Complicated characters do a lot to drive forward a story, and it’s easy to see that dual nature in the character of BROKEN ROAD’s Ali, played with heart and soul by Taylor Murphy. A Dallas-based actress, Taylor she started her career back in 2010 and hasn’t looked back since. Her credits include a lead role in the feature film LITTLE WOMEN, a modern day adaptation of the beloved classic starring Lea Thompson; a guest star on AMC’s FEAR THE WALKING DEAD: THE ALTHEA TAPES as Samora; Lionsgate Films NIGHTLIGHT and MAGGIE; Richard Linklater’s EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!; and more.
Recently, Taylor visited with RECURSOR to share about her career in science fiction, fantasy and horror productions, her passion for acting, and her role in BROKEN ROAD.
RECURSOR: How did you get into performing?
It all started when I was three years old. At the time, I was obsessed with the animated film, The Lion King. According to my parents, I would recite the entire movie start to finish. I knew all the lines. So I knew from then that I was born to be in the entertainment industry.
I grew up doing a lot of theater, and when I turned 18, I found myself at kind of a cross-roads. What was I going to do with my life? Performing had always been my dream, so I decided to dive straight into it. Twelve years later, now I’m here, and I’ve been able to be a part of so many projects that I’ve been so passionate about.
Tell us about some of your favorite past projects.
One of my best film experiences was my first feature film, Nightlight, which also happened to be the first feature film of Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, who went on to create A Quiet Place. Nightlight is a horror film, and it’s that classic tale of the five teens in the woods and things go awry, and we’re being chased by this entity.
I had a cool dying scene which was super fun to film. The scene was almost like a dance because everything had to be so well-timed. I’m running down the stairs carrying a flashlight, and I trip, and I get pulled up by a harness. Special effects put blood in my eyes, and then I fall into frame, the blood dripping from my eyes and I’m being dragged away on camera.
I love a good death scene—it’s so fun. It’s cool to play pretend and get to have those kinds of scenes. And I love sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal films. It’s so much fun, it feels like playtime.
Have you always enjoyed science fiction, then? Any faves?
A favorite movie of mine is Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence with Haley Joel Osment. It’s so good! It left a massive impact on me when I was a kid. It’s this story of the A.I. boy, and his trials and tribulations in search of love and belonging and family. He goes on a crazy journey, and the ending always makes me bawl my eyes out.
As far as the horror side, I loved The Others with Nicole Kidman. It’s a ghost story, and it has a really fun twist.
The only movie growing up that ever gave me nightmares was 28 Days Later. There’s something about zombies that genuinely freaks me out. It’s my only irrational fear that I’m terrified of zombies, which is ironic since I went on to work on Fear the Walking Dead.
Ok, so what was it like working on Fear the Walking Dead: The Althea Tapes? Did you have to get into a certain mindset to handle the zombies in it?
Crazily enough, in my scene there wasn’t an actual zombie, so I didn’t experience that one-on-one. But Fear the Walking Dead: The Althea Tapes has absolutely been one of my favorite on-camera projects I’ve done so far because of the character I was able to play—Samora—who was written by Jacob Pinion, who also wrote Broken Road. He’s an amazing writer! I love the way he tells stories. He really brings in these complex people to his stories, and it doesn’t feel like it’s shoved down your throat. There’s a lot of nuance and complexities to it.
My character in The Althea Tapes, Samora, has severe OCD, which is interesting because her story takes place in an apocalyptic world. How does a character like that survive in a world like that, without medicine, and with all those challenges? The role is essentially a massive monologue talking about how she lost her sister and how she was responsible for it. But there’s hope at the end because Samora ends up belonging to a community. She’s still living with OCD but she’s able to survive.
Did that appeal to you as an actor, bringing a character with a unique challenge to life?
Definitely! I think it’s synonymous to what we experience in real life too, right? We all have our things, whether it’s anxiety, or struggling with mental illness, or even just conflict with something in your life. We’re always facing some sort of challenge, and I love seeing a character pull from their resiliency and come out the other side. I think it’s really inspiring.
