Monday, April 09, 2012

Behind the scenes with Rachael Taylor

Inside my recent interview with Aussie actress Rachael Taylor.

Last month I was commissioned to interview Australian actress and model Rachael Taylor by the Sunday Telegraph/Sunday Herald Sun's Sunday Magazine.

You know Ray-Tay - she's the pretty blonde from Launceston who was in Transformers and Grey's Anatomy and that Charlie's Angels remake that lasted about five minutes, and who advertises Bonds.

You may know her best as the woman who took out an AVO on Matthew Newton after being reportedly beaten by him in a Rome hotel room. I think that story got a little bit of press.

The magazine had organised a Sunday morning fashion shoot at the ultra-hip Maritime Hotel in Chelsea, a 1960s styled celebrity and hipster hangout that looks like a background setting from a Roger Moore-era Bond film. It's the kind of hotel that good looking, tanned, trendy people look right at home in and that slightly geeky, unfit people like me immediately feel hugely uncool in.

So when the very room you're in causes you to have a small self-esteem crash, sitting down with a pretty, famous person and having to ask them questions about being beaten up by their ex-boyfriend is not all beer and skittles. Particularly when you also have a hangover, from too much beer and skittles the night before. Or actually, six hours before. (Note to self: Do not do that again.) (Also: Do not schedule any more 7.30am interviews.)

Rachael Taylor at The Maritime Hotel. Source: Sunday Magazine.

It's the biggest cliche of them all, but the first thing I noticed about Taylor was how tiny she was. Not in stature - she's about 173cm tall - but in size. It's a tired old trope of celebrity features writing to describe someone as "birdlike", but Taylor really is. When she turned side-on she virtually disappeared. If she hadn't been wearing a huge fur coat I might have lost her altogether.

She's also about as ocker as a pie smeared with Vegemite dunked in a pint of VB. She speaks with a thick Aussie accent and swears like a sailor - I think she said "fuck" at least six times during our half hour interview - and from that refreshing aspect is completely likeable. She seems like the kind of chick you'd enjoy having a beer with.

"Every time I read about an actor in a magazine who's like 'oh I eat organic tomatoes and I do pilates and I meditate' I just go 'seriously, fuck off'," she told me.

"I respond to realness. I go to the grocery store, I do a bit of working out, I sit in my trackpants, I watch tv - sometimes it's reality TV, it's not always worthy - and hang out with friends. Sometimes you just need to watch a bit of Khloe and Lamar. Trackpants, peanut butter, Kardashians – thank you, great."

Taylor talked about this "realness" a number of times during our interview.

"I have very little patience these days for people that are 'gifted' but are fucking difficult," she told me.

"Some of the people you encounter in this industry, it's like 'the tortured artist' - yawn. No investment in that whatsoever."

It's another great cliche of celebrity feature stories to describe said celeb as "down to earth" but in this sense, Taylor actually was. I don't think she was consciously trying to get the idea across, hoping I would write about it - I think she's genuinely an unaffected person just trying to get along in her chosen industry.

The way she spoke about her upbringing in Tasmania certainly reinforced that idea.

"I understand how people get out of control," she told me, when I asked about the celebrity lifestyle.

"I've never done it but I understand it because it's quite weird to have people fawning over you for 18 hours and then it goes away. It's never been a problem for me because basically I've got really good normal parents that don't care.

"I'm like 'Hey mum, I'm shooting a pilot' and she's like 'What's a pilot? A plane? A what? Do you get paid?'. They have no idea and they also don't really care. I'm not plastered all over the fridge from a bunch of magazines, they just don't really care. I get my 'telling it like it is' from my mother, she's a funny lady."

But as with all celebrity interviews, just as you're starting to think how cool they are and how well you're getting along they start promoting their "brand message" and you snap back to reality. You're not mates having a chat, you're an interviewer trying to get something interesting out of a subject in between advertisements for Bonds and their new movie.

At this, Taylor is real professional. She sneaked a look at my question list before we even sat down, cheekily reading one out (I didn't ask it in the end), and launched into a spiel about Bonds jumpers before I'd even opened my mouth.

My questions about her new TV pilot 666 Park Avenue, which she is currently filming in New York, were deftly avoided - contractual restrictions, apparently.

But she was surprisingly willing to discuss her now infamous relationship with ex-boyfriend Matthew Newton, even if her manager wasn't.

"That's SUCH old news," he groaned from the sidelines as I asked Taylor if she still thinks about what happened.

"I think about it all the time, I just don't talk about it all the time," she said, before very elegantly explaining why she will never "sell" the story of what happened that night.

"There are certain types of grief that shouldn't be for sale and I'm not sure when it ever became for sale," she told me.

"I really always felt, and I still feel, that the best way to set any kind of example is to show that I am living my life positively and holding my head high with a degree of dignity. That is the message that I want to send – that it can be done and life moves forward spectacularly, magically fast and I'm really lucky and grateful.

"You can't place a value on things that are truly life changing, or on trauma. And I think ... if I make [that experience] about 'celebrity' that is wrong and that's an insult to a bunch of people including myself. You don't get paid for stuff like that."

You can read my Sunday Magazine article here.


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