Taylor Schilling is just one of those relatively new faces (she’s been acting in TV and movies for about 10 years) who I get a sense we’re going to be seeing for decades to come. I feel like the work we’ve seen her to is only a fraction of what she’s capable of, and as she continues to book films in between her starring role as Piper Chapman on Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” (the fifth season of which launches June 9). So far we’ve seen her pop up in such films as the Nicholas Sparks adaptation THE LUCKY ONE, Ben Affleck’s ARGO, the indie drama STAY, and the bizarre relationship comedy THE OVERNIGHT.
And Schilling’s movie slate is filling up for the next year or so, with three films—THE TITAN, THE PUBLIC (written and directed by Emilio Estevez), and THE PHILOSOPHY OF PHIL (directed by Greg Kinnear)—already in the can, and another (FAM-I-LY) slated for release next year. But in TAKE ME, Schilling goes through a lot of…personality changes during the course of the story, and it’s some of the best acting I’ve seen her do, which is why the programming team for the Chicago Critics Film Festival has booked it to play during its upcoming event, May 12-18. Please enjoy my talk with Taylor Schilling and be warned that pretty much the entire conversation could be looked at as spoilery; it kind of can’t be helped.
Taylor Schilling: Hi, Steve.
Capone: Hi, how are you?
TS: I’m doing well. How are you?
Capone: So how did you first become familiar with this project, and what did you dig about this character?
TS: Well, I just thought that she was so strong and off the beaten path of anybody that I know or any characters that I have read as of late, and she knows how to get what she wants. I love that she beats him at his own game, and that there’s like a play within a play happening. In a strange way, through putting herself in these really confined situations, she finds some liberation. She does this on purpose. She needs this kind of connection. It’s very similar to an S&M dynamic without the sex. I thought that was so interesting.
Capone: I want to talk around some of the reveals of the film, but that might be difficult to do.The way you play this is a combination of uninhibited and very confident, in a way that I don’t know if I’ve really seen you play before. Maybe that’s what you’re talking about.
TS: Yeah. That’s exciting to hear you say, and I appreciate that, because I think that’s what was so exciting about it was that it was so different form the film and TV characters that I’ve played in the past, and I was feeling really eager to find somebody completely different. So much of my time has been spent playing Piper, and so much of her experience with the world is wide-eyed and a bit of a deer in the headlights, and this woman is the opposite to that. This woman walks into a room and knows exactly what she wants and how to get it, and it felt like a nice antidote to the show that I’ve been on. That was what attracted me to it so much.
Capone: Talk about working with Pat. He’s something of an untested director. What did you like about his vision for the film and his take on this material?TS: Like with THE OVERNIGHT, I really appreciate [THE OVERNIGHT and TAKE ME producer] Mark Duplass’s aesthetic—and it’s not an entire body of what I enjoy, but what he does is certainly a piece of what I love. I love to have his stuff in my repertoire. So when he tells me that he has a director that he’s excited about, I tend to trust him and go with it, and he had that phone call with me with Patrick Brice, and then we also had that conversation about Pat. I ended up having such a great time with Patrick Brice, who directed and wrote THE OVERNIGHT, that I was really game to try it again. Plus having a character that I was so excited to play, it all just made sense.
Capone: I was going to ask you, because this is your second outing in a Duplass brothers production, I’m wondering other than convincing you that the director that they’ve got lined up is a good person to work with, what is it like having them be attached to a project during the actual production, or are they fairly hands off when things get rolling?
TS: I think that what makes it great is, having them as a part of the process and knowing that their eyes are going to be on something, particularly Mark who I enjoy collaborating with, I have a sense that they’re going aim for a certain bar. So I feel protected and safe when I’m working with them, because I know that they’ll be in post and that Mark will be involved. So there’s a security element that comes with it, but interestingly I think the way they get their work the work from their collaborators is they have a completely hands-off approach. They allow so much freedom and so much play, and there’s no overlording or pulling rank. It’s just a really collaborative and free environment. It’s very empowered. I feel like they give their filmmakers a lot of power.
Capone: When you’re playing someone who’s unhinged, you don’t play them unhinged. You just play them like they are. They don’t think they’re crazy. Why does she think what she’s doing is the right thing for her?
TS: I think that she, as somebody who may not be able to connect in the world outside of these really structured environments, is not someone who’s capable of maintaining many human relationships. So for somebody who’s not getting that need met on a daily basis, it’s like the pressure builds up, and in my imagination, she would have these bursts of time where she’d get all of her connection needs met, and then she’d have to go back into this space of shut down in her day-to-day job.
So it was a very specific formula. She was getting her high. She was getting her fix. It was a very specific mix of being subjugated and then being the person who is subjugating another person. She needs both of those dynamics. She needs to feel like someone’s controlling her, and then as if she’s controlling someone else. There’s this dance that needs to occur for her to get her hit, and she’s really good at it. She’s really, really good at playing the game. So much so that I think she scared him. She won. Part of it is, how can I win this? It’s almost like a slapstick HUNGER GAMES situation.
Capone: The last scene is amazing, because of transformation that you make. It’s like you’ve just been to like a weekend spa, and whatever it is you were trying to achieve with this game was completely successful.
TS: Exactly! She got it. She got it. It’s like she has a high that’s going to last her, she’s relaxed, she’s in her body. She has the fix and she feels plugged into the universe and to other people, so she can go about her life until next month when the next round happens.
Capone: A sizable portion of the film is you and Pat verbally jousting with each other. Did you guys have a chance to rehearse that and work that out before the shoot started, or was it done on the spot?
TS: No, a lot of it was very much on the spot. There was a script, but we just went for it. We really just went for it. There was something so fun about how dominant… that’s what I was saying. So this woman needs to feel dominated, then she needs to dominate. That’s the recipe that makes her feel like she’s connecting to another human, and it’s very sick, but in her brain, it’s the same logic of any addict, I think. I really played her like somebody who needed to get their fix. She seemed like an addict to me, but it was an emotional high.
Capone: Because you have a regular series, I guess you have to be maybe a little more selective in terms of picking films between when you’re shooting that. What is it you look for in a film project? Are you looking for something that works a different acting muscle than the series?
TS: Yeah. For right now, that’s where my nose ends up leading me—to do something that feels like is contrary to what the show is, and that ends up being just what I’m really attracted to and what I want to play. I don’t think that’s happening really consciously, but those end up being the roles I’m choosing and am attracted to. I imagine that will settle down when the show is over, but for right now that just seems to be the way that it’s working out. That’s just what speaks to me.
Capone: Thank you so much Taylor. It was great to talk to you.
TS: Thank you. Bye-bye.