A Taylor-Made Career

 
 

Taylor is no stranger to provocative roles. Her turn as the sexually aggressive Judge Roberta Kittleson on ABC's legal drama The Practice in 1999 at the age of 56 brought her considerable acclaim, including an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.

"It was great fun and it was very important to me," Taylor says of that role. "I’m not at all a political person or political performer, but in retrospect, after the fact, how incredibly wonderful it was to portray women as I know them. I don't know any women in their forties and fifties who aren't sexually active."

Taylor's acting schedule is just as busy now as it was when she was ten or thirty years younger. Is this an exception to the prevailing wisdom in Hollywood that women over 40 can't get good roles — or a sign that this practice is waning?

"Everything changes and everything stays the same," Taylor answers philosophically. "In the forties, women over forty were everywhere; they were the leading ladies. All of them were Joanne Crawford; all of them looked like middle-aged women."

"Now there is an odd immaturity, which I think may be a backlash. As women have become more vocal and more powerful, frightened males have had to keep women more infantile. So the dispersal of fine roles to people of all ages became extinct in the seventies and eighties and nineties, where you had to be younger and younger and younger."

So while there may be better parts for older women these days, Taylor believes it's more cyclical than progressive.

Forty years ago when she was just getting started, Taylor had hoped to build a career in theater, not film and television. "I hoped that I would be a very busy and successful," she says. "I hoped that I would be an admired advocate in the theater and on top of my last act in New York."

Taylor first moved to New York in 1966 after getting a degree in drama from Bennington College, and made her Broadway debut in The Devils, starring Anne Bancroft.

Although she continued to work steadily in theater, she was forced to turn to Hollywood for more lucrative roles.

Taylor with actress Nancy Marchand in 1975 on the set of Beacon Hill

"The theater is where I am definitely happier, the most skilled," says Holland. "That's not to say I don't enjoy doing all these variety of other things, I’ve just always really regretted that the entertainment industry in America is divided by 3,000 miles. You can't be in a movie and be in the theater at once, and you can't really support yourself in the theater once you're done being a kid."

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