Q&A with TAYLOR HAND
At 13 years old, Taylor Madeline Hand is hard at work collecting essential tools in developing her growing career in the entertainment world. Represented by Kogen Management and Stewart Talent, this incredible star on the rise has so much passion for her craft. The talented actress recently landed a role in Jennifer Esposito’s newest indie film Fresh Kills, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this passed June. Taylor is definitely one to watch as she continues on her acting journey and further develops her impressive craft.
ALLY: Let’s start waaay at the beginning… How old were you when you first realized that you loved to perform? Was it a specific moment, or was it kind of something you always knew you wanted to do?
TAYLOR: I think it was kind of always something I wanted to do. I don't really remember a specific time. I just remember always wanting to do it.
A: Is there a famous actor, singer, or performer that influences the work that you do?
T: I think, well, now she's a singer and an actress, but I think Lady Gaga. She's a big inspiration for me. And then for a singer, Taylor Swift.
A: Did you go to the Eras Tour?
T: I did!
A: No way, I'm so jealous!
T: Haha, I'm very lucky!
A: So, we're gonna dive into your acting work in a bit, but I wanted to first talk about your singing. So what is it that you love the most about performing on stage?
T: I think something I really enjoy about performing on stage is just being able to really perform in front of a bunch of people. I like seeing people in the audience and being able to reflect off of them. And I think that I definitely have a different way of acting from when there are people in front of me on stage to when I'm just filming on camera. And I think I can almost relate and reflect to the people more when they're in front of me. I can really just act in front of them in a different way than I can on camera. So I think that's really cool experience.
A: I totally get that, it's like a different energy.
A: All right, so now I wanna jump into your latest work, Fresh Kills. I saw that the plot of the film is kind of a mob story, but it's told through a feminist lens, which sounds amazing. And I really love that so many women are involved in the creation of this film. I saw that Jennifer Esposito was part of the cast, but she also wrote and directed it, which is amazing! So my question for you is, what was it like working with so many incredible female artists?
T: It's really empowering. I don't have that much experience, but I do know that a lot of movie sets have a lot of men in the crew and the cast. And I think since this is one of my first big projects, that it was really empowering for me to be around so many empowered women. Just really seeing how they work, and knowing that when I do more movies and do more projects with more men that I should never go less or do less than I did on this film, just because there's men on it. So I think, since it was one of my first big projects, I think it was really cool to have that experience with so many women because I can relate to them more. They're also such an inspiration for me, they're what I wanna be when I grow up. I think it was really cool to just be surrounded by so many women.
A: That’s amazing! So, take me through the audition process for this film. What was going on in your head when you stepped into your audition? Were you nervous, anxious, excited? What was the vibe?
T: Okay, so the first thing I have to say about the audition process is that it was probably one of my first recording auditions, because I remember it was the start of COVID.
A: Oh, wow.
T: So I had been so used to going into the city and doing auditions in person and it was just a different experience. It's different not being able to be in front of the people, but rather on a Zoom call or on a Facetime call. So there were a lot of auditions. There were probably, if I had to guess, six to eight different phone calls. The audition process probably went on for a good 2-3 months. It was really long. They were very spread out. And normally I would find that I would be like, “okay, when this is gonna end?”, but the entire Zoom call I was interacting with the people on the other side, and they were so nice.
Like Jennifer, I got to meet with her on the Zoom call. She was the one who was watching my auditions. I think it was really cool for me because even though it was on Zoom, I was still getting to interact with the person that could possibly be playing my mother in the film and directing it.
So the audition process went on for quite a while. I remember, since it was one of my first auditions not in person, I was definitely nervous. But since it was such a long acting process over the auditions, I started to get less nervous and more comfortable because I was meeting with them so many times. But I do know that the first couple of auditions, I was definitely a little nervous not knowing what to expect. But as we got farther into the process, and I started to bond with the people that I was on Zoom with, I just started to get more comfortable.
A: That's great. I honestly did not even realize that the process started during COVID, that’s so crazy!
T: It was definitely one of the longer auditions that I’ve experienced, but it was cool!
A: Your character in the film is listed as “Young Connie”, or a younger version of actress Odessa A’zion’s character. Did you work closely with her to perfect the role? And what else did you do to prepare?
