November 12, 2012

Australian beauty Rachael Taylor can’t exactly say why she got into acting. Reviewing her last decade of work, filled with roles in Transformers, Grey’s Anatomy, and the short-lived Charlie’s Angels reboot, speaks to the actress’ drive and talent, even if she won’t. In her newest acting incarnation, Taylor stars in the ABC thriller 666 Park Avenue as Jane Van Been, the co-manager of a storied New York City highrise with its closet of deep, dark secrets. Here, the Aussie actress discusses the beauty of working in the horror genre, its effects on her Halloween costume choices, and the wisdom of 666 Park Avenue‘s resident Lucifer, Lost‘s Terry O’Quinn.

What drew you to the character of Jane Van Been in 666 Park Avenue?
It’s quite rare to find a character on network TV that evolves so much over thirteen episodes, and that was very appealing to me. When we meet Jane, she is a very simple, somewhat naive, sweet person. And by the time we get to episode six, she’s dramatically different. She has witnessed a much darker side of life. Then in episode seven, she is nearly unrecognizable. She has morphed into this mentally damaged, haunted person, and then she changes again and becomes more proactive and perhaps even a little deceptive. It has given me a great deal of opportunity to stretch as an actor. She’s a rare find in the television landscape.

Your American accent in the show is impeccable. What process did you have to go through to get rid of your Australian drawl?
Earlier in my career, I think my American accent was a little patchy, and I realized it just wasn’t acceptable. I was annoying myself, so I went back to the books and relearned the accent phonetically. Edith Skinners’ Speak with Distinction is the classic dialect book. Learning an accent from the beginning is pretty dull work, but I don’t regret it at all. I feel comfortable improvising in an American accent. It has also been useful for ordering take out over the phone and booking flights through an automated voice system when I’m here in the US!

Jane slowly unravels as the season progresses. Is it difficult playing someone that’s on edge so often? How do you stay in character?
I think in television your own personality and the character naturally start to meld a little. I’m at work more than I’m not at work. In some ways the more interesting task is maintaining a positive and confident  real-personal life! But the character’s journey has been super rewarding, because, well, she has one! 666 Park Avenue is not a procedural, it’s episodic with complex story arcs that have genuine payoffs, which is such a blessing because I’m never bored.

Does it help being on the set of a demonic apartment building?
Shooting in New York City is critical because our location is essentially another character on the show. We stick to a formula that is kind of similar to The Shining in the sense that the building is always a bit imposing or is strangulating the characters. I’m always impressed when I see the episodes cut together. We have a very talented cinematographer, Derick Underschultz, who frames everything in an interesting, unexpected way. I’m a big believer that film and television making is a group effort.

What’s it like working with Terry O’Quinn?
Terry is such an elegant actor, he has this immaculate sense of control and calm in the way he executes his performance. I think that’s why he can play these mysterious characters so well. He does everything with a kind of peace, which is so interesting to watch. As a person Terry is just a cool dude. He loves music. He loves his life. He’s kind and patient and a team player. He doesn’t seem to sweat anything. I’ve learned a lot from watching him work.

The show has its fair share of horror movie references. There are the sinister birds that attack people, reminiscent of Hitchock’s Birds, obviously. Then there’s the axe-wielding lunatic who tries to kill you which isn’t too far from The Shining. Have you picked up on that?
Our horror and thriller references are very deliberate. We talk about the classics quite often. I’m a massive fan of the genre so it fits me to a tee. It was one of the reasons I wanted to be involved with the show. Well-made horror and thriller films don’t become dated. Movies like Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, etc. didn’t rely too heavily on special effects. There were no robots or explosions; they are just brilliantly crafted films that stand the test of time.

You’ve worked a lot in both film and television. Do you prefer one medium over the other?
I think I actually prefer working in television, for two reasons: one, you get to play the character over a longer time and that’s a really interesting and bizarre process, and two, the writers surprise you. My biggest problem as a person is that I get bored terribly easily, so I like the curve balls that television can throw at you. Just when you think you’ve nutted your character out, you get the next script and you’re like, “Oh, that’s not at all where I expected that to go!’”

What inspired you to become an actress in the first place? Was it a particular film or performance?
I keep trying to work out why I became an actress. On one hand, it was something I quite deliberately strived for and on the other hand my whole career feels like one stroke of good fortune. I’m not sure why, of all the things I could have done, I chose to be an actor. But this is the process that continues to unfold for me, and I’m still really fascinated by acting in general. I really love it and there is so much about it that I don’t understand. Sometimes I feel like I have no idea what the fuck I’m doing, and sometimes I feel like there is nothing else I would rather do.

On a much less serious note, did working on such an ominous show influence your Halloween costume this year? Or did you go the opposite route of scary and dress up as like grapes?
Well, this Halloween was a little bit of a bust because I live in New York and the storm had me and most of my buddies without power,water etc. No complaints, we were the lucky ones. Dressing up as a vampire, for example, didn’t quite feel like the right move considering, you know? I also work on a horror show so, yeah, maybe I’d had my fill.

What happens once this season of 666 Park Avenue wraps? Any big plans?
I’m seeking some sun for a moment, likely in my native Australia. There is a movie I’m dying to do back in my home country as well, so it hopefully it will all work out perfectly.

Photography by TIna Turnbow

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