The International Cast on Broadway Series: Kim Taylor
Photos taken by Roberto Araujo for The Ensemblist
The Ensemblist and TheatreArtLife got together to find out which Broadway cast members are not from the USA. In this International Cast on Broadway Series, we talk to those who have come from all corners of the world to perform in NYC. We ask them about their work, their life and the path they took to living the Broadway dream. This is Kim Taylor from Australia who is currently performing in Hamilton.
Kim, what got you started in performing arts?
I was actually quite pigeon toed as a toddler and it was recommended I start ballet, so off I went as a little 4yr old. I just loved it and have been dancing ever since. I was very lucky to have a generous hardworking Mum that let me try all the activities I wanted.
I was not so naturally talented at gymnastics but dance and music were my things. I learnt all the styles growing up and when I was 10 I saw Chicago in Australia. I loved it so much Mum took me back 2 more times. From that point on I knew I wanted to be in theatre.
My first years of dance were at a little local school, The Northern Ballet Studios in Pymble, NSW where I learnt from Peta Davidson, an ex-Australian ballet dancer. From there she pointed me in the direction of a performing arts high school and I was able to secure a scholarship to McDonald College. I learnt a great deal here due to the many professional performing opportunities we had.
In my final year of high school I played Rose Alvarez in Bye Bye Birdie, which was my first musical theatre show experience. I naturally loved every second and was hoping this would lead me into more opportunities straight out of school. But reality hit and I realized how demanding a performer’s life is. I did two more years of study to get a diploma in dance performance at Danceworld in Melbourne and Ed5International in Sydney but I was never able to break into the small theatre world in Australia and most of my work was corporate dance/modeling gigs, hosting children’s shows and contracts overseas in Asia, India, and on cruise ships.
My career was very up and down. It was frustrating and disheartening being so dedicated and not getting the pay off. Never an easy road, heaps of knock backs and trying to prove my talent, then settling for the survival job.
I tried some other career paths but even with all the heartache I always came back to performing, because as soon as you get that one good gig it feels right again and you’re on top of the world. I moved to Los Angeles in 2013 after a few years of being in and out the country to be with my now husband, Jefferson.
I really got all my theatre experience in regional theatres all over LA and Orange County. I was a non-equity performer for all but one job out there. Not only do you work for minimal to no money as non-equity, but in California you also end up spending huge amounts of time commuting all over the place to get to work. But I’m so glad I got the experience there that I needed. I did some amazing shows as well as some not so great shows but I was able to meet a few awesome people that gave me the confidence to get where I am now.
Tell us your path from Australia to Los Angeles to New York City and how you ended up in Hamilton.
I always had a dream of being in America to perform and the ultimate was to be on Broadway but I never quite knew how or if that was going to happen. I didn’t have any ancestry tying me to USA and I didn’t have many big jobs in the way of career on my resumé to put me clearly in that box of eligibility to apply for a performers visa. I really hadn’t looked too far into moving to the US until I happened to fall in love with an American stuntman actor, my husband, Jefferson Cox.
We met in Singapore working for Universal Studios. So for 3 years after our contracts ended in Singapore we spent the spare time we had travelling between LA and Sydney. I could never work in LA as I didn’t have a working visa but I took classes everywhere I could to explore the dance and theatre world out there.
I was eventually able to get a work visa on a student exchange/gap year program as I was a student studying Health and Rehabilitation in Australia at the time. This gave me a year to give the LA dance world a go. I was lucky enough to have already connected with an agent, Go2Talent, before I had finalised my visa so I was able to hit the ground running once I was in LA. I had a great year, and got to work on some awesome things. I did a few commercials and lots of theatre. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Chicago at the Hollywood bowl were two of the most memorable experiences of my career prior to Hamilton.
Towards the end of my time in LA I started meeting with lawyers to begin the process of getting a performers visa, O1, so I could come back and continue working and be with Jefferson. I luckily never ended up needing to complete the visa process as Jefferson proposed and we were married the next year. Hello green card :-) The perks of loving an American man!
The next 2 years I worked in a restaurant, as you do, to survive. I performed in whatever regional theatre I could get in LA. I then booked an Equity show ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’ which I was stoked about. I would finally be earning enough money to just perform, enjoy it and not wait tables, well for a little while anyway.
Now that I was Equity though I realized it was going to be very difficult as a female dancer to be hired in regional theatre in LA. There just aren’t enough contracts, so I went to New York for a month to start auditioning.
I kinda picked a crappy time of year to go as there weren’t many shows auditioning and to tell you the truth, out of all the auditions I went to, all open calls, I think I had maybe 3 call backs. I even auditioned for Hamilton and was cut first round. NY was definitely a lot more brutal than LA when it came to the theatre world.
I went back to LA not quite sure what was next. I was heading into one of those periods of uncertainty of whether I should be continuing with this career path or moving on to something else and out of the blue I get an invited audition call for Hamilton. I remember telling mum that I wasn’t sure why I was going, I’d been cut first round last time, but hey it was a free dance class so off I went.
I really didn’t know much about the show, except that it was the biggest thing on Broadway. Deep down I think I thought it wasn’t a show I could ever be in, ability wise or ethnically. Just shows you not to type cast yourself. I had no idea what the creative team wanted.
It’s kind of crazy how things happen, I have gone to so many auditions being so prepared and wanting the job with all my heart and losing out. But with Hamilton I had no expectations. I went in without having any pressure on myself. It wasn’t until the second dance call, when we started to learn ‘The Room Where it Happens,’ that I realized this really was my type of show. The music, the dance style, I just loved it.
