Holly Taylor was born with a flair for the dramatic. “I was born in the back of an ambulance, on Halloween,” the 18-year-old actress says, sitting at the Gregory Hotel in midtown Manhattan. “My brother was in a ‘Captain America’ costume. I made it in the newspaper and everything.”
It is perhaps no surprise, then, that she’s wound up in the dramatic arts. Taylor stars in “The Americans,” the Emmy-winning FX series starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, which concludes its fourth season tonight. As the daughter of Elizabeth and Philip Jennings (Russell and Rhys), Taylor’s character Paige has risen from an initial background character to a plot-driving force over the run of the show.
Before she found herself on one of TV’s most addictive nighttime dramas, Taylor was a Broadway-loving dancer in Passaic County, N.J. Born in Nova Scotia to an Irish mother and a Scottish father, the family moved to Jersey for her father’s textiles job, which is where Taylor discovered stage work. “I started dancing when we moved to New Jersey because one of our neighbors did it,” she says. “I came home one day and I was like, ‘I want to be on Broadway.’ And I don’t even know where I got that from, but ‘42nd Street’ was out at the time and people were tap dancing, and I wanted to do a job where I could dance. My parents didn’t even know what Broadway was.”
Without any formal training, she booked “Billy Elliot,” at age 11, but theater was never where she envisioned herself. “I was really shy, so it was hard for me,” she says. “I finished when I was 13 and I decided I wanted to move more into film and TV because it was more subtle and more real for me. That’s what it’s always been about for me, being true to your emotions.”
“The Americans” shoots in Brooklyn, so she’s able to commute to the set from New Jersey, where she attends high school — her graduation is at the end of June. “I have prom coming up, and then I graduate, and then it’s all over,” she says. Though she’s starring in a major prime-time drama, which will run for two more seasons, she’s banking on a backup plan, just in case.
“I wanted to study psychology, but then everybody was doing psychology,” she says of her intended college major, which she’ll pursue online starting in the fall. “But my brother is eight years older, and a lot of his friends have psychology degrees and it’s very hard for them to get a job right now. I want to have something reliable I can get a job in if acting doesn’t work out.”
Though the finale of “The Americans” is likely to be a focal conversation piece for its droves of die-hards, in Taylor’s immediate world more pressing topics are prom and finals. “No one really talks about the show at school, because I guess ‘The Americans’ is a more adult-based show, so a lot of students aren’t really watching it,” she says. “Which I like. I get to just do my thing at school.”
She does, however, find herself pressed for giveaways from a certain demographic. “Sometimes I’ll go to my friend’s house and their parents will ask me for spoilers,” she says. “And of course I never say anything!”