Interview with Wesley Taylor!
After starring in the original Broadway casts of Rock of Ages and The Addams Family, Wesley Taylor has gone on to regular appearances in Smash as the sassy ensemble member Bobby. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also created and produced two web series, both of which include cameos from almost all of Broadway’s biggest names. I recently caught up with him to ask about his wild ride from theater-loving kid from Orlando to Broadway star.
Your full name?
Wesley (John) Taylor.
You grew up attended a theater magnet school in Florida. What was that like?
Not quite like Fame, but we took ourselves very seriously. Maybe a little too seriously. But the great thing about going to an arts high school is you are saturated with the arts. Also, the material that is being thrown at you is complex. Even if at that age you may not be ready/have the amount of life experience necessary to do all of the Chekhov, Ibsen, Moliere, Shakespeare…you are being exposed to all of that at such an early age! Which I totally advocate.
Did you have specific motivation for moving to New York and becoming an actor?
I always knew I wanted to be an actor. There was never a doubt. I also always knew I wanted to live in New York City and even as a kid I tried to strategize how that was going to happen.
What’d you do once you were in NYC? Did you work lots of odd jobs?
I was very lucky to start working pretty much immediately when I graduated from UNCSA. My current agent actually met me down in NC at school (one of the advantages to attending a conservatory like the one I went to is the industry is constantly coming down to scout the senior class). However, JUST because I started working right away, doesn’t mean I never “paid my dues.” My jobs in high school consisted of CVS, Cold Stone Creamery, Nascar Café, and many more illustrious positions. Every summer while I was home from college, I was a living statue or strolling mime for Disney World and an acrobatic stilt walker for Universal Studios…yeah.
Any favorite memories from Rock of Ages?
Looking back, Rock of Ages was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life. The crazy thing about that show is that it just kept exceeding our expectations. I looked at the script and wasn’t sure how successful the show would be with audiences, so I almost went on a national tour of another show! My reps convinced me to stay in NYC since I had just got here. The show kept surprising me. We got great attention, we transferred to Broadway, got raves, nominations, it was the gift that kept giving! And to be able to make my Broadway debut with that role was so special. I felt like the stage was my playground. Franz made me feel like a child again and the experience was everything for me.
Next you originated a role in The Addams Family alongside Krysta Rodriguez, who you now work with in Smash! What was that like?
Not gonna lie…The Addams Family was a tough road. In the same way that Rock of Ages surprised everyone because of LOW expectations…Addams surprised everyone because of ridiculously HIGH expectations. We had a tryout for three months in the dead of winter in the most brutal Chicago weather. I was also going through a lot of personal challenges during that experience. Krysta and I became so incredibly close not only because we played opposite each other for two years (if you count workshops, Chicago, Broadway), but because we offered each other the perfect friendship for that point in our lives.
Are you two still good friends?
People frequently ask what it’s like to be reunited with Krysta on Smash but the truth is, I hardly see her. I had a few scenes with her at the top of the season, but she’s one of the regulars now so she works much more than I do. And she’s in the other show, Hit List, and I’m in Bombshell, so we don’t actually work together very much! But when we’re on set together, it’s fun. I will always love Krysta. She offers me something in our friendship that no one else does, and I can’t really explain that.
Out of all the productions you’ve done, Broadway and Off/Workshops, what has been your favorite, and why?
I don’t want to be lame, but some of the plays I did in college were more gratifying than anything I’ve done thus far in my professional career. The material handed to me was just amazing. But for the sake of what you WANT to hear…my favorite experience was Tales of the City at the American Conservatory Theatre. Four months of escape from New York, in San Francisco of all places, hanging with the Scissor Sisters, playing a very satisfying role amidst a beloved story. It doesn’t get better than that.
Okay, let’s talk Smash! What’s it like being on TV?
One thing you can’t deny about television is the exposure. Last year we averaged 7 million viewers a week. That means that more people are watching me on tv in one episode than in my ENTIRE life on stage. Exposure is a powerful thing. You walk into an audition room and everyone knows who you are, which definitely helps! And while a lot of what television offers can’t be beat by other mediums, at the end of the day I’m from the theater. Being on stage will always be the most satisfying, because nothing is better than the instant gratification of an audience. They inform your performance. The energy is palpable, good or bad. And I love it.
And then, of course, you have Billy Green and It Could Be Worse, which you produce with Mitchell Jarvis! You’re like a quadruple threat there! What inspired you to be a producer? Is this something you’ve wanted to do or is it just a fun project?
Larry David, Tina Fey, Lena Dunham, Fred Armisen…these are the people I aspire to be like. I’ve always planned on writing and starring in my own work. I am passionate about story-telling and having control over the material I perform. I enjoy creating my own work more than anything else…I wish I could make a living doing just that. That’s the dream.
Has producing web series given you any newfound appreciation for the creative team/business side of a production?
Oh my god, yes. I wear too many hats. I think writing and acting is enough to focus on, but no…I gotta think about casting and producing and production management and location scouting and publicizing and Mitch has to also write, act, and handle ALL technical/visual/camera elements of the show. He is director of photography and camera operator and sound and lights and directing the scene…it’s just silly sometimes. I’m always daydreaming about the day we’ll have an actual crew.
Okay, so, not gonna lie, when I heard that Mean Girls would become a musical, I thought of you instantly. Would you do a show like Mean Girls next, or would you want to do something more serious to add to your repertoire?
I do work that excites me. I don’t sit there and say I need to be serious now that I’ve played a funny role for a while. If the role is good or the material turns me on and I’m available to do it, I’m game. I would love to do a show like Mean Girls. Sounds fun.
Favorite show currently running?
Well The Mystery of Edwin Drood JUST closed…so I’ll go with Once.
Song stuck in your head right now?
A song I’m singing at 54Below tonight called “Map of the Stars” by Brad Alexander. It’s a great song.
Dream role (male or female!)?
Iago in Othello.
Most embarrassing moment on stage/set?
Oh my. So many. I’ve forgotten so many lines and fallen so many times on stage. I’ve walked into cameras on set. A few weeks ago, while shooting a number on Smash, I slipped and ATE IT in front of a room full of children, the cast, and the entire production crew. It was caught on camera. They won’t use it. The twisted thing is I wish they would, because it was hilarious. But they had to stop the take and make sure I was ok, it was beyond embarrassing.
We have a lot of up-and-coming actors here at Camp Broadway, what is your advice to those who want to be a Broadway actor?
Over saturate yourself with theater, watch all the acclaimed television shows, see every nominated film. Read plays, take class, study voice. Grow thick skin because you’re about to be rejected, belittled, scrutinized, and cast aside more than you’ve ever been in your life. The most important thing for survival is a strong sense of confidence in yourself and the work.