Lili Taylor Q&A: ‘American Crime’
“This was one of the very best experiences I’ve had in my life” proclaims Lili Taylor during our recent webcam chat as she reflects on her role on the sophomore season of “American Crime.” The two-time Emmy nominee talks candidly about her experience playing Anne Blaine, the blue-collar mom to Taylor (Connor Jessup), a troubled teen who attends a prestigious private school on a scholarship. The series deals with the aftermath of his alleged raped by a fellow male student at a party thrown by the school’s basketball team.
Once again, this anthology series delves head-first into some serious and sensitive issues this season. Indeed, it has become a hallmark of the series. The show’s creator, Oscar-winning writer John Ridley (“12 Years a Slave”), does not shy away from uncomfortable subject matters (violence towards LGBT people, campus sexual assault and prejudice against working class people). We see these often in news headlines but rarely in scripted series on broadcast television. “Those issues influenced us a lot, but in the right way. From the gut, or from the heart, not the head,” Taylor reveals.
The actress explains, “Any time anything got didactic or preachy or too idea-oriented, John would catch it and would say wait a minute, wait a minute, I’ve got to re-write this. For me, when something starts talking at me, I turn off. It doesn’t impact me anymore. And John just knew, it has to happen with relationships; through the actors’ faces.”
Each season of “American Crime” has cast the same actors in completely different roles and settings. Taylor’s screen time was relatively limited last year; this season she relished the opportunity of taking on a much more prominent role, collaborating with showrunner Ridley in “honoring the truth” of this complicated character that she was tasked with bringing to life.
“John is all about truth; and I am too, actually,” Taylor says. “That’s really important to me. So, I felt a real kinship with him on that, I felt really supported on that. And so we were already on the same page. In fact, we would read scenes out loud together and would both have the same feeling it something was just a little off, or maybe not honest enough, and we would change it together.”
She smiles when comparing her experience on “American Crime” with a past experience. “I once got a direction; like ‘they’re not going to understand that in Kansas’, about this choice I made. And I said (a) I think you’re underestimating the people of Kansas, and (b), this is what I would do, so maybe you hired the wrong person!”
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