When Taylor Rose heard about an audition for the lead role of Tasha, a Hasidic teenager who runs away from her strict community in the hope of finding real freedom, she didn't hesitate for a moment. Although not familiar with the Hasidic life and culture, Taylor felt that this role was hers.
And when Taylor sets her mind on something... nothing will stop her ("Just like Tasha, I can be pretty stubborn and don’t take no for an answer"). After convincing her mom to move to New York, Taylor got into a performing arts school, and played in several films, before booking the role of Tasha in "Staring at the Sun".
This wonderful feature film, directed by Harry Greenberger ("Harry is the most generous person I know"), has already won multiple major awards, including Best Picture at the Los Angeles Film Awards and at the New York Film Awards, as well as Best Performance of Fest award for Taylor and Best Supporting Actress (Jill Shackner who plays Edie) at the Actors Awards.
We asked Taylor to join us for an interview, and met... Tasha! Just like her character, Taylor knows exactly what she wants in life, never lets anyone bring her down ("I don't need validation from anyone but myself"), and flatters her on-screen best friend Jill ("Jill is the ultimate scene partner and I wish I could work with her all the time").
Taylor, congratulations on winning Best of Fest! Tell us about Tasha Segal, the character you portrayed. What was it like to become Tasha? How did you prepare for the shoot?
Thank you! Tasha is probably the bravest character I’ve ever played. The price she has to pay to pursue a life she believes in is unfathomable. By leaving the Hasidic community, she chooses to never see her family again and walks into a world that isn’t going to take care of her. At sixteen years old, with no connections, money, or formal education, Tasha manages to build a life for herself. There are women out there who have done it and hopefully we have managed to shed some light on their stories.
I connected with Tasha immediately so I didn’t have to do a lot of emotional preparation. Like Tasha, I know what I want out of life and go for it. I can be pretty stubborn and don’t take no for an answer. I did a lot of research on Hasidism and people who’ve left the community. We were cast a few days before we started shooting so there wasn’t a lot of prep time.
You and Jill Shackner have great chemistry going on. How did you make that work so perfectly? Tell us about the experience of working with her.
Jill and I didn’t meet until a few days before production. We got along so well that everyone on set asked us if we knew each other from before the shoot. We were really lucky because there wasn’t a chemistry read, but one of my favorite things about this movie is how well it was cast by Harry and Lois.
Working with Jill was effortless. Our relationship off screen was what you saw on screen. I didn’t even feel like I was acting most of the time. Harry actually used a lot of footage of Jill and I joking around between takes for the film- some of them we didn’t even know the cameras were rolling.
What was your favorite moment on set?
The moments in the car with Jill were really fun. We would watch people passing by and do their “voiceovers”. We would give them elaborate life stories and inner monologues. We were constantly laughing or singing or both.
I also really enjoyed shooting in Hasidic communities. It was the most fascinating, informative experience I’ve ever had on set and a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Tell us more about yourself- How did you get into acting? What was the inspiration and who are your role models?
When I was seven, my best friend’s mom paid for me to go to a musical theater summer camp because my friend didn’t want to go alone. My friend hated it and I was hooked. I convinced my mom to move us to New York City, got into a performing arts school, and took Meisner classes on top of that on the side.
As far as role models go, I’ve received a lot of encouragement and advice from women who I’ve been lucky enough to work with. I’ve had some pretty incredible on-camera moms like Jeanne Tripplehorn and Cara Buono who understand what it’s like for a young woman trying to make her way in this industry. Sarah was a great anchor to have on set. I really look up to all the women I work with and I’m always actively trying to learn whatever I can from them. I’ve also been blessed to work with really supportive directors.
I’m inspired by actors like Jessica Chastain, Julianne Moore, Kate Winslet, and Viola Davis. I’ll watch anything they do.
What were some of the first steps you took in the industry?
I went to Carnegie Mellon for my BFA in acting and every student is given the opportunity to showcase for agents and casting directors in New York and LA their senior year. I signed with my manager and an agency through that showcase and that’s what really got the ball rolling for me. I ended up booking the first audition I went out on, and was cast in Staring at the Sun a few weeks after I wrapped that job.
I highly recommend that developing actors sign with a manager. It’s the best thing I did for myself.
You've appeared in several TV shows, like The Good Wife, Blue Bloods, Pure Genius, and [Blank] My Life. That's very impressive, and clearly, it's only the beginning! Do you find acting for TV is any different than acting in a movie?
It’s not so much a difference in acting as it is a difference in time. Television runs on a much tighter schedule. So you need to show up and get everything on the first or second take, especially if you are a guest star or day player.
Shows like The Good Wife and Blue Bloods require a specific style of acting where the dialogue covers a lot of information in a short amount of time. It’s a separate skill.
In my experience working on films, I’ve had much more artistic input, room to play, and time to find the character. I will say, I had great directors for all of the tv shows you just mentioned and felt incredibly artistically fulfilled at the end of all of these shoots.
What do you normally do to prepare for auditions?
Every audition is different. No matter what, I always read the script, memorize the lines, do my “text work” and personalize the material, and rehearse it with another person. If I don’t find someone to rehearse it with, my audition will most likely suffer. If I know who is working on the production, I research the writers, director, producers, etc to see their bodies of work and try to get a feel for their style/voice. If it's for a show that’s already on air, I will watch it. Understanding the tone of the project is really important.
From all the movies and shows that you worked on, what was your favourite role of all time, and why? And what would your dream role be?
I don’t know if I have a favorite role. I get really attached to the characters I play. Their feelings and struggles become really important to me, so in the moment, when I’m with a character, I think that person is the most interesting person in the world.
From your experience, what are common mistakes that filmmakers/ directors do on set? What would you suggest them to do differently?
A lot of directors don’t know how to speak to actors to get the performance they want. I find this happens mostly with directors who are just starting out. I would encourage them to take some acting classes with actors.
If you could chat the younger version of yourself, what advice would you have for her?
In all honesty, I would love some advice from 50 year old me right about now.
I guess I would tell her that other people’s perceptions of her are none of her business; she doesn’t need validation from anyone but herself, and to trust herself.
I had a great acting teacher say to me, “if you’re worried you have no room to be grateful”. I think about that before every audition I walk into.
Is there anyone you wish to thank / anything you wish to add?
I have to thank you first for the lovely reception and recognition of our film. It’s means the world that it meant something to you.
Jill should be sharing this award and interview with me. She is the ultimate scene partner and I wish I could work with her all the time.
Harry is the most generous person I know. I’m so so grateful for everything he’s done for me as both a director and a friend.
Carmine, Lois Drabkin, Sarah Clarke, Dolly, Yoni Ovadia, MY MOM, Michael Oberholtzer, Raul Castillo, the entire cast and crew, and of course, my friend Blaine who rehearsed the lines with me at 6am the morning of the callback.
Where can our followers see more of your work and get to know you better?
Thank you again!