Memories From the Set: Almost Human's Lili Taylor Talks Six Feet Under, X-Files and More
Taylor’s first national TV role was that of a waitress in a 1986 episode of NBC’s hard-boiled crime drama. “That was exciting, because I was living in Chicago” – where the series shot – “at the time, and I was like, ‘I can live here and work,” she recalls. Also: She’d already done plenty of research for the role, having “definitely” worked as a server before getting the gig.
Taylor “had to learn fast” to play Marty Glenn, a standoffish blind woman who works with David Duchovny’s Agent Mulder to solve a rash of murders. “I went to a blind institute and did a crash course, and then just put a blindfold on and just went blind in my apartment for about 24 hours,” she remembers. It was very worth it for the actress, a self-described X-phile. “I loved the tone of that show. I loved what it was doing, and I loved Duchovny,” with whom she later starred in the movie The Secret. “I thought he was great.” Also great? The performance garnered her a nomination at that year’s Emmys.
Mad About You
“That was the one and only show I’ve done with a live audience, and that was fun,” Taylor recalls of playing the Buchmans’ occasional babysitter Arley. She praises the comedy’s Helen Hunt, Paul Reiser and Hank Azaria – pictured here as Arley’s kinda-love interest – with creating an environment “where the laughs start flying in, and yet it was sincere.”
Most Law & Order spin-offs do pretty well; unfortunately for Taylor, she was on the one that lasted only a few episodes. She played Hildy Baker in the series, which starred Oliver Platt (The Big C) as a veteran newspaper reporter in New York. “Any first season is sort of hard, and with that formula that worked so well – and yet, how are we keeping to the formula? How are we doing what we want to do?” Taylor says. “And then the numbers weren’t good, and then the stress starts to rise, and it’s tough.”
Six Feet Under
Oh, Lisa. On the HBO drama, Taylor had the thankless role of Nate’s old pal, who comforted him in a moment of vulnerability and then – at least, as many fans saw it – suckered him into settling down for a lifetime of domestic banality. At first, however, indie film darling Taylor only signed on for a short guest stint… and that was totally fine with her. “I thought, ‘I’ll just do four episodes. That sounds great.’ But then she got pregnant, and then that was like, ‘OK! Guess I’m coming back then!” Lisa ultimately became one of the series’ deathly title cards via a rather undignified end, but Taylor enjoyed every minute. “It felt like a play. With a play, there’s a tremendous respect for the writer, and you do not change anything,” she says. “It’s gospel what’s on the page — and [Six Feet Under] had the same feeling.”
State of Mind
Taylor has a simple explanation for why her 2007 Lifetime dramedy about a family therapist only lasted one summer: “It didn’t work,” she says, quickly adding, “Amy Bloom, who wrote it, is a great, great fiction writer.” But this was pre-Client List and Drop Dead Diva; “When we came on, [Lifetime was] still kind of not sure who they were. And that can be problematic. I don’t know if that show was the right thing for Lifetime.”
The Good Wife
As 1) a fan and 2) a New Yorker, Taylor leapt at the chance to work on the hot CBS drama (which films in Brooklyn), where she played Kalinda’s ex, Donna. “There are just such smart people at the helm, so it felt like a great New York experience show,” Taylor says, adding that she loved working with old pal Julianna Margulies… and getting to sleep in her own bed each night. “I rode my scooter to set,” she recalls. “And then I went back to my apartment, so it was perfect.”
The last time we saw Taylor’s Lynda, she and son Peter were headed out of town… and there’s more travel in the gypsy mom’s future. “She’s hitting the road again,” the actress says, adding that she’s shot two episodes that will air during the Netflix horror series’ second season. “She gets in trouble by the police and has to leave the country.”
“I was really interested in a woman being the captain” of the precinct at the heart of Fox’s android-buddy-cop drama, Taylor says – so interested, in fact, that she nabbed the part even though it was originally written for a male. And though began with a procedural feel, Taylor says she hopes the series’ shift to an episodic, ensemble drama continues in Season 2. “I would definitely want to have all the supporting characters, because it’s those supporting characters that fill out the whole canvas, you know? Those relationships that [make] people tune in each week.”