One of the greatest things about our job is talking to actors, writers, producers… we get to learn a lot.
Robert Paul Taylor who is one of the stars in Hulu’s hit series East Los High and was a guest star on ABC’s Mixology. He is set to appear in the anticipated film Prince Ali alongside Sheila Vand from Argo & David Diaan from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He writes many books under his own publishing company that he created called Street Fame Books. Robert will be making a cameo on Fox’s New Girl.
Get to know Robert below.
Can you tease your upcoming appearance on New Girl?
I can’t speak about the story line, but I can tell you that it will play in January and be a really funny episode. ‘The guys are teaming up to create something new’…. I was happy to have the chance to stop by and meet everyone and get to work a bit. The show is tracking very well in it’s fourth season and I’m confident will continue to grow. That’s one of the more popular shows where a lot of my friends come out and say ‘Wow, I really love that show!’ So, I am happy to be of service and I’m lucky to be on it.
How has it been like working on shows like New Girl, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Mixology?
Well when I worked with Andy Samberg and Andrew Braugher last season on Brooklyn Nine-Nine the show was brand new and the industry was waiting to see how it would perform. After the episode we did aired, the following weeks, Andy won a Golden Globe award and it kind of just blew up. I quickly joined the cast of Mixology just after that and had a bigger part on that show. Mixology was a bit different, since it was ABC’s version of trying ‘something new’ in the sense that it was filming an entire season before the show even aired. It was taking a risk, but is much more rewarding for an actor, because you know for sure that your story line will be told. Everyone’s story line is going to be told and be seen. In that sense, shooting a whole season at once, like they do on VOD platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Crackle make more sense to me. That’s how we shoot East Los High, in one big 9-week cycle, the same way you shoot a feature film. You shoot all the story lines and then chop it up in post. It is much more rewarding for an actor because no matter what happens with the show, your work is there to be displayed. Your work will get shown. Also the major plus side to VOD’s is you can always go back to visit it on the wall so to speak, from any platform. Whether it is your phone, iPad or TV. It is the future of episodic story telling.
How was it like working with Andy Samberg on Brooklyn Nine-Nine? Was he a chill boss or was he super serious?
Andy is a very intelligent guy and very funny. He was professional and quite on set, yet during our takes he was playful and hilarious. He encouraged our improv and I was working hard to give him something to chew on. We had fun together. It was great to see Andre Braugher again as well. I had worked with him a few years back on his last show on TNT ‘Men Of a Certain Age’. As soon as I got on set, he looked right at me and said, ‘we’ve worked together before’ and that quickly broke the ice for me and I felt comfortable. TV is a very fast-paced atmosphere and you have very little time to really get to know people, so any relationship history goes a long way in a very intense short timespan.
You’re an author as well as a writer. How has being a writer given you a new view of being an actor and vice versa?
Well, when I write poetry, which is what I did for the last decade, I am writing to myself. My books are my poems, and my poems are my emotional photographs so to speak. They are the memories of my life. The secret to poetry as I am learning, as I grow older in my craft, is to take out the personalization and create enough space for the reader to insert his own self-awareness inside the piece. To be able to reflect on your own reality inside the emotional space I have created. I have two more books I am going to publish this season at the same time, and try something new. Dropping two books simultaneously. Not sure if it’s a good idea or not, but I try to constantly push myself into the place where I feel uncomfortable. Once you start to turn a dollar on something you have created it always messes with the creative process. Every artist deals with it and every artist deals with it in different ways. For years, I wrote with no intention of anyone every seeing it. Now my poems are sold in bookstores and there is always that fleeting feeling when writing…’is this good’, ‘is this better than the old’? All of these questions I try to ignore the best I can and just allow myself to be vulnerable, raw. Try to stay un-masked.
As far as screenplays, that is where my attention has gone the past few years. Screenplays are the new playgrounds for me and they come very natural. I can pump out 20 pages in a day or two of ideas and I send them to my producing partner Jake Barsha and he gives me feedback on how to better move the story. I send him lumps of scenes and he helps me shave them. I come from a dramatic story telling poetic kind of background as far as writing is concerned. But it screenplays, you don’t need to tell how the room looks, and feels, you just need to move the story along. I have learned so much on what you don’t need to write. Allow the production designer to build, the cinematographer to work their magic. Let the director take the actor to the place they need to be. The writer tells the story through the dialogue of its characters. You don’t need to feed the audience what’s going on. They will see it. Audiences are smarter than they have ever been before. Just show us scenes and we will put together the in between spaces ourselves. Once again, leaving space for the human experience to come in. Two people can watch the same scene and one person is crying and one person is checking their phone. The person crying lived it. The person distracted maybe hasn’t had it happen yet in their life. The human experience will fill in the gaps.
How did you come to found Street Fame Books?
I always wanted to be an author. My father always told me to write. He always said ‘just write’. I founded Street Fame Books because I was too impatient to wait for someone to come along and find interest in my books. I researched how books were bound, found a printer here in the US and started printing. I would sell them to friends and associates and then stumbled upon storeowners. I gave a few of them copies. My book “Like This” I wrote just after my father passed away from brain cancer. I gave it to two storeowners as just a token of ‘this is what I have been up to lately’ and them came back a few hours later tear eyed and gave me a hug. They had both lost their parents to cancer as well. That same day they both ordered copies to be sent to their stores and that started my first accounts. I am hoping to get into more stores as the company grows alongside my acting career. The goal has always been to make movies and write books, and today I am doing both.
