Q&A | Bex Taylor-Klaus
Whether discussing their love of performance or the beauty of animation, it becomes apparent within moments of meeting actor Bex Taylor-Klaus that they are open, thoughtful, and infectiously enthusiastic about their work. These same qualities come across in their performances, no doubt part of the key to their burgeoning success on both the big and small screens. After landing a series regular role on AMC’s crime drama, The Killing, Taylor-Klaus went on to be involved in a number of diverse projects, from a leading role on the CW’s Arrow to a voice acting credit in the animated show, Voltron: Legendary Defender.
Just this past year, they starred in CBS Films’ horror flick, Hellfest, and appeared alongside Jennifer Aniston and Danielle MacDonald in the Netflix movie, Dumplin’. They have also finished work on the film Blackbird, starring Susan Sarandon and Kate Winslet, and joined the cast of the third season of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why. In addition to their work as an actor, Taylor-Klaus is also an outspoken LGBTQ+ and mental health advocate, inspiring others through their work with organizations like GLAAD, among others. They also have a devoted fan-base, with which they regularly interact and communicate with through social media. Just this past year, the actor used their online platform to come out as gender non-binary.
As their career continues to expand, so, too, does the actor’s ability to investigate the unique complexities of each role they inhabit. In their own words, Taylor-Klaus once claimed that, "To be an actor is to want to visit the dark places that humans strive so hard to stay away from." The actor has also had their fair share of darkness off-screen. According to the star, one of the main issues discussed in the upcoming season of 13 Reasons Why is sexual assault, an experience of which they themselves are a survivor, and a video of which was leaked online.
In a recent interview with Flaunt, Taylor-Klaus bravely opened up about their experience, in the hopes of empowering others through their own, personal narrative. They also spoke about their career, advocacy, social media platform, and the importance of inclusivity in film and television.
When did you first know you loved acting?
I was obsessed with The Wizard of Oz. So, for about two years, I was Dorothy. Drove my family crazy. It was a whole event. From then on, I was three years old, and my parents were like, “Okay, we’re going to have to put this kid in acting classes.” So, I started doing acting classes, and camps, and I think my parents figured it would be cheaper than therapy in the long run. It wasn’t, but it still worked out, so I’m not mad. They would put me in Alliance Theater acting camp when I was a kid. I remember, my first year, walking into this room with chairs and a black floor that was meant to be the stage, and I was just like, “What is this? I like it. This is fun!” And, I fell in love with Shakespeare in the third grade.
So you started performing at a pretty early age. When did you know that you wanted to pursue it professionally?
I never thought it was an option. I hadn’t even considered it. I was a jock. I was getting scouted. I thought I was going to be a softball player. Again, another unreachable, unattainable career. My three options were unattainable careers—forensic science, softball, and acting. It wasn’t until I was 15-16 that someone was like, “No, no. Actors exist. You could do it.” And I was like, “Oh really? How do I do that?”
In order to pursue your career, you moved out to LA when you were still in high school. What was it like moving all the way from Atlanta to Los Angeles when you were still pretty young?
It was wild. For the first couple of years, I was coming back and forth. During one stretch of staying in LA, I had rotating guardians, because my parents have two younger kids. They couldn’t just pick up and move. It was difficult, but it was really cool, having the chance to spend a lot of quality time with different members of my extended family. Then, I ended up moving out and into my own apartment on my 18th birthday.
Six months later, I was not doing so great, and my parents were just about ready to come out and take me home. Within three days, I got the call from The Killing on AMC saying, “We want you for Bullet. You’re moving to Canada.” And my parents were like, “Well, we can’t exactly say no to that, but we have to put systems in place to make sure you’re safe up there.” The hardest part was making sure I would have a set tutor, so I could finish high school. My grades were dropping. I’m very smart, but I don’t do school. My set tutor saved everything, and I ended up finishing all my coursework before the kids back home. I came home towards the end of filming, walked in my graduation, and flew back up to Canada to finish.
It’s amazing that through all that, you had such supportive parents that were respectful of your dream, but also wanted to make sure that you were taking care of yourself.
Well, my parents are both life coaches. It started when I was about 12, and it’s been beautiful to watch them evolve, and watch them grow and learn. Coaching has changed our entire family. Once they became coaches, all their time was dedicated to telling people, “Follow your dreams, do what you need to do, do what’s right for you, and take care of yourself.” They couldn’t exactly tell me something different, and, fortunately, they realized that. So, all the work that they were doing with other people, they extended to me.
While you were beginning your career, were there any actors whose performances you looked up to and admired?
