ClexaCon ’22: Bex Taylor-Klaus Spills All

ClexaCon ’22: Bex Taylor-Klaus Spills All

There are a lot of ongoing arguments about what is and is not good queer media. Historically we come from a representation that was evil (the big bad queers/criminals) or dead (bury your queers). It took years to move from being the dead joke of the week to having actual substance and depth. It’s now 2022, and we are beginning to have a chance to tell stories of death without them being the only purpose for a queer character.

For Bex Taylor-Klaus, the wrappings and trappings of the characters being portrayed include a number of deaths, but also a unique journey of progress. Bex grew from playing Bullet on The Killing, where they portrayed a young, criminal, gender fluid lesbian, through to Bishop on Deputy, where they transitioned from cis-lesbian to non-binary on screen. This mirrored Bex’s own personal growth and awareness of their self.

At ClexaCon, I got to sit down with Bex to talk about the sense of self and dichotomy within playing a role that was who you were, but also what kind of characters did Bex want to experience being next. And it was in the midst of that, where Bex dropped a bomb about my favourite show, One Day at a Time, and the truth about the mysterious barista.

Interview

LezWatch.TV: I was at your panels earlier today and you were talking about how your health got better as you became more and more yourself and you know, people who aren’t queer or who aren’t, who live in the gender binary don’t always understand that when I start being myself, I actually get to feel better and be all of me. More than just that for the rest of us, we’re not actors, we start being ourselves, we get to be ourselves. We don’t ever really need to look back and go, oh yes for two years on international TV, I played somebody who was me and isn’t me. How does that feel to look back on your older work and see this other person who was you? 

Bex: It’s trippy as fuck. It’s trippy. Some days it’s like a vacation and other days it’s like a trip and fall. Sometimes certain shows, watching it and and seeing who I was and seeing who I was playing, I’m like, wow, what? And then other times it’s like, no, that still feels right, even if the pronouns or the languages, like — could be changed or I could change it to make it feel better. Especially with Bullet [from The Killing] and characters like that, I look back and I’m like, pronouns be damned! That’s that’s that was me then, that’s me now. 

LezWatch.TV: Bullet was a tragic death.

Bex: That one was a hard one.

LezWatch.TV: It was and that one actually fell into a little bit of … being killed off screen versus being killed on screen. And the perennial argument, which is actually better? Should we—

Bex: On screen is better. As long as it’s not like a stray bullet in the back [dramatic cough].

LezWatch.TV: We don’t talk about Tara.

Bex: Or Lexa. But that’s the thing. Seeing them die on camera, unceremoniously? Awful. Seeing them die on camera with a fight, with a battle, with a blaze of glory going out fighting a good fight? I want to see that! 

I still understand how much that character meant to the creator, and the creator didn’t want to watch the character go down like that, and all these various things. But at the same time I, having loved this character so deeply and like invested so much of myself into this character, it was really hard. And one thing that made it easier was they actually, they Jonathan Demme directed episode nine, and actually asked me if I would be willing to stay in Canada a little bit longer so I could play my own corpse. 

And as macabre as that is, it was exactly what I needed. Like, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to that character and it allowed me the chance to sit in full death makeup, with the y-incision on my chest and everything, in a robe, sitting in my trailer sobbing, realizing this is this character now. It allowed me to say goodbye in a way that I needed and it was my first job and like that character was like arguably my first love.

LezWatch.TV: You also said that you wanted to play the villain —

Bex: [excited] Yeah!

LezWatch.TV: But the villain who was like this is the friend villain [evil laugh]

Bex: Like Moriarty?

LezWatch.TV: Yeah! 

Bex: Yeah! Like the, oh, you’re harmless, oh you’re not harmless.

LezWatch.TV: What other kinds of roles? Maybe villainous maybe not, have you always wanted to play?

Bex: I like the Flynn rider, the prince charming but they’re a little shit. 

LezWatch.TV: So like the Han Solo? The rogue with a heart of gold.

Bex: Yeah. Like the anti hero. I play a lot of really heartfelt characters because I am a really heartfelt human. I think it’d be fun to play someone who resists that part of them, because that’s not something I’ve ever done. I’ve always just been like okay, well we’re leaning in like this, heartfelt! I think that playing a character that has that but suppresses it would be really fun! Because that’s not something I’ve ever had to do, and I know I can, but like I haven’t had too. So it’d be fun to do it on my terms for a role for a character for a story.

