New interview and photoshoot of Taylor Schilling with ODDA Magazine
From ODDA Magazine
Having one of the most infectious personalities in all of Hollywood, Taylor Schilling is a Golden Globe nominated and Screen Actors Guild award winning actress who is a massive ball of energy and talent. Known for her roles as Piper Chapman in “Orange is the New Black” and most recently as Erica Gauthier in “Pam and Tommy,” she is keeping as busy as ever as she meets with ODDA from her East Williamsburg, Brooklyn Airbnb in between shooting scenes for the new Apple TV+ drama “Dear Edward.” As a fellow Bostonian myself, Taylor and I started off talking about our shared “New York City is the only place to be” pipeline before diving into her playing a character who played a vital role in the Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee sex tape scandal and our shared obsession with her dog Tank. How would I sum up Taylor in four words? Perhaps the same as what she called me: “You’re a fucking doll.”
VINCENT PERELLA. Hi Taylor! To start, as a native Bostonian myself, can you tell me about growing up there and right outside the city?
TAYLOR SCHILLING. I grew up in West Roxbury and then I did a few years in Wayland for middle school, which is west of Boston. I was lucky to get a lot of life experience in terms of different schools and different people in kind of like a wacko teenage way. It laid a foundation for me to feel very brave and chase things I wanted to do. I experienced Boston as this sort of potpourri of different locations. I had spent some time at a boarding school for the arts and that sort of plugged me to the Huntington Theater in the city. Once there, I felt really in my scene being around the theater/art people. Once I found that community, it led me directly to New York City.
V.P. I see a lot of myself in you, as someone who similarly made the move from Boston to New York City to pursue her dreams. What made you want to pursue acting and why was educating yourself in NYC the place to do it?
T.S. When I was in middle school, there was a lot going on in my house. As for a lot of us, with a lot of familial fault lines developing, I didn’t really have any activities going on, whatever kids do, as an escape. My mother would give me some options like, you can be in a band, you can audition for the school musical that every 11-year-old gets into, or who the hell knows, join a chess club [laughs]. I ended up going to audition for this thing, which was in this science room and it involved standing up on a table and pretending to rob a bank. I had so much fun! Just waiting outside of the room with all the other little weirdo, sweet kids, who were into the same thing as me, was just amazing. I never really looked back.
I also never did it professionally — I had no idea what steps to take. It was really like, this is what’s fun for me. My teenage years were all over the place and it was sort of a through line for me, like, ‘Oh, I like this.’ I was able to audition and get into college and I don’t know, you know, New York for me was just the only option. New York City just always felt a bit familiar. I auditioned for Fordham University and the head of the theater department, Larry Sacharow, had a real sit down with me. He basically told me that my academic transcript didn’t support me attending the school, but if I kept my GPA up and blah blah blah, he would love to have me as part of the program. So, there really wasn’t any other option for me. Larry guided me through and really, really helped me.
V.P. Fast forwarding a bit, your role in “Orange Is the New Black” made you a household name, playing a real life woman, Piper Kerman. What did your role and experience on this show teach you as an actress?
T.S. I mean, I owe everything that I’ve done since “Orange” to the show. In a way, it was the thing that opened my entire life in the business, and it just gave me a lot of opportunities. It gave me so much experience and so much sustained time with amazing performers and writers and directors and it really helped me build this self-awareness of knowing clearly what worked for me and what I liked. Everything in my life, in terms of my professional career, feels like it’s before “Orange” and after “Orange.” There was this portal that opened and hopefully there will be other portals down the line.
V.P. Most recently, you’re playing another real life woman, Erica Gauthier, a bisexual porn star and estranged wife of Seth Rogan’s character in “Pam & Tommy.” Shockingly, Erica is quite a big deal in the story. How would the storyline be different if Erica wasn’t involved?
T.S. What I think is so interesting about Erica in that story is that in order to illustrate how Pam was violated, it was important to have the other side of the coin of someone voluntarily making the choice to be involved in sex work. Erica enjoyed the agency she had as an adult entertainer. She went on to direct porn, she was one of the first women to do that, and had a real sense of pride in her work. It was vital to have someone be there to be like, “All porn is not porn.” There are consent forms and an infrastructure in place to make porn, porn. I just think that the story is so convoluted, and I pray to God that Pam Anderson has an opportunity to tell her story on her own terms, but in the story that we told, Erica was vital to illustrating how Pam was violated, and it’s small, but it’s really impossible to do without her.
V.P. This cast has some fellow powerhouses in it, Lily James, Sebastian Stan, Seth Rogan, and Nick Offerman, to name a few. What was it like working with them?
T.S. Probably my best highlight with this project was Nick Offerman in the trailer. I’ve been such an enormous fan of his work and I really enjoyed getting to know him more, despite only briefly getting to share some screen time. Also, Seth Rogan, I mean, I hope we can do a million more things together. He was so kind, funny, and smart. I felt like I could really trust whatever was going on with him.
V.P. First with Piper, and now with Erica, has playing queer characters helped you explore and/or get comfortable with your sexuality?
T.S. No, I have always been pretty clear about who I am and I am very open about who I’m dating, whoever it may be. I do think, though, that “Orange” might have made it more comfortable for other people. I think it [‘Orange is the New Black’] might have given other people permission to feel more comfortable with me! I have always, and I get better as I get older of course, but still, have been my entire self, so it didn’t necessarily feel like I was on a personal exploration in that.
V.P. Can you tell me anything about your upcoming Apple TV+ project “Dear Edward?”
T.S. I’m having so much fun with it! I’m here in East Williamsburg for filming. It’s a completely different part and it’s a completely different show, different from anything else I’ve worked on and I really love the people I’m working with. Jason Katims, this prolific writer and showrunner, wrote it. Connie Britton is in it with me and oh my god, she’s regal. I literally tell her, “You’re royalty!” It’s unlike anything I’ve done in a while and I’m having such a ball.
V.P. When you have a downtime, what’s a typical day in your life like?
T.S. Well, I have to take care of my dog, who’s out of her mind, but so am I, so we get along. A day of optimal health for me would be getting outside, seeing a close friend, someone who can have some real, in depth conversations who I can share myself with and then receive them. I generally spend a lot of time painting and also really enjoy ceramics on the wheel. There’s studios both here in Brooklyn and Los Angeles that I love. Then sweating, usually it feels really good to do a workout, like weight training or yoga. But days like yesterday, honest to God, I do not mind just napping all day in the rain.
V.P. Lastly, I have to ask, as someone obsessed with seeing you talk about your French Bulldog “Tank” throughout some of your interviews, how is she?
T.S. [Proceeds to bring me directly to Tank]. I’m not taking responsibility for these ugly chairs, but this is Tank. She either just sleeps or wants to go do things. Bless her heart, she whines and screams and then passes out like a tiny baby. We have this odd couple dynamic sometimes where she’ll be like, “Just get your shit together mom!” We spend so much time together and I adore her. It’s Mother’s Day and I can tell she’s just like, “Make me some pancakes!”