If you watch FX drama "The Americans," you'll recognize Holly Taylor. For the last three seasons, Taylor has played Paige Jennings, a teen living in 1980s Washington, DC—and the daughter of two Russian spies posing as an American married couple (played by Kerri Russel and Matthew Rhys). Up until this week's episode, however, Paige wasn't aware of her parents' double lives. Spoiler alert: Paige doesn't take the news so well. But Taylor (IRL) knows a thing or two about balancing acts: In addition to her work on TV, she's a regular high school junior—and a dancer who's been on Broadway.
Holly Taylor with Kerri Russel and Matthew Rhys on "The Americans" (photo: FX)
Taylor grew up at a competition studio in New Jersey, and in middle school, she started commuting into NYC to train with Shiela Barker, Tracie Stanfield and Jamie Salmon at Broadway Dance Center. She attended American Ballet Theatre's two-week summer program in 2009, and though she was offered a spot in ABT's Jacqueline Onassis School year-round program, she turned it down. Broadway was calling.
Dance Spirit: Can you talk about your time on Broadway?
Holly Taylor: I was a "ballet girl" in Billy Elliot for 22 months. I loved it, but it was exhausting! The whole show was like three hours long, and you'd only get one day off a week. Plus, there were matinees on Wednesdays and on the weekends. I was also going to school at the same time—a public middle school in New Jersey. My mom gets all the credit for that one. She drove me everywhere.
DS: Are you still dancing?
HT: I try to take Jamie's class at BDC when I can on the weekends. Luckily "The Americans" shoots in Brooklyn, so I'm still able to stay at home. But it's so hard to do anything else besides high school and the show right now. I guess that's what summer is for!
DS: How has your dance training influenced your acting?
HT: Movement is definitely a part of anyone's character—and when you're acting, you have to make your character's movements as real as possible. As dancers, we have a deep appreciation for that.
Dancers also learn to be professional at a young age. At competitions, you don't get a very good reputation if you're running around backstage or being crazy. Dancers have an amazing sense of discipline and focus.
DS: How do you balance your school life and work?
HT: I don't really have a secret. It's really hard. I'm always making up work, doing projects and working with a tutor. If I know I'm going to be out of school one day, I'll email my teachers to let them know and to make sure I get all my work. My teachers have websites, so I can go online to see if they posted an assignment. Sometimes I feel like I'm drowning in homework, but I just try to stay positive. I don't think I'd want it any other way. I love that I'm on my school's student council and that I can join clubs like the Honor Society.
DS: Do you have any advice for students who want to take the leap into professional life?
HT: It sounds so corny, but believe in yourself. There are so many opportunities out there—just go for it! Get yourself out there and don't be afraid to take chances. Fear gets in the way of everything. I know that personally: I used to be so shy, and becoming an actress was difficult. But I think because it was so challenging, it made me want to improve more. So even when things get tough, keep going, and know that you can do it.