LezWatch.TV: What was it like being on Deputy? Because you got to transition on the show. I watched every single episode. I was like die hard, I’m watching the show because you were on it and I was like okay, I’m gonna watch that.

Bex: Yeah, it was really fun because I originally the role went to someone else and then there was just something happened and there had to be a recast and I came in and I was like … hey can we make this character non binary? I know the character’s written as butch lesbian but could we maybe take a step to the left and like expand a little bit? And to my absolute shock, they said yes!

LezWatch.TV: It was a really amazing story that you don’t usually get to see, because there was also a relationship involved.

Bex: I have these feelings of like at this point in my life, I’m chasing stories of queer joy. I don’t regret telling the sadder story on Deputy, because it is important. It is something that happens quite often, people come out and transition, and their relationships deteriorate or end. And I don’t want that to be the only story that’s told about trans people’s relationships. And I figure that having that story told will open the door to the trans joy story of like I’ve seen what I can’t have, I can’t live with anymore. And now I can see what I want, what I can’t have, what is good for me. And that’s the story we were going to be telling in Deputy.

LezWatch.TV: In season 2? Because the end of [the first] season there was you, dancing with this other woman, and we were thinking is that the new ship?

Bex: And that was from the beginning, like from the beginning. As soon as we got green lit for the for the first season, the writers and I were like, okay, so I didn’t wear a wedding ring in the pilot, what’s the story? What’s going on here? And they’re like, okay, you’re gonna break up. [Laughter] I’m like okay, how are we going to do this? And we don’t know yet. I’m like, I have an idea. 

They knew they wanted to break up and then have there was there’s Cinthya Carmona, she’s an incredible actor, she’s the one who came in for the new character — Julie, the second ship — and I wanted it to happen like a little bit like the break up to happen sooner. So that Cynthia’s Cynthia’s character and my character, we could have like actual joy at the end of the season instead of just the tease. But you know, we were all operating on the assumption of like, okay, we set this here and people will want to tune back in so they’re gonna give us a season two. Unfortunately that doesn’t always work that way. We plan for what we can, knowing full well that the industry can instantly go [mimes cutting throat], you’re done.

LezWatch.TV: It certainly has recently.

Bex: That’s the thing. We, as queers, we want to tell the full spectrum story and in this industry were restricted to time to the season length, not just episode length. And everything is getting shorter and shorter and shorter. So in the days where one season is 22 episodes, you can tell both those stories of the break up into the new relationship and ended on like end that arc in one season with a new girlfriend. Not as easy with 12 episodes, and there’s a lot happening in that show already. There’s a lot of other characters, we have to hit and like hear their stories as well for an ensemble set up like that. I know it was, it was called Deputy, not Sheriff, which is how you know that it’s not Bill Hollister’s story, he’s just the catalyst for all everybody’s story happening now, if that makes sense.

LezWatch.TV: One… One day at a time? No, wrong show—

Bex: Oh my gosh!

LezWatch.TV: My other favourite show. Sorry.

Bex: That’s the thing I was signed on to do One Day at a Time in March of 2020. 

LezWatch.TV: What!? I used to go to every taping of that show that I could go to! I would have died!

Bex: God, Gloria and I were like so excited. I was up for Syd for awhile but they told me I was too cool, which is fair, Fine.

LezWatch.TV: Syd needed to be a little bit more awkward and [gestures at Bex].

Bex: Yeah, it makes sense. I totally get it. I was like this, I love this show and so I stayed in contact with them all the way through. Finally in the beginning of 2020 we were like we have the role. Gloria and I were going back and forth being like this is the character, you’ve got it, we’re going to do this, okay, the world is getting a little shaky right now, so stay with us, we’re still planning. Hold on, we’ve got Rita and we’re starting to get really scared so we have to start stopping and then eventually it was like we have to shut down. Then eventually it was like, okay that the show is not coming back to finish, it’s done and it was just gut wrenching. 

LezWatch.TV: So can you tell me what this character would have been? 

Bex: I’m not sure if you would have liked it.

LezWatch.TV: I like to not like characters.

Bex: My character would be the cute barista that Elena’s always like talking about. 

LezWatch.TV: Yes! I would have loved it!

Bex: I would have been the cute barista and then I actually would have gotten in the way of their relationship and they would have broken up. But also I was really boring. So like Elena and my character wouldn’t have worked either. It just was the catalyst for that ending. 

