Like anyone else who talks about how they found their calling, Bex Taylor-Klaus’s story of how she decided to pursue acting as a way of life began with an epiphany. Unlike other epiphanies, her transformative event came about, not as the result of meditation or reverie, but of a tirade.
“I was doing an acting program in 2010, when I was 16,” Taylor-Klaus recalls. “About halfway through the first class, one of the teachers lost her temper with us because we weren’t paying attention. She told us that if we really didn’t want to do this, then she would go home and we should tell our parents to try to get a refund because we weren’t serious about acting.
“That was my wakeup call — I stopped jerking around and started focusing, because I realized that this was the one thing I wanted to do.”
The results of her realization are plain to see for anyone with cable and Netflix: In less than a year, Taylor-Klaus has landed recurring roles in the AMC series “The Killing,” the CW series “Arrow” and, as of Jan. 12, on the Showtime series, “House of Lies.”
To hear Taylor-Klaus tell it, although she never thought of an acting career as a viable choice before that class, the groundwork for her success in the field was laid at an early age.
“If you ask my parents,” she says with a laugh, “they’ll tell you I came out of the womb acting. Then, when I was around 2 years old, I became Dorothy from ‘The Wizard of Oz.’”
She wore the gingham dress and the ruby slippers all around her Buckhead home and refused to answer to any other name.
Shortly thereafter, the fourth-generation Atlantan’s parents made her a regular presence at many of the city’s theater programs, from preschool classes to after-school Shakespeare to the Atlanta Workshop Players sleep away camp, where one of her counselors was Daniel Platzman, currently the drummer for the Top 40 charting band Imagine Dragons.
“We put her in acting classes because it was cheaper than therapy,” jokes Elaine Taylor-Klaus, Bex’s mother. “We never considered that it would be her vocation; it was just something she was really good at and that she loved. Whether she was putting on make up or creating characters, when she took acting classes, she was happy and fulfilled.”
Today, Elaine can add “employed” to the list of what acting has done for her daughter after she and her husband, David, who is also her business partner in the Atlanta-based life coaching company, Touchstone, took a leap of faith in 2012 by letting Bex move to Los Angeles on her 18th birthday to live with the family of her best friend from CGTV, the company that she had been training with since that 2010 class.
That faith was rewarded less than seven months later. Bex was working at the time as an intern with CGTV, going on auditions and living in the famous Oakwood apartment complex in Toluca Lake, just up the hill from Studio City, when she got the call that she would be playing Bullet, a tough-as-nails lesbian teen who served as a watchful guardian for her fellow homeless on the streets of Seattle, where “The Killing” is set.
Within the span of 10 days, she went from having to figure out how to get from work to auditions, to having people whose primary job was to hold umbrellas over her so that the cold rain of Vancouver, where “The Killing” was shot, wouldn’t mess with her make up or wardrobe.
Bex says that learning how to navigate the world of a production set was “really easy to figure out — but having people take care of me, like having a trailer with people asking what they can get for me, what they can do for me, having wardrobe come in and give me clothes — was really weird.”
She says she found it just as easy to inhabit the character of Bullet.
“That was the fun of it,” she ex- claims. “Bullet was not me. We have things in common, but we are not the same person. She is her own character; I just got the chance to bring her to life.”
Indeed, Bex’s portrayal of Bullet was so vivid, so affecting and so popular with the show’s audience that she was given sixth billing in the credits and was added to more episodes.
But a better indicator of the impact of her first role can be summarized by a single number: 80. That is how many countries that Bex has received emails, artwork, prose and poetry from, sent by people affected by her work.
“Bullet really touched a chord with young people all over the globe,” Elaine says, still sounding a bit overwhelmed by the outpouring of responses to her daughter’s character. “She has heard from kids struggling with gender identity, struggling for gender acceptance — she became almost an icon for gender acceptance.”
One reason Elaine gives for why her straight daughter’s depiction of a lesbian resonated so strongly is that Bex has been an advocate of LGBT rights for years.
“She got involved with it right around her bat mitzvah,” which the family, then members of the Conservative Congregation Or Hadash (they now belong to the Reconstructionist Congregation Bet Haverim), held at Camp Barney, which Bex attended faithfully for years before moving to the West Coast.
Despite being thousands of miles from her family and the only Jewish community she has ever known, Bex makes it clear that there is plenty of room and opportunity off-set for Judaism in her life.
“On Fridays, I can be with my family by Skype or FaceTime for Shabbat,” she emphasizes. ”I have my siddur on my desk, my tallis on my shelf, and on the High Holidays, I go to be with friends of the family.”
Judging by the trajectory of her career, she is going to have to work hard to hold onto those days of rest. Her role as Sin, a teenaged ally of Black Canary in “Arrow,” the CW show based on DC Comics’ Green Arrow, has been expanded similar to what happened with “The Killing” — she is now slated to appear in multiple episodes this season.
And Lex, her character on “House of Lies,” whom she describes as a gender-queer basketball player. “I really can’t say any more — the show is shrouded in secrecy,” she offers apologetically, is also slated for a multi-episode story arc.
A lesbian teen, a streetwise teen, and a gender-queer teen — when asked if she is worried about being typecast going forward, Bex is sanguine in her reply.
“I don’t see the point in worrying about that,” she says. “The way the world is going, TV and film will be diving into this area more and more — that just means I get work, that I will be going into the dark places that everyone else strives so hard to stay away from.”
For her, as long as she is able to practice her craft — something she has been able to do full-time ever since she graduated from her Los Angeles high school this past spring (“I finished before the rest of the kids in my class,” she proudly proclaims) — people can pigeonhole her all they want.
“Acting is putting your heart into something, putting pieces of yourself into someone to breathe life into them. I’m proud of what I have done, but I’m not done. I want to keep going.”