That’s my favorite part about acting—it’s being able to connect with people to hopefully be that escapism for someone. For me growing up, that is why I loved film and TV. I was going through a little bit of a hard time in high school, and I relied on that healthy escapism. Film was that for me. So I really hope someday I can do that for someone else.
Let’s talk about one of your favorite projects that’s not sci-fi. Tell us about it.
One of my favorite projects that is not sci-fi is Little Women. I was able to work with Lea Thompson; she’s such a professional! I play the older version of Amy in that story. What was cool about this version of Little Women is that it is a modern-day version of the tale in present-day life.
That film was super fun because I got to work in Utah, and it’s gorgeous out there. While filming on location, we were able to go on a lot of cool hikes. I loved that. And I’ve never had a younger version of myself as a character in a project before, so that was fun.
It was a great project to be a part of, and I love that story of sisterhood. I don’t have a sister but I always wanted a sister growing up, and I was able to stay with a couple of the other girls in an Airbnb together. We were able to bond as friends and sisters and bring that chemistry to life on set.
How did you become involved in making BROKEN ROAD?
That was through my amazing agent, Portia Scott with Coast to Coast. I initially auditioned for a different character, so the role I ended up booking, I didn’t even know existed. It was for another character, Ali.
What intrigued you about the character you play— Ali?
Booking Ali turned out to be perfect. I love playing badass, empowering women who take charge. Ali is in a male-dominated field, so the question becomes, how does a women navigate that?
I love her tenacity. I love that she’s a little edgy. At the root of everything, she’s searching for belonging and community—and that’s something I can connect with. And it’s happening in this totalitarian world where it’s the people against the government, and she has one foot in both. Where is she going to end up? I love being able to see the conflict of that, in following your heart and your head.
What’s it like performing in an audio drama?
When you take all of the visuals of film away and you just have the voice, it’s a whole different type of acting style. But I broke down these scenes the exact way I would for a film. I established my moments before (the scene), my objectives, my tactics, my emotions, the character relationships.
I also really like to visualize things. I like to close my eyes and picture my surroundings. What does Ali look like? How do I envision this character? I imagine her looking like Charlize Theron in Mad Max. Ali definitely has that really cool haircut, and she’s super strong, and she has a commanding presence. So I always made my voice for her come from the diaphragm, very powerful. She’s not going to speak from her head voice, and have a little lilt. I always wanted to come from the ground, very stable.
You all recorded your parts separately. What was it like to see it all come together?
That was what was so cool! We did one read-through with everybody on Zoom, but then we recorded on our own. We weren’t recording it together. So, you really do have to rely on your imagination of how the other person’s going to perform it, because you don’t know what choices they’re going to make.
That was really fun, because we were able to send multiple versions of the scene. I had to imagine how Carly (Ali’s girlfriend) was going to respond to things, and that inspired my readings.
It was fun listening to everyone’s voices and performances. I think BROKEN ROAD is so perfectly cast. The guy who plays Arlin (Manu Bennett)—his voice is incredible, such a baritone! When I listen to him, I just want to stand at attention and say, “Yes sir!” He just has that presence.
It’s fun to hear the sound production quality too, with the different voices and effects. Producers E.J. (Kavounas) and Jacob (Pinion), and director Ron (Newcomb) and everyone who’s worked on it have done such a great job. I’m really blown away by the creativity of it.
In addition to BROKEN ROAD, what else are you up to these days?
When I’m not in front of the camera, I coach actors and take people for their auditions. I work with kids, teens and adults, and I love when the adults come in. It’s something really cool when you see an adult who has to pretend that they’re part ape or something. You really have to put yourself out there and be silly and paint that picture.
And that’s what I love about science fiction and fantasy too. You have to bring that groundedness to it. It always comes from a real place. It has to, or none of us will be able to buy into the world. If it doesn’t have some truth or heart that it’s driven from, then it’s too up in the air. So you need something to tether it. That’s my favorite type of story—ones that have that element of fantasy, but also have that element of heart and truth behind it too.
How can fans stay connected with you?
Instagram is the best way to reach me —I’m @taylorashleymurphy there.