LezWatch.TV: I’m totally down with that. I mean Elena was falling in love for the first time and you know, a lot of us have first time relationships that just [fizzle out].

Bex: Yeah. And sometimes, even it’s not that you hate this person all of a sudden or this person hurt you in any way. It’s just the relationship has run its course. And like that’s what I was excited about being part of that part of the story

LezWatch.TV: I would have been on cloud nine, I have to admit.

Bex: So would I! From that from the first time I auditioned for Sid I was like, I want to be part of the show, I need to be part of the show. How do I get on this? Like, they did PTSD and depression. Oh my God, my whole heart exploded.

Rita Moreno’s is an international treasure and one of my all time heroes. I saw her at a taping for Good Luck Charlie when she was in, she was in the taping audience for an absolute fluke. She ended up singing a song for those of us who were in the audience, like during a break while they were taping Good Luck Charlie, and I was like … what is my life, what is happening here? 

That was before I booked The Killing. That was like, that was in my first couple of months out here in LA. My manager was like, I’m gonna send you to a couple tapings, so you see what it’s like on set. Because they were sending me in for a lot of Disney and a lot of multi-cameras.

LezWatch.TV: You’ve got that youthful energy.

Bex: I got all that energy and nowhere to put it. But yeah, I was testing for Disney in my first six months in LA. And that was not the right place for me. So my manager was like we’re really pushing you with Disney and we’re getting traction, I want you to see how they film. And so they sent me to a couple like Charlie a few other things, Shake It Up. I don’t really remember anymore. But it was like I never ended up doing a sitcom and I’m still sad about it.

LezWatch.TV: You could still do a sitcom.

Bex: One Day at a Time! This is this is what I’ve been training for and then auuuuuugh! pandemic.

LezWatch.TV: How do you feel that queer representation, specifically on television, how do you think it’s changed over the last five years?

Bex: Well I think that 10 years ago Bullet was written as a lesbian. If Bullet were written this year, Bullet would be they/them pronouns, non binary all the way through. And I think that — I know the question was about five years, 10 years.

LezWatch.TV: 10 years is fine. People just usually balk when I say 10, that’s a long time ago. 

Bex: 10 is my — I’m in a weird position where I’m reaching my decade here in this industry. Actually I’ll be reaching my decade in February of 2023.

LezWatch.TV: Happy early anniversary.

Bex: Thank you. I’m deep into year nine. I’m realizing that I’ve been part of the change, not just watching the change from the inside, which is how I felt this whole time. I’m starting to realize, no, like I’ve been part of this change over these last 10 years. I don’t think it’s gonna sink in. Like I’m starting to get it cognitively, but I don’t think it sunk any lower yet.

LezWatch.TV: You were also on 13 Reasons Why.

Bex: Yeah, and that one, that one was interesting because when I was in high school, that book saved my life. The reason it saved my life was because because of the way they had her take her own life in the book was very, very well thought out: I can’t do this because of the impact. I can’t do this because of the impact. I can’t do this because of the impact. This is my only choice because it still has an impact. It’s the least amount of impact. 

And I, as a teenager, hadn’t thought about the impact on my family. I just hadn’t. If I had gone through or anything, I hadn’t thought my brother finding me or anything like that. And that book was the first time I kind of was confronted with it. Then the book kept going and her family, her parents, fell apart. Her family was absolutely destroyed and, in the book, they mentioned that this is common, this is what happens when parents lose a child. 

The impact in the book … is something that I think was missing from season one and I was really scared to sign on and I couldn’t watch season two because I was … I made it through season one and was like, I’m on the verge of a relapse, I gotta stop. And so I started season two and I was like, nope, still can’t do it. 

Actually, I grew up with Tommy Dorfman, so I called her when I got the audition for season three. I called Tommy and I was like, hey, I’m nervous because like the book saved my life, but the show triggered me really hard. I don’t know how to reconcile these two things. Because it’s like child me, I knew that this project had been bought by Selena Gomez and messaged the author and like started being like, I want to be part of this. And so now two years into it, three years — I was in year three but two years into it. I was like, I don’t, I don’t know this isn’t what I expected and I’m scared. 

I talked to Tommy and she really talked me off the ledge. She was like, yeah, we’ve been having these conversations as a cast as a crew and the people behind the scenes. Tommy actually helped walk me through their plan for season three and what she already knew, because she did show up and she was supposed to show up in season three, we were supposed to have like an overlap. We were supposed to have an overlap episode. We ended up missing. That would have been way too cool because again we grew up together.

