“I won’t watch it.”
So Holland Taylor is not a horror fan — never was, and just because she’s in the latest television adaptation of a Stephen King thriller doesn’t mean she’s about to become one now.
“I don’t want to be scared by a movie that intends to scare me, that I know what they’re doing, I know their plans for. I know they’ve built the whole thing to scare the crap out of me and I don’t want to go there,” Taylor says, looking sharp in a printed pantsuit. “Stephen King is such a master, but I don’t like being scared — there’s enough that’s really scary. How about the morning’s news?”
Taylor, 74, appears alongside Brendan Gleeson in “Mr. Mercedes,” a post-economic-crash mystery that follows a retired detective as he’s haunted by an unsolved murder case. Taylor plays Ida, the neighbor of Gleeson’s Bill Hodges, a character who didn’t exist in the book, but is introduced in the series to add some humanity to an otherwise grim cast of characters.
“When you’re reading a novel, the reader is supplying the visuals. And then when you put it up on a screen, you have to make it real — you have to create the reality,” Taylor says. “And I think they felt that it would just be too dark [without Ida]. Audiences tend to like someone like that, who we all feel secure with, who we all feel comforted by.”
Taylor is an easy fit for the task. The afternoon of her photo shoot, she’s warm and talkative, milling about the photo studio discussing camera lenses and records (she misses vinyl like she misses film — “the depth of it”); pausing to take a FaceTime call, and raving about her girlfriend of over a year, 42-year-old actor Sarah Paulson (who, despite her seriousness in character, Taylor promises “has a funny bone”).
“Mr. Mercedes,” which premiered last week, reunites Taylor with the show’s creator David E. Kelley, on the heels of his success with “Big Little Lies” and “Goliath.” The two worked together on the series “The Practice,” for which she won an Emmy in 1997.
Taylor has spent recent years onstage, including in Broadway’s “The Front Page” in 2016, and had a bit of a culture shock when she found herself trekking through Comic Con to promote “Mr. Mercedes.” “I’m of the age where I’m going to be grumpy about anything that makes me do my makeup and my hair and get dressed up and pose for pictures,” she says with a grin.
But if the writer — and the role, therefore — are worthy, she’s forever on board. “The part I did for [Kelley] in ‘The Practice’ was really a game-changer for me, because that was a character who was in her 50s who was a judge, an intellectual person, a person of high professional standards, who had a very active personal life,” Taylor says, “and it was great to play that at that age. At any age.”
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