Having an actor sibling has its perks, as any Mara, Olsen, Affleck or Wilson can attest. Like others before her, Taissa Farmiga, 20, didn’t have to go far to get discovered. Her sister, Vera Farmiga, cast her when she was 15 to play a younger version of herself in her 2011 directorial debut “Higher Ground.” “Vera would photograph me and our other siblings, and she said when she saw me on camera she saw something in me,” says Taissa Farmiga, the youngest of seven siblings. “I agreed because she’s my big sister and I didn’t want to get beat up.”
Now, with three buzzy projects premiering at South by Southwest, which begins Friday in Austin, Tex., Farmiga is poised to claim a little of the spotlight on her own.
“This is crazy,” she says of her disparate projects: “Share,” a short directed by pal Pippa Bianco; “Six Years,” a relationship drama shot last year in Austin, and “The Final Girls,” a horror comedy with Malin Åkerman, Nina Dobrev and Alia Shawkat.
It was during another film festival, Sundance, where she promoted “Higher Ground,” that Farmiga officially caught the acting bug.
“I realized that I loved it, and I just kind of jumped in,” she says. That led to her first TV audition for “American Horror Story.” “They called me and were like, ‘[director] Ryan Murphy really likes you,’ and I was like, ‘What!?’” she recalls.
After realizing she would be acting alongside Jessica Lange, she was overwhelmed. “I was like, ‘I’m going to keep my head down and be a good girl.’ If you have someone that amazing in front of you, you just have to take what you can from it, but without being in the way, just observing,” she says.
In addition to appearing in the first season, Farmiga built her own following as teen witch Zoe Benson on the third season of the anthology series. Although she’s no longer on the show, there’s always a chance she could return. “They bring people back sometimes at the most surprising moments,” she notes. She next appeared in Sofia Coppola’s “Bling Ring,” cementing her “cool girl” status. “Sofia’s incredible. She’s very soft spoken, but she knows what she wants,” says Farmiga of the writer-director, herself no stranger to nepotism.
While Farmiga still lives in her hometown of Whitehouse Station, N.J., she was speaking from Los Angeles, where she’s shooting the ABC pilot “L.A. Crime” with Erika Christensen. “I never officially moved out of my bedroom in my parents’ house,” she admits. “I’m just traveling so much for work.”
In addition to TV work and festival fare, Farmiga managed to make a couple of big-budget movies. She just finished shooting a still-untitled Warren Beatty-helmed project about Howard Hughes, and “In a Valley of Violence,” a “good old-fashioned Western” with Ethan Hawke and John Travolta. During the shoot, she passed up buying a pair of expensive boots, despite Vera’s advice, a choice she now regrets as she’s headed to Texas. “I wish I had a good pair of cowboy boots to throw on with a skirt, you know?”