Today, I welcome young actress and cancer awareness activist (and cancer survivor!) Taylor Hay.
Born in San Diego, CA, Taylor hay began acting at the age of four when she was cast in the first commercial she ever auditioned for. She was introduced to the industry by her mother, actress Debbie Britt-Hay, but was the driving force to making this profession her life’s work. She worked steadily, building her body of work, until she was diagnosed with cancer at the age of nine. With that news, everything came to a halt. Once she regained her health, Taylor plunged back into her career, excited to be working again.
In a short time, Taylor booked her first voiceover role, Yes, Virginia, in addition to several web and television projects. She adding singing to her dancing background and is working hard on incorporating those skills into her acting portfolio.
Aside from acting, Taylor is a nationally titled equestrian, winning titles in multiple disciplines in the Arabian breed. In 2011, she added six national Top Tens to her existing titles, all before the age of thirteen.
ANTHONY: Hi, Taylor! Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions!
TAYLOR: Thanks for talking with me!
ANTHONY: When did you start acting, and what was your first professional gig?
TAYLOR: I started acting when I was about 4 and I went on my first audition for a Peter Piper Pizza commercial and that was the first thing I booked. Ever since then I have been hooked I booked a feature not to long after the commercial called The Blue Rose plus a period movie called Hurricane Hunters. Now I’m fortunate to be doing some TV. I love it too!
ANTHONY: You did voice work for the animated film YES VIRGINIA. What was that experience like? What sort of tricks did you use to voice your character?
TAYLOR: I loved working on Yes, Virginia! They were all so nice to me and took me to a behind the scenes of the making of the Macy’s balloons, which was totally cool. I was in the box for about two hours. They started out just using me in a small part but when I got there and they worked with me a little, they gave me more lines which was amazing. I loved the VO work. I hope I will get the chance to do more in the future. They allowed me to play around with the lines a bit and when I did something that they really liked, they let me know so I could tweak it to exactly what they wanted. I even surprised them by finding a way of saying a line they hadn’t thought of but really liked, so that was fun. I didn’t really have any tricks. I just played with my voice a little and tried to follow their direction until we all found what worked.
ANTHONY: What have you worked on recently, and where can people see your work?
TAYLOR: I was working a lot before I got sick, and then everything stopped dead because of that. I have spent the last year rebuilding my career and my body of work. So I just got back on my feet and I have a lot coming up. I have a web series called The Day In The Life that I start filming this month and a pilot called The Road Less Traveled that’s coming up. I also have a small role in a Morgan Freeman movie coming out this year. I’m also excited about an anti-bullying PSA that will be released soon through Seng2KX Productions.
ANTHONY: I can imagine breaking “back into” the business after such a life-changing event can’t be easy. How have you worked at rebuilding your career? Do you take acting classes, work with a coach?
TAYLOR: It was pretty hard at first. I kept going on audition after audition with no callbacks or bookings because no one remembered me and I’d lost a lot of the contacts I’d built. I felt like we were doing it for nothing sometimes–like no one was interested anymore. But my mom and reps kept saying to be patient, that it would take time again. Then in November, I booked five things in seven weeks. Things have been pretty steady since then so I feel really fortunate. I work really hard at staying sharp. I train every week except when I’m working and I really try to network as much as I can. I’ve been told I’m pretty good at it. I also work with a singing coach and am learning to play the guitar for the role in the TV series I’m shooting in April. That’s been pretty cool.
ANTHONY: Has your cancer experience changed the way you approach auditions and creating a character?
TAYLOR: Yeah, I think so. I lean toward drama and I find it easy to kind of get in touch with my emotions and all. I guess I have a lot to draw from for a kid my age. I think my coach, Amy, has taught me to draw from inside me and the things I’ve gone through to find the heart of the character and to keep it real. I like comedy, but I really like drama. I’d love to be on Criminal Minds or Bones or Grey’s Anatomy some day. That would be amazing.
ANTHONY: You’re also a nationally titled equestrian! Congratulations. Where have you competed recently?
TAYLOR: Thanks! I have been doing a lot of auditioning and events lately so I haven’t had the chance to ride as much as I’d like, so the last time I showed was at Youth Nationals last year. But I am hoping to go to a show in March. But that may not happen because I haven’t gotten on my horse because of the rain
ANTHONY: What specific style of equestrian events do you do?
TAYLOR: I do a lot of different events. I show English Pleasure, Country Pleasure, Halter, Native Costume, Sidesaddle, Show Hack, Hunter Pleasure, Dressage, Sport Horse In Hand and Under Saddle, Saddleseat Equitation, and have even shown reining. My mom is my trainer and has been doing it for years so she makes sure I’m very well rounded. It’s a blast doing all the different events and keeps me motivated!
ANTHONY: I know that equestrian showing is as demanding, if not more demanding, than acting. How do you balance your two loves?
TAYLOR: I’m in a modified homeschool program so what I do is I get home and go out to ride so if I do have something that night I got my riding done and then I can put all my energy getting ready for the event and not freaking out that I didn’t ride that day. It’s a lot of commitment but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
ANTHONY: Like me, you’re a cancer survivor. What type of cancer did you have, how was it discovered, and how long have you been cancer-free / in remission?
TAYLOR: I had a rare type of non-hodgkins lymphoma. It was discovered by Childrens Hospital and my friend at UCSD. I was the only kid at Rady at the time to have it. I have been in remission for almost two years now and am so grateful I’m here to give back as much as I can.
ANTHONY: Congratulations on two years of remission! That’s fantastic. I know you do a lot to raise awareness of, and raise funds for, cancer research and cancer care. I’ve been teasing you on Twitter about your fund-raising battle with Sam Lant. Tell my readers about the Walk For Kids, and what they can do to help you and your team meet your fundraising goal.
TAYLOR: Well my friend Sam Lant put together a team for the Walk for Kids and I was invited to join it. The Walk For Kids is a fundraising walk for the Ronald McDonald House of Pasadena. The Ronald McDonald House provides care for the families of patients that have life threatening illnesses. You can make a difference by donation to our team Those Crazy Kids Next Door. We’re hoping to raise $10,000 to help the house.
ANTHONY: What other causes are important to you?
TAYLOR: I am also really involved with Make-A-Wish, Leukemia and Lymphoma Association, and Rady Childrens Hospital of San Diego. I’ve been an ambassador for both Make A Wish and LLS and was the Girl Of The Year for LLS in 2009. I got involved with these charities when I got sick and they did so much for me so now that I’m healthy again (which has been for the last 2 years) I want to give back in any way I can. It helped my family so much and I know how much it means to those kids. My total fundraising so far for the three organizations is about $250,000. I also do a lot of public speaking and singing at fundraisers and events that help to raise money for these charities. I also did a video for Hats Off For Cancer that can be seen on YouTube.
ANTHONY: All great causes! Now for my usual closing question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?
TAYLOR: Oh, well I don’t have a favorite book but I do have a favorite book series. The Hunger Games series is by far my favorite. If you haven’t read it you HAVE TO! It’s absolutely amazing. There are so many twists and turns. I am also really looking forward to the movie based on the book!!
ANTHONY: Thanks again, Taylor!