Can you talk about Prince Ali?
Prince Ali is a film about a man who loses his wife and after mourning goes back home to his hometown Tehran, to find a new life. The story takes us back to how the city used to be, and how it looks today. It is a story of yearning for love and surviving loss. It also shows us the cultural differences in the Middle East, compared to the West. The film is directed by Kevin Hamedani and written by Max Borenstein. Max wrote Godzilla and teamed with Sundance’s “Dear White People’ Producer Angel Lopez to complete the film. It will be in festival circuits in the coming months.
You wrote and starred in a ‘Series’ called The Bathroom Diaries. What can you tell us about that process?
I wrote a real gritty, raw, vulgar memoir, called ‘Paris In Flames’ while I was still a using addict and drug dealer in the early part of 2000. The novel just goes on and on and on, and one day I was surfing, I realized I could write some scenes out for an episodic series from the book. A producer friend of mine Eric Ragan introduced me to director Jake Barsha and we shot a few episodes, as much as we could afford. We got Emmy Award winning Terry Kelley who cuts Showtime’s ‘Homeland’ and it came out great. It’s mature content. It’s an old story, of getting lost and finding your way back. We have been shopping it to some networks and have plans to tell more of that story. The film screened at the Laemmle in North Hollywood a few weeks back and earlier in the year we had screenings at David LaChapelle’s studio here in Los Angeles. You can watch an episode online. www.the-bathroom-diaries.com
When did you know that you wanted to be an actor and a writer?
Since I was pretty young in my teenage years I started journaling. I met my first mentor Neil Stammer when I was 16 or 17. He was a world-renowned professional juggler and circus performer who also owned the countries only ‘all juggling’ store Juggling Capitol that I wanted to work at on the famous Pier 39 in San Francisco. He spoke over 7 different languages and had performed over 10,000 shows worldwide. He mentored me in the juggling world and I found a book of his one day called ‘Judas’ that he had written. He had lived on the streets for years as a homeless teen and kept his diary writings with him everywhere he went. I remember he used to sleep on the floor in the back office at work and at home because he slept on the sidewalk for so many years, he never got used to actual beds. His final goodbye to that old life was his book ‘Judas’. When I came across that simple book, I knew that I wanted to have books to look back on my life with. So I kept writing, and kept writing. In an odd story ending, Neil was a sexual abuse survivor as a small child and became a gay man as an adult. I found out years later that he was wanted by the FBI for child molestation charges in other states and is now on the FBI Most wanted list. It’s sad to see my old friend painted in that light and I will never know the real story to that side of the law. But I do remember the little kid that he was never wanted any of that life that was so harshly dealt upon him as a child. The last thing I read on the Internet was that he had escaped the US and was probably living in Iceland or Russia. It reminds me of a chilling quote, “We stopped looking for the monsters under the bed, when we realized they were inside of us”.
As far back as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be an actor. I have been doing stage shows since the 5th grade, through middle and high school was involved. Business turned me on as well. I remember a few Halloween’s when I was a kid, everyone was coming to school in animal costumes or comic book characters and I would put on a suit and carry a briefcase. People would ask me who am I, and I would reply ‘I’m a business man’.
Can you talk about your straight edge lifestyle you lead and how you hope to be an inspiration?
Like I mentioned, I lived in the drug scene for over a decade. When I turned 30 I decided to quit everything. I found a new way of life and how to live on life’s terms. I always admired the hardcore bands when I was growing up that were straight edge. Kids, who didn’t fit in to normal societal standards, didn’t want to fit in. Didn’t want to use drugs and follow the masses. I always admired people who lived drug free, all of the time. To walk through pain, to walk through success, emotions, cities, relationships, on life’s terms, it’s really quite breathtaking. You remember about 80% more of your life actually. There are so many millions of things to do inside of a day besides use drugs that once you have done it for so long, there is absolutely just no more appeal to any part of it. As far as an inspiration goes, I wish I had more people to look up to when I was growing up to live a healthier lifestyle. I wish more famous people were more out in the open about healthy lifestyle. When I say famous I mean people that are seen by the public, looked up to by the kids, people who have a voice. We are out there. It is my opportunity now as my career grows to let people know that you don’t have to use even if all your friends do. Or even if every song on the radio is about getting wasted. You don’t have to use every time you don’t want to feel something inside. You don’t have to cover those feelings. That is how all-great art is born. Art comes from pain, and life, and loss and gain, beauty and joy. And it’s a beautiful life, to know that you are putting yourself in the least amount of risk on any given day just by not poisoning yourself from your own hand. But, if you are that person, that can have a glass of wine once a week over dinner and not think about it again in between, well then, have one for me darling.
What advice would you give to any aspiring actors or authors?
Actors I would say find a lifestyle that you can enjoy for the long haul. Most actors work 5-10 years on minimum wages. I have been acting for free most of my life. It’s only after all these years does the money start to come with it. It’s the life that I have built for myself, the craft, the story telling, the friends, staying in shape daily, the travel, the relationships along the way that I enjoy the most. Most important is to not give up.
As far as an author, just write. You must write. Don’t worry about a beginning or an end. Just start filling pages and the tides will lead you to the shores.