Sharon Taylor’s new frontiers
As mortician Sophia Moon on Ghost Wars, Sharon Taylor got to do a lot of things she’d never before done on screen.
She got to embalm corpses. She got to participate in a messy, glorious, Latin-infused exorcism.
And – shockingly, given the Vancouver actress' 12 years in the business – she finally got to have her first on-camera kiss.
“I’ve never been the character that falls in love,” muses Taylor over tea in Kitsilano. “I’m always the bad person. I get to kill people. I don’t get to make love to people.”
And Taylor couldn’t have asked for a better scene partner for that first kiss. “My very first screen kiss was with Vincent D’Onofrio,” she says, smiling – so maybe it was worth the wait after all.
Ghost Wars – the wildly entertaining, paranormal-driven action dramedy that starred Avan Jogia as a psychic in an Alaskan town gripped by mean spirits who just won't leave – was cancelled by SyFy after its first season. But that single season stands on its own as a smart, binge-worthy, genre-hopping romp through an array of horror and ghost tropes (in other words: watch it on Netflix, preferably late at night) – and for Taylor, Ghost Wars stands as the project that gifted her with the best damn character she's ever played.
Taylor traces her love for Sophia right back to the character’s initial scene. When Ghost Wars audiences catch their first glimpse of Sophia, she’s with her young son in a morgue located in the basement of her house, and she’s applying make-up to a dead body.
“It says a lot about the character right away,” says Taylor. “I read the script and thought, ‘Okay, this must be a family business, because it’s normalized in the family to have your kid down there when you’re working on a dead body.’ The child, Marcus, doesn’t even bat an eye when his mom is like, ‘Pass me the blush.’ He’s right in there, helping her.”
Taylor wanted to make her performance as authentic as possible, and so she sought out embalming videos on YouTube. “Before I watched them, I thought to myself, ‘Am I going to be really upset and disturbed by this?’ I was half expecting these morticians to be odd or kooky individuals. They weren’t. They were super caring.”
She was quite taken with the way the morticians in the videos spoke to the dead bodies. “They’d say, ‘Okay, I’m just going to roll you over now.’ It’s quite a beautiful process, and I thought, ‘That’s so informative for my character’” – which is why, before shooting that first morgue scene, she asked the director if she could talk to the dead body as she applied makeup; the director agreed.
“I just talked to her as I was working on her, and they were rolling, and they did keep the one line where I said, ‘This colour looks great on you,’” says Taylor.
As Sophia, Taylor played “a working single mom just trying to make it on her own, and then she’s thrown one curveball after another, and then something very traumatic happens, and then because of that, she makes some other choices, and then all hell breaks lose for her,” she laughs, sidestepping spoilers. “Bad for her, good for the show, and lucky for me, because I got to have Vincent D’Onofrio as my scene partner for the majority of my character’s scenes, and he was amazing. What a gift to have an actor like that.”
Taylor grew up in North Vancouver and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theatre from Simon Fraser University. Her breakout role was that of Amelia Banks on Stargate Atlantis (“My character never left the ship, which was great because the other actors would often have to go outside to film in the rain. It’s good to be the one that works on the spaceship”); more recently, she starred alongside Anna Paquin and Shawn Doyle in the critically acclaimed television series Bellevue, guest-starred in a fan-favourite episode of The X-Files reboot, and co-starred with fellow Stargate Atlantis alumna Jewel Staite in the short film CC, which was created as part of the Crazy8s filmmaking competition and, earlier this month, screened in Cannes as part of Telefilm Canada’s Not Short on Talent program.
Taylor will soon head east to work on eight episodes of “another show with a very different character,” she teases (she can’t be more specific than that at the moment, but keep an eye on her Twitter feed – @SharonCTaylor – for the official announcement).
After more than a decade in the ’biz, Taylor says she’s noticing a significant shift in the female characters that are popping up in her scripts.
“The roles are so much more interesting than they were 10 years ago,” says Taylor. “I feel like women get very worried about how aging will affect their careers, and that as we’ll get older, there will be less and less work, but for some reason, the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve worked, and I do attribute that to the fact that there’s been a conscious social movement for the value of women, at whatever age they’re at or level they’re at. Scripts are different. There are more women in writers’ rooms. They’re writing for women. I think men and women have realized that as you get older you have more experience and you’re more interesting to watch. In your 20s, you haven’t had a lot of life experience. How many stories can you do with a 20-year-old? It’s the coming-of-age story, but as we get older, we endure so much: heartbreak, children, relationships, loss, and love. Experience makes for great stories.”