So many outside of The Killing, but inside, the main three in season 3: Joel Kinnaman, Mireille Enos, and Peter Sarsgaard. Peter and I had no overlap in our scenes—we were in completely different sections of the show—but, I would show up on days when I wasn’t working, and I would sit, and I would watch, and just watching Peter work, it was glorious. He’s just got this beautiful mastery of his craft. And I’m so glad that in my formative moments of learning how to be an actor, I got to sit and watch Peter Sarsgaard, and I got to sit and work with Mireille Enos, and I got to sit and work with Joel Kinnaman. The Killing is one of those experiences that I’m never going to forget, and that I’m going to hold closest to my heart, not just because it was my first experience, but because it was such a beautiful one.
Since then, you’ve been in everything from crime dramas, to superhero shows, to horror films. In your downtime, is there a genre you tend to gravitate towards the most in what you watch?
I love animation. It’s stunning to me, and something I always wished I could do. I just think it’s such a unique and beautiful way to tell these stories. Anywhere from Voltron to She Ra, to Rick and Morty, Love, Death, and Robots, I like things that tell stories. I like things that feel important. Love, Death, and Robots tells all these very specific, short, unique, twisted stories, but they all make you think really hard about something that’s going on right now. I love that. I think that it’s genius. I don’t know if I really gravitate towards any specific genre. I gravitate towards very specific stories and types of storytelling.
Does that go for the projects that you choose to be a part of, as well?
Most of me wants to make a statement, and wants to do something that I’m proud of, and do something that makes people think, and says something. I think that’s why I’ll always hold The Killing so close. Part of me also just wants to have fun, because this job is fun! It’s so weird! That is the real reason I did Hellfest. Because it was fun! I mean, come on! We got to shoot in a theme park, and turn it into a horror park. It was so fun!
You recently wrapped filming on the movie “Blackbird”, which also stars Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Mia Wasikowska, Sam Neill, Rainn Wilson, and Lindsay Duncan. What was it like getting to work alongside that cast?
It was so much fun, because they’re all nerds. At first, I was so scared. You look at the cast list, and you’re one of the last people cast, and you’re like, “Oh god!” And then, you get there, and they all start talking, and you have this dawning realization of, “Oh, they’re all just as nerdy and weird as I am! Got it! Oh, we’re gonna get along fine!” So, we’ve still got group chats going, we message each other all the time, we got matching tattoos in the living room of Susan Sarandon’s cottage. It was just a beautiful experience. Everyone there is so seasoned and present in every scene that they do. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of, much less to watch. It was one of those unforgettable experiences, both because of the connections we made, and the work that we did together.
You’re also joined the cast of “13 Reasons Why”. How would you describe your character?
I would describe my character as a militant lesbian hell-bent on justice. Her version of justice may not always match with other people’s version of justice, and what’s right, but damn if she isn’t positive and gung ho about what she believes. There are pieces of her that I admire, and pieces of her that make me want to shake her by the shoulders, and go, “Shut the fuck up and listen, please.” And I like that, because that’s real. There are so many people I know like that.
The show itself has sparked a lot of important dialogue surrounding a number of issues. What about the show’s message resonated with you?
Back in high school, the book 13 Reasons Why saved my life. I wouldn’t be here without it. The thing that saved my life is something that actually isn’t in the show. That was hard for me, so when I got the audition for season 3, I had some serious inner turmoil. I called Tommy [Dorfman] and I asked him if I could pick his brain about why I should do this. He told me that season 3, from what he knew, was going to do something different. That alone was enough to convince me to trust, and to sign on. What I saw while I was there solidified what he told me. What they’re doing this season is something I believe in. It’s something important. It’s really opening up the dialogue more about sexual assault than it is about taking your life.
What, in your opinion, is the significance of shows like this addressing this issue?
When we want people to have conversations about what we’re showing them, we need to say that. So, when 13 Reasons Why added in trigger warnings, that was beautiful, because that was their way of saying, “Hey, talk to people about this. Don’t just sit there and think about it, because that’s dangerous.” I think that’s something that all of us should be doing, in this industry, especially. We need to remind people to talk—to each other, to professionals—about what you’re watching, about what you’re feeling, about what you’re thinking. I think that’s something that the #MeToo movement has done so beautifully. It started years before it even took off, which I think is fascinating, but once it took off, it really did what it was meant to do, which is make people talk, make people connect, and think, and discuss. I think that’s something that 13 Reasons Why is really trying to do this season. From what I’ve seen, this season does a pretty solid job of reminding you to reach out to, and not to just sit and wallow. It’s okay to do that once in a while, but you can’t spend your life doing that. It will kill you. Connection is what heals.
In regards to that, what, for you, is the power of an individual’s voice within a movement like #MeToo?