T: So after I learned I got the role and before I started filming, I did a lot of Zoom calls with Jennifer. We went through the script a couple of times to prepare for my role. And we did talk about connecting with Odessa a little bit and understanding her so that we could perform the same way. But I will say I am very much like her in general without any coaching. So we focused on her, but not as much as I thought we would have. And I was a little concerned about that, but as soon as I met her in person I was like, “okay, we're so much alike. Now I know why we didn't need coaching.” We also look very similar. We act very similar. And there’s a lot of things in the film that you're like, “oh, the older version of her did that too!” A lot of them weren't planned, we're just so similar!
A: I saw that Fresh Kills was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival in June, which is so impressive and exciting! What was it like seeing your work put on display at such an iconic event?
T: I personally don't like seeing myself act, and I feel like a lot of actresses and actors can relate to that, just because it's a little weird, you know, to see yourself on the big screen. Especially since it was one of my first big films, and I'm not used to seeing myself. But the event was just so cool. Like I said, it was one of my first events like that. It was a really good experience for me, and it wasn't as weird as I thought it would be. For some reason, I was expecting myself to completely cringe, and I didn't! I mean, there were a couple of moments where I was like, “oh my God,” but overall it was really cool to see myself and to see the other actresses and actors that I worked with because it was also my first time seeing the film.
A: Wow, that's such an insane experience to be able to say that you had! Is there anything that you learned during the making of Fresh Kills that you think you can use in future projects?
T: 100%. I learned so much from Jennifer because she's an actress herself, and as a first-time director, I mean, she's such an inspiration to me. So I learned so much from her. I learned so much from the other actresses and actors that I was around, and I know that I actually have a very close relationship with Jennifer. We've formed a personal relationship with each other, so we talk to each other about the movie and stuff, and I just feel really comfortable with her. And I know that she always gives me super good advice. I've learned so much from her that I can bring with me to other experiences. It's, it's really fabulous how much I learned from her.
A: That's amazing. And it's so great that you got to learn so much on a project so early in your career.
T: I'm so lucky that I met her and got to work on this project as one of the first projects in my career so I could use all of the good advice that I got for all of my upcoming experiences in my career.
A: Absolutely! Do you have any specific pieces of advice that really stuck with you?
T: This isn't word for word, and I don't even know if she said this to me. I may have just kind of gotten it off of her in the way she acts, but she really taught me that you are who you are and don't act less of yourself just because you're on a movie set or when you're behind the scenes. Don't act less of yourself because there are people around you that may not approve of you. Just be yourself!
A: That is such great advice! When you're not performing, what kind of things do you like to do to unwind or take your mind off of the craziness of the entertainment world?
T: Well, the big thing that I like to do is listen to music, specifically Taylor Swift. That really relaxes me. I love watching documentaries and biographies, especially about the people I've worked with. I like watching movies that my coworkers are in, I just think it's really cool to see them. And I really like swimming and riding my bike.
A: Sidenote; what's your favorite Taylor Swift song?
T: Oh, gosh. There’s so many… Cardigan, Don’t Blame Me, Our Song, All Too Well (Ten Minute Version), Enchanted...
A: That's a stellar top five, honestly. Do you have any advice for young actors and actresses who are just getting started in the industry?
T: I know that this is a very common thing that people say in this industry, but I think it's, if you really do it, it could be really powerful for your career to always be yourself. I was just saying this because Jennifer told me it, but never be less than yourself just because you're on a job.I mean don't be, like, obnoxious or anything. But always give the cast and crew your real self, because that will give them something to reflect on. And it's always better to just be yourself than not be.
And another thing that I would tell young actors and actresses is that when, if you're preparing for a role, say, you're being either an older version of someone or you’re working with a well-known cast member: Study them. Watch their movies. Study yourself. A lot of times I get things from my manager, they're like, “this character that you're auditioning for is very much like this character from this movie.” And then I go watch the movie, and I study that character. Always study the character very well, so that when you're doing the audition, it looks super natural.
You can stay up-to-date on all of Taylor’s latest projects by following her on Instagram @taylormadelinehand !!
Blog by Ally Roberts