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Final exam: Meet Maddie Taylor, first-year student and professional actress

Freshman Maddie Taylor (above) has made cameos in several television series.
Freshman Maddie Taylor (above) has made cameos in several television series.

Maddie Taylor, Trinity '18, is a professional actress with eight credits on her own IMDb page. The North Carolina native has made cameos in several television series, including John Adams and Army Wives. The Chronicle's Jaclyn Onufrey sat down with Taylor before her Writing 101 class to talk about her life as a professional actress and full-time student.

The Chronicle: So I know that you’re a professional actress. Can you explain what that means?

Maddie Taylor: So I have two agents, I have a local agent and I have one in New York, and it means that I go on auditions for plays, readings, movies, TV, independent films, or YouTube films—anything like that. And sometimes I get them, sometimes I don’t. That’s kind of the life of it.

TC: When did you start your career as a professional actress?

MT: I started going to New York and auditioning when I was 10, which is really really young. But I was kind of lucky—my mom Googled “agents in New York” when we went up for a Christmas trip for my family, and I went in to see her and sang a song. She’s really big on Broadway, my agent, so she has a lot of kids who are in a lot of Broadway shows, and she represents kids and young adults mostly, and so I went in and sang and she was like, “Cool, I’ll take you on.” That’s actually very lucky, because that’s one of the hardest parts of it, to get an agent.

TC: So you would have to fly up to New York for auditions?

MT: Yeah, I would fly up with my mom for a while, but when I was like 13 I started going up by myself. Once I started getting called up for auditions, I was lucky because the first thing I got called up for I booked.

TC: And what was that for?

MT: It’s called The Girl Next Door. It’s a horror, or a thriller film.

TC: What was your role in that?

MT: Okay so it’s about this girl—it’s about a true story, about Sylvia Likens, they changed the names for the movie—and basically a bunch of kids in the neighborhood started to gang up on her, and the adopted family she had been staying with started torturing her, and I played her little sister.

TC: And what made your decision to go to college instead of pursuing acting full time?

MT: Well I wrestled with that for a really long time, because there’s a lot of people who are actors like me in this area, and some of them are a couple of years ahead of me, and none of them went to college. They just went straight to New York. I wasn’t sure if I was going to go to college or not, but I think I really wanted this time to grow. College is so unique and that you’re never going to be able to get a bunch of kids who are learning together again.

In any other circumstance, you can’t really create this kind of environment in any other way, where people want to learn and try new things and experiment and figure out who they are. So I really wanted to take advantage of that so I could shape myself as a person, and hopefully be a better artist at the end of it.

TC: What acting or performance groups have you gotten involved in at Duke?

MT: I’m in the Fall main stage play with the theater department...called The Perfect Detonator. Our director Jody McAuliffe wrote it, and it’s based on Joseph Conrad’s book The Secret Agent. It was the Unabomber’s favorite book.... I’m [also] in Inside Joke, which is the sketch comedy troupe here, which is a lot of fun. Then I’m in an acting class here, and then a ballet class.

TC: If you audition and get a role elsewhere, are you planning on finishing your degree?

MT: It depends. I’m finding it really difficult to audition while at school because I’m involved in a million things here. I wanted to put down roots and feel connected to the school, so I started picking up everything I could fit into my schedule. So I’m finding it hard to audition, just because it’s hard to get off Duke’s campus. But I still have, I’ve auditioned three times since the start of the school year, which isn’t that much, but there are still opportunities. And if I get a role, I’ll definitely take a leave off of school. I can’t really turn it down, because they come as they come.