Eliza Taylor in Thumper: A Portrait of an Actress

by | May 5, 2017 | Culture, Movies

Dispatches from the Tribeca Film Festival: A look through the lens of films to see ourselves in the other, and the other in ourselves.

“It’s a little bit painful to watch at times, in the best way possible. It’s very gritty and raw”, Eliza Taylor tells me of her new movie that just premiered at Tribeca Film Festival, Thumper, a very real portrait of lower class America by Jordan Ross in which she plays an outsider who gets involved in a high school meth ring.

Cozily sitting in front of me, wearing all black, she is tired; her face is flawless but her eyes are sleepy. As she talks about the film and her acting, sentences encompass extremes–hard to watch/best way possible, rough/wonderful–but not for a second is she scattered. She seems to know her place in the world, ingrained in a path in which every challenge to her craft is as rough as it is a wonderful opportunity.
Camila Gibran: Thumper is “hard to watch sometimes”. Why did you decide to take this role?

Eliza Taylor: Because the way the script is written you get a real glimpse into these people lives. The lives of people who in a lot of ways feel like they’ve been forgotten about and left behind by society. And as an actress, for the first time in my life, I got to play a character like Kat/Meredith, a character playing a character and it was a wonderful challenge to separate the two.

CG: You do a lot of television. Can you tell what film means to you as a visual art form?

ET: Film has been a life long love affair. For me personally, it’s about taking people away. I remember being at the cinema and watching really powerful movies and forgetting I was sitting in the theater.

It’s about being able to have a glimpse into different people’s lives around the world that we wouldn’t necessarily have a glimpse into.

If we get to pull that off successfully for an hour and a half, you take people out of their daily lives into a completely different world.

CG: No commercial breaks …

ET: Yes, No commercial breaks (laughs)

CG: Can you tell me about the world of Thumper?

ET: The movie is about kids who get caught up in the world of making and selling methamphetamines. But one thing about it is that you can really empathize with every single character, none of them are black and white, you can see that they are doing the best they can in a situation they are in.

CG: It feels very real. How was the shooting process?

ET: It was fascinating. We filmed in people’s homes that are in these areas that aren’t necessarily the wealthiest and their quality of life isn’t perfect. They were all really good people and very welcoming. But the sad thing was, we would wrap and finish shooting in their houses for the day and they went back to their lives. It was humbling and quite touching.

CG: What city was it set in?

ET: We didn’t want the movie to be specific to an area in America. We wanted it to be very American but we didn’t want everyone to automatically assume that it was in one certain area, one place. We shot it in San Pedro in Los Angeles, but yah… we kinda wanted it to have a hot sticky industrial vibe.

CG: You said that if a movie pulls it off, it can take us away and give us a glimpse into a different world. How do you feel after immersing yourself in this particular world? 

ET: I didn’t know myself by the end of this movie… I was like “ Who am I

It was rough; it was a really intense shoot. I did a lot of research and learned a lot about methamphetamines and the effect it’s having on modern society, it’s quite incredible, even in Australia it’s an epidemic. I came out of it feeling quite overwhelmed by that.

It was a real experience and it wasn’t easy, which was great.

And just like that she gives me yet another glimpse into her world, the path she is on and the kind of actress she is.

Photography by Leslie Hassler

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