A movement is nothing without each individual voice. Believe that no matter how soft you may speak, or how loud you may speak, what you’re saying will resonate with someone, and even if only resonates with one person, that is enough. There are so many of us in this world! If each and every one of us can just speak our truth, and have that truth be recognized by one person, that will make so much more difference than we could even fathom.
I’m thinking back on 13 Reasons Why, and how my character is coming from such a wounded place from her own sexual assault, and how I haven’t really thought about what I’ve been through as sexual assault until very recently. Even after filming, I was still so shut-down about it, and I had this realization that that’s what so many women in the #MeToo movement have dealt with. I want to leave this world a better place than I found it, and if I can do that by helping people get the help they need by seeing that they’re not alone, I want to do that. I was in a relationship that was very toxic, and very manipulative, but I didn’t know that. I didn’t know I had other options, and that’s not my fault. I survived, and I’ve moved past it. I still have terrible days, and terrible flashes, and serious triggers. I’m not broken, but I’m definitely bruised. I think the thing that aches the most is that not only did she do it to me, without my knowledge she took a video of it. I didn’t know it existed until it hit the internet. I have dealt with it on the legal front, trying to suppress it, but I know I can’t, because the internet is forever. Someone will always have saved it. Someone will always have taken it, stolen it. It’s impossible, when you’re in the painting, to realize how dark it is.
That’s why I think it’s so important to stay connected to the people around you. Everybody’s got a different story, and when you hear a story that sounds even remotely like what you went through, you have that flash of realization. The beauty of the #MeToo movement is being able to see that you’re not alone, being able to hear that you’re not alone, and that you are supported and loved, and you are still whole.
As an outspoken LGBTQ+ and mental health advocate, what would you most hope to achieve through your advocacy?
I just want to help people. I just want people to know that it’s okay to ask for help. That was the hardest lesson for me to learn. I think that one of the reasons why I stayed quiet on my own sexual assault experience for so long was because I was hoping that I could just erase it. I didn’t want anyone to know. Sometimes I’m really good at asking for what I need, and other times I don’t want to need help, and so I resist it. But, I notice that every single time after I buck up and ask for the help I need, my life gets significantly easier, and brighter. It becomes easier to breathe. It becomes easier to walk. I want people to feel that, to experience the lightening of their load. It’s okay. Atlas held up the world all on his own, but we don’t have to.
Many of the projects you’ve been involved with, films like Dumplin’, for example, feature diverse characters and casts - do you see a change in the kinds of stories that are being told in film and TV, in terms of their inclusivity?
Oh yeah! It’s getting better. There’s still work to be done, and all the projects I’m working on producing are as diverse as I can possibly make them. It no longer feels like projects that are diverse have to be passion projects. They can be mainstream projects, which is beautiful! It’s about friggin’ time!
Through your work with organizations like GLAAD, you’ve definitely become a role model for many people. Who are your role models?
My family, my parents, Ellen Page. I love what she did with Gaycation. I look up to my little sister. She’s a woman in STEM. My cousin, she’s another woman in STEM. It’s a lot of people close to me doing small things. My great-grandmother started the first PlannedParenthood in Atlanta, and great-grandfather integrated the first bowling alley in Atlanta. Those, to me, are reasons to be role models, so they always will be.
You engage pretty regularly with your fans online through Twitter and Instagram. What, for you, is the importance of communicating with and being open with your fans through social media?
We all put on masks. We all pretend to be something every day. I’m tired of it. I spent so long trying to be what they told me I had to be. I’m sick of it. I just want to be me. And, I hope that by me being me, it’ll inspire other kids to just be them. We need way more honesty, and transparency, and radical self-love in this world.
What’s next for you?
The pilot I did got picked up to series, so we get to see Deputy next year, which I’m excited about. I just got off the phone with our executive director, and executive producer yesterday, and things are going in a new direction. We’ve got a woman leading the writers room, and I can’t tell you how excited that makes me! One of our main characters is Yara Martinez from Jane the Virgin, and she plays the top surgeon in the county. I’ve started working with NHMC, and being able to be part of a show that has such a powerful Latina woman in a lead role makes my heart soar. Latinx and Native American are the two most underrepresented minorities in media right now, and being able to be part of something that could help out even a minor bit fills me with so much joy. Everybody needs to be able to see themselves on screen. Everybody needs to be able to look at someone and go, “I can look like that, and I can be like that.” There was something going around Twitter: “Tell us the first time you saw yourself on screen.” There were so many kids that were saying Susie from Rugrats, and it just struck me. Everybody needs that. Everybody deserves to be seen. Bex Taylor-Klaus