I had two awesome days of auditions with the creative team and that was it. I was on hold for 3 months or so for what I thought was the 1st national tour, but on Dec 23rd I got the phone call. My agent said I didn’t get the tour but they wanted me to be a replacement in the Broadway company! I was completely and utterly dumbfounded, also a blubbering mess. I didn’t even know this was an option and what a ridiculous show to be able to have my Broadway debut and achieve my ultimate dream.
I truly believe things happen when they are meant to and they happen for a reason. Even though it took forever, all the hard work finally paid off. Thank goodness I have a supportive husband who is also a performer and understood how much this meant to me, because I was moving to NY to do this no matter what. He luckily had work in NY at the beginning of my contract for a few months, then headed back to LA and worked bi-coastally. Little did we know that the sudden surprise of an expanding family would move both our lives to New York permanently.
You continued to perform in Hamilton while you were pregnant with Matilda, your daughter. What was that like?
I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty frigging hard, especially in the beginning. Becoming pregnant was also such a surprise. I wasn’t quite prepared for how this was all going to affect the new amazing job that I had really only just started to dive into. The show is exhausting as it is, so being pregnant added a whole new level to it. I was nauseous constantly for the first 16 weeks and it was the worst at night. But I managed to get through and made it to 5 months pregnant and then my body had had enough.
It was very surreal performing and knowing I had a little person growing in my belly. I continually second guessed if I was doing the right thing by pushing through each show or if I was putting too much stress on the baby with all the activity. I was thinking that if we were both strong enough to get through a physical pregnancy then we were both strong enough to survive anything that was to come once she arrived. I’m not certain it made anything much easier, but she is certainly a strong healthy baby and I do feel like a super woman being able to do it all :-)
Matilda absolutely loves music and dancing and I have a feeling it must have been from hearing Hamilton every night and being bounced all over the place. I feel very privileged to be able to continue performing on Broadway and have such a beautiful little girl and supportive husband to share it with. It is a crazy, busy, exhausting life being a performer with a child, but so rewarding to be able to have a career and a family.
How does being Australian help/hinder your work on Broadway?
Personally I don’t think it has hindered or helped in any way! Although having a green card has made working on Broadway a lot easier than what it can be for Aussies without one. Most visas, performer visas or otherwise will not meet the requirements to join the unions that allow you to work on Broadway so it can become very difficult logistically.
I do think that Aussies have a great work ethic in whatever career paths they take and I’m sure that does help for continuing to work in shows and for future jobs.
Does your international background play into how you build your characters and if so, how?
In Hamilton my characters are more built around the need to tell the story at hand rather than my personal experience, although there is definitely a huge part of myself in what I do in the show.
It seems very poetic being an immigrant myself in a show such as Hamilton. It specifically highlights the vast achievements of historical immigrant figures within American and shows me just how multicultural of a nation we live in and how many opportunities there are for anyone to reach for.
Do you have a mentor or a role model? If so, please tell us who and why?
Growing up there were definitely a few people I admired: I loved watching the movies of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, such smooth, stylized, charismatic performers. I adored Bette Midler, for her bold timeless characters. And Caroline O’Connor, an Aussie performer I grew up seeing in shows who has been on Broadway many times. I think she is the epitome of the triple threat performer.
Do you have a favourite role or show that you would love to play?
From the first time I saw Chicago I always wanted to be in that show. I have had the opportunity once in the ensemble, but I’d love to play Velma one day. If there was ever a revival of Fosse I’d die to do that too. I also wouldn’t be opposed to being Captain Marvel or an X-men character, just putting it out there.
Describe a typical day of your life.
I get up with Matilda, sometime around 7am, we play and go to get breakfast usually at the bagel shop and a play at the playground. If it’s not a matinee day, I get a little nap when Matilda naps, which helps me function a little better as I get to the late night hours of the show.
There is sometimes a yoga class or Pilates before the show and then off to the theatre to do makeup, wig prep and warm up. Then a 45min trip home and to bed quite soon after to get as much sleep as possible before it all starts again.
Babies definitely change up how you can spend your time. I’m gradually figuring out how to balance it all, with a little time for myself outside of work and her. One day my husband and I will get some quality time together too, maybe.
What do you see are your strengths as a performer and what skills do you think you still need to work on?
I think I’m a very consistent performer. I always give each performance my all which can be hard in a Broadway schedule, 8 shows a week is exhausting on the body and mind but I’m glad I can push through and give my best to the audience even if I’m not feeling so great. I love acting and feeding off the energy of cast mates on stage. It helps me think I’m adding to the story as an individual and more than just a dancer.
I have always been a bit of a perfectionist, which means I’m super hard on myself. My confidence takes a hit a lot of the time because of this, especially in new situations. So auditioning and rehearsals can be difficult to just let go and pull out the goods, without worrying about what other people are thinking. Luckily that all disappears once I’m on the stage.
It’s so silly to continually battle with this, but the up side is I think it makes me a better performer as I’m always aware of things I can do better by seeing what’s happening around me instead of being so insular.
What are your goals for your career? Is a return to Australia on the cards?
It’s so interesting how drastically your priorities change once you have a child. If you were to ask me in the near-ish future, I would say that I’d love to start auditioning for bigger roles, singing and acting roles rather than mainly as a dancer and I’d like to start making a leap into TV. I just need to figure out how to allocate that extra time and energy you need, away from the family, to dedicate to achieving those new goals again.
But really as of right now, I just love having a regular job and job security. Knowing that we don’t have to stress when the next job is to come makes life so much easier. When that need for something more, “creatively”, bubbles up again, I’ll be fully ready to pursue more career opportunities then.
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Published in collaboration with The Ensemblist