Friday, July 1, 2011

Interview: Justified's Joseph Lyle Taylor

Character actor Joseph Lyle Taylor has honed his acting skills in starring and guest-starring roles on many popular TV series and movies, including “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Contender,” “100 Centre Street,” “Law and Order,” “Dexter” and, most recently, the FX hit show “Justified.” I caught up with Joseph to discuss playing Timothy Olyphant’s nemesis, Doyle Bennett, this past season, as well as his new movie due to hit theaters in August.

Celebrity Extra: Before getting the role of Doyle Bennett on “Justified,” were you already a fan of the show?

Joseph Lyle Taylor: I was a huge fan of “Justified.” I thought it was just fantastic the first season. I couldn’t believe they were doing it. I thought it was just great. I’m a real fan of Tim’s (Olyphant) from “Deadwood.”

CE: What’s great about being on a series on a cable network like FX is you explore more areas that you might not be able to on network television.

JLT: Oh yeah; it’s really fantastic. The network shows have gotten so, how do you say this? Systematically, they’re so formulaic. It’s really hard to get on a network show. Everybody looks like gods, they’re all so beautiful. So, thank God for cable. Otherwise, what would we do?

You get into cable shows like those on TNT, AMC and FX, and you say: “Oh, I see. These guys are like me.” And there are definitely some really great cable shows on. “Breaking Bad” is just really a phenomenal show, and Bryan Cranston is really excellent. I really like “Breaking Bad,” “Justified” and “Mad Men.”

CE: How did this opportunity on “Justified” come about for you?

JLT: The audition process was pretty interesting. Cami Patton, the casting director, and my agents were really trying to get me in. They were casting both the characters, Dickie and Doyle. You never really get much opportunity to play these kinds of characters, these Southern bad guys. I’m originally from Texas, and throughout my career I’ve spent a lot of time and money getting rid of my accent. When you get to jump back into that, not only the accent, but there’s a certain feeling and attitude that these Southern tough guys have that’s just a lot of fun.

When I was reading the breakdown for it, I was very excited to go in. I actually read for Dickie, which Jeremy Davies plays. I got a really good response, and they called and were like: “Listen, we love him, but Jeremy Davies is going to play that role. We wonder if Joseph would come back for Doyle.” And I’m like, “Yeah I’ll come back for Doyle.”

CE: What do you like about playing Doyle?

JLT: By the time I got to episode three, I had sort of figured out Doyle was really cool. He wasn’t a loud screaming bad guy. He was just very quiet. He would observe and then do whatever business he had to do. He’s sort of quiet, funny and efficient — just get the job done.

If you watch the first episode of season two, where I go in with Jeremy and we put Chris Mulkey’s leg in that bear trap, you can see I’m sort of playing him as a tough guy, but by the time I got to the third episode, I realized he’s not quite like that. He’s much more of a quiet guy, behind the scenes. He’s sort of the Dick Cheney of the Bennett family.

CE: Tell me about “Seven Days in Utopia,” and your role of Martin Chisholm.

JLT: It’s really a heartfelt movie about this kid who’s trying to find himself, played by Lucas Black. The character’s Texan, and I play his father. The movie goes back and forth, and so my character ages like 15 years throughout the movie, which is really interesting to do. I had never really done anything that aged me as much. The movie is such a pretty script.

The movie itself is really pretty too. They got a lot of rain in west Texas. We shot just west of Austin up in the hill country, which is a really beautiful part of Texas, and we had a rainy winter, so everything was really, really green and lush. Of course, we spent a lot of time on the golf course. The story line is that I really ride my kid hard in golf and make him practice and this and that. And then he gets his first real shot at a pro tour, and I end up giving him some bad advice, and he ends up not winning the tournament.

He takes off, and that is where he meets Robert Duvall’s character, Johnny Crawford, out in Utopia. He learns lessons on life, and it’s really quite touching.

CE: Do we get to see you on the golf course?

JLT: No, I don’t get to really golf. I get to hit the ball with Lucas. Getting cast in this movie came down to my swing. If my swing was good enough to pass the PGA tour guys who are like, “Well, if your swing’s not good enough then it’s going to look weird.” So, I had to go out to Griffin Park, set up my video camera, video my golf swing and send it in. I guess it passed muster.

CE: It must be nice for you as an actor to be able to work in all kinds of acting genres: TV, film, stage.

JLT: I do like to mix it up. I really enjoy all three of them.

CE: Plus, you got to work with the late, great Sidney Lumet on “100 Centre Street.” As a director, what was he like to work with and to learn from?

JLT: It was amazing to work with him. I trailed him on a lot of episodes that I wasn’t in, because I’m interested in directing too, and I had a great opportunity to watch him work, and see how you break down scripts and how he set up his shots. The one thing he said to me that really hit home was, “Joe, darling, shoot what you like.” And it’s like, of course. Shoot what I like, because we all have the experience of life. You’ve experienced things, I’ve experienced things, and all those things speak to our art, to what we do.

Sidney was amazing, and he was a real sweetheart and genius. I was just so fortunate to be able to spend two years working with him. It’s something that I thought that really mattered. I would have loved to have hung out with him all the time. He was a real mentor and a real inspiration. Look at his movies — his movies are so amazing: “Network,” “The Verdict,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “The Hill.” He’s got like 40 movies, and they are amazing. “12 Angry Men” was his first feature. Can you believe that? That’s all shot in one room. There are no locations. There’s no crane shot. There’s no CGI. It’s just fascinating to watch.

I wish we would have gone five years like they were planning (with “100 Centre Street”), but I’m so grateful that he cast me in that show. It was an amazing experience.

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