My worst moment: Years before she landed ‘Bones,’ Tamara Taylor almost landed on her face at an audition

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On the Netflix series “October Faction,” which premiered last month and is based on the graphic novel of the same name, Tamara Taylor plays a monster hunter.

Though Deloris is an expert in the supernatural, strangely enough, the character has a lot in common with Camille Saroyan, the scientist Taylor previously played for 10 years on the forensic drama “Bones.”

“Deloris is a monster hunter, but as unconventional as she is, I think she’s a believer in the system — until she’s not,” Taylor said in a recent phone interview. “Being on Netflix, you’ve got a little more freedom in terms of the language and the joint smoking, but I think in terms of approach, Cam and Deloris are both technicians. I kind of see them approaching their work in a very similar way. Cam was very methodical, and I think Deloris has that too.”

Taylor’s trademark as these two characters is her poise. But when she auditions, sometimes her nerves get the best of her. When asked to share a worst moment in her career, she replied, “I didn’t have to think too hard. This humiliating story stood out in neon. I kind of relish this one.”

Here’s an edited transcript of what she told me.

My worst moment …

“I was maybe two or three years into living in Los Angeles, I’m going to say this was 1995. I was doing the acting thing, going on auditions. I had a couple roles under my belt, so I wasn’t completely green, but I hadn’t done a movie yet. And I got called in — I’m not remembering the specifics — but I think it was for a Morgan Freeman movie and I was being called in to play his daughter. I want to say it was for ‘Kiss the Girls,’ but I don’t know. I think I blocked it out because this experience was so humiliating.

“Auditions kind of terrify me. The waiting room experience is usually a pretty treacherous one for me. I contemplate running out and screaming. Just disappearing. And this particular waiting room was extremely full. There were probably about 30 people, and we’re all trying to stay in our own little bubbles of focus. And I’m just trying to pray the nerves away. I’m like, ‘Breathe. You can do this.’ And it was a good solid 45 minutes of waiting. And as the minutes tick on, I’m getting more and more nervous.

“For some reason, I thought there were five people ahead of me, but the casting director comes out and says my name. And I was so shocked I kind of jumped up and my keys go flying one way and my sides — which are the loose pieces of paper that your scenes are on — go flying the other way. So now everyone is looking at me as I pick up my keys and pick up my sides.

“And I was wearing Chuck Taylors at the time and I guess they didn’t like the rug very much, because I took a few steps, tripped and fell. And it was amazing because I didn’t allow myself to just fall on the ground. For some reason, I was close enough to grab onto the casting director’s lapels — I feel like she was wearing lapels but it might have been a T-shirt — and I grabbed hold of her and was just kind of staring up at her, holding on for dear life.

“After that, I sort of picked myself up, took a deep breath and thought: God, I really want to disappear now. The whole waiting room was laughing, and then I went in and had to audition. And I stunk. There was no regaining composure. I was shaking like a leaf. I just said the words and then kind of shrugged like, That’s all I have, and I left. Needless to say, I’m shocked I didn’t get the role (laughs).”

What was the casting director’s reaction when Taylor used her to break her fall?

“The amazing thing is, one would hope for a laugh — and that’s not what I got. She just kind of looked down at me and stood still until I pulled myself up (laughs) and dusted myself off. There was no, ‘Are you OK?’ Nothing. I don’t think she was pleased, because I almost took her down with me.

“I drove home in my little Ford Falcon that had no windshield wipers and contemplated just packing it in and moving back to Toronto, because I clearly didn’t have what it took. Maybe I should just rethink everything. Maybe archeology is something that I should investigate seriously, because the acting thing, I don’t have the nerves for it.

“And then I called my mom crying and I said, ‘OK mom, what’s going on? I can’t handle the pressure out here.’ And my mom kind of laughed and said, ‘It’ll be a great story one day, honey.’ And I don’t know how she did it, but she found a greeting card that I have to this day that has an illustration of a woman who is crumpled in a heap at the bottom of some stairs and the caption says, ‘I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.’

“So it was my mom’s encouragement and my best friend (and ‘A Different World’ alum) Cree Summer, who just howled — she thought it was the funniest thing she’d ever heard — and her wise words were, ‘This is not the end. And it’s not the worst story you’ll tell. Just keep on trucking.’

“I never wore Chuck Taylors again to an audition. I had my next audition about a week later, so I had a couple of days to eat ice cream and cry a bit and then get over it. And I took very, very careful steps — I was probably walking like an exaggerated cartoon, because I was not going to trip ever again.”

The problem with nerves …

“I was auditioning for a Hank Azaria show and something similar happened again where the nerves were starting to build in the waiting room. I love Hank Azaria. And he passed by when I was in the waiting room, and I realized, oh God, Hank Azaria’s going to be in the room — I wasn’t expecting this, I thought it was just going to be the casting director. So the palpations start, the flop sweat begins.

“I go in the room and I’m sweating so hard, it was like that scene in ‘Broadcast News,’ and I was shaking so hard that the sides I was holding were shaking. And Hank Azaria said, ‘Honey, are you OK?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m totally great!’ And he said, ‘Do you want to start over?’ He was trying to give me a fair shot. And of course it got no better, the nerves only got worse. I was drenched in sweat, I was beat red and shaking like a leaf.

“So I had a few of those doozies.”

The takeaway …

“It feels like your life is over in the moment. Like, I don’t have what it takes! But no matter how hard it gets — or how ridiculous it gets — just keep going. It’s not that deep.”


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