “I think Sam is a pretty extraordinary, creative person,” she says. “We didn’t have a lot of time to bond or create sense memories [before shooting]. But that kind of familiarity was there as soon as we needed it to be.”
This is the first time the 33-year-old actress has played a mom. “Yeah, I want kids. I don’t know… I liked being a parent [in the film],” she says slyly. And although she’s currently seeing someone, who also lives in Brooklyn, she won’t reveal any names. The actress has been rumored to be linked to both men (Zac Efron) and women (Carrie Brownstein), and said in an interview last year, “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. … I’ve had a lot of love, and I don’t have any qualms about where it comes from.” This new boyfriend is said to be an artist living in Gowanus, Brooklyn. I’ve clearly thrown her by knowing this information: “I’m not gonna talk about it,” she says, chuckling, “but someone special does live in Gowanus. It’s full of special people. It’s a special place.”
Schilling is still grappling with the fact that people want to know all about her personal life. “I really love acting,” she explains. “I’m obsessed with actors and the craft. [But] it’s interesting: In the world we live in now, it feels like there’s a conflict with the amount of exposure everyone has. I do bristle at the notion of creating a persona or an image. The idea of celebrity is modern and strange. I think there will be a point of time in history when we’ll all look back at Instagram and laugh. Or cry. Or weep. This overexposure—it’s tricky to share tidbits and not the whole thing.”
For now, her long-term on-screen lesbian relationship with Alex Vause, played by Laura Prepon on OITNB, is complicated enough for her. This upcoming season, Schilling reveals that “Piper has grown up in a sense that she owns that relationship. She’s really in it. That’s sweet and interesting.” It’s a contrast to past seasons, when things were a bit darker for Piper. “This year doesn’t feel that way,” says Schilling. “There’s this transition of coming out of prison that will be different. I’m so happy we got to see her try to acclimate to prison [at the beginning] and now to explore the flip side of being on the outside again.”
With The Titan, and some other new roles on the horizon, does she feel excited for what’s after OITNB? “I blinked my eyes and realized I’ve spent a lot of time with this character and a specific family on this show,” she says, reminiscing. “[This period of my life] is cycling and winding down. How can I prepare myself for that? It’s opened so many doors. Now I get to walk through them.”
You can let me out here. Thank you. [Car door slam.]
“I’m looking forward to new environments. I’ve spent a lot of time in prison: bars, walls. I’m sure I’ll miss it in the end,” she says. “Those heavenly days in orange. In prison, just having a blast…”