LezWatch.TV: I had trouble watching seasons one and 2 as well. It just, I had not read the book but just the way that it was portrayed, and I’ve never been suicidal, but it was still just like this is a lot.

Bex: It was a lot. And what they did in season three is they really started leaning into the mental health crisis that it was both addressing and maybe creating. It started utilizing these, not spoilers, warnings, trigger warnings and started utilizing the time at the end of the episode to have the actors come and be like, hey just a reminder if you need help if you need to stop, do it. 

And then they even had an after show that I got to be on for one of the season three episodes where they brought in a psychiatrist or a psychologist and had us sit down with her and have these conversations. We went and we watched the episode where Tyler gets assaulted and had an entire conversation about it and like the fallout and like the studies that they did and the work that the actor did to give Tyler as much honesty and authenticity as possible. 

I really owe it all to Tommy Dorfman at the end of the day because I … Without Tommy’s insight about where about the work that 13 Reasons Why I was doing to get better, I don’t think I could have done it. I was too scared and I’m really glad I did because season three ended up being therapeutic for me personally. I was dealing with some like sexual trauma issues at the time and playing a sexual assault survivor was really powerful. And then, lo and behold, the episode where my character is like I am not okay, is the episode that was directed by my dad’s cousin.

So I was like, I felt safe. I felt like there was someone behind the camera I could unequivocally trust to tell me if I did a bad job and needed to redo it. That was really nice.

LezWatch.TV: That is amazing. So you’ve basically been playing queer characters your entire career then?

Bex: Essentially. Yeah.

LezWatch.TV: That’s wild.

Bex: Yeah. Started out gay. And it’s funny because my reps were like, okay, so you started with a gay character, the next character we play, we don’t want it to be because we don’t want to get you typecast. And I’m like why not? Why not? No, seriously, why not? And they didn’t have an answer for me.

LezWatch.TV: I imagine the answer would probably be around like Leonard Nimoy “I am not Spock.” He was, for the rest of his life, Spock. That’s all it was. But that comes with making such an iconic character. Have you ever thought, what would it be like to be that kind of iconic character where everybody’s gonna look at you forever and see that one character? Because

Bex: I hope it’s a good one, I hope it’s a good one. I hope it’s a fun one. Even if it’s not good, like good versus evil, as long as it’s an interesting character. Okay, fine. If that’s how you know me, call me that. 

LezWatch.TV: Have you ever seen — you mentioned that you tried out for roles that were “Bex types” and then didn’t get them …

Bex: [screams into the void in frustration]

LezWatch.TV: … which has got to be the most infuriating thing on the planet.”Oh you’re too Bex-like.”

Bex: Or getting a text from a friend being like, I just saw your name on a breakdown, are you in this? And I’m like no, read it again, it just says “Bex Taylor-Klaus type.” It’s like well did you audition for this? No, should I send it to my reps? I mean I want it fine

LezWatch.TV: Besides yourself and these other Bex “types,” did you ever see someone who was like you on screen before you became an actor?

Bex: Uh … Clea Duvall in But I’m a Cheerleader, and also in the Invisible Girl, the episode of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. And that wasn’t that wasn’t her playing blatantly queer either. But that was like one of those episodes that stuck with me forever. And like Clea Duval, that was my first introduction to Clea Duval, and I was like, who is this person? And where can I watch more? And that’s actually how I ended up watching But I’m a Cheerleader and was like, yeah, no, I like this one, like this person

I’m trying to think of like any other characters that I saw that were like, well, I mean, Rosie O’Donnell and A League of Their Own.

LezWatch.TV: Do you like the tv series?

Bex: I’m going to be brutally honest. I’m a baby, I’m a weenie. And I auditioned for that with my whole heart and I spent 12 years playing softball — I thought I was gonna go pro and then I found acting instead. And so not getting that job was a gut wrencher for me.

LezWatch.TV: You would have been awesome on that show, oh my gosh,

Bex: Thanks. Yeah, not getting that has been, that’s I think that’s the only audition that I like, I didn’t get the job and I’m heartbroken about it. There are some other jobs where like, I got the job and I couldn’t do it for scheduling issues. That’s heartbreaking, that was Deadpool, that was that was the nightmare.

Lezwatch.TV: You were going to be in Deadpool?

Bex: I was gonna be Negasonic Teenage  Warhead. And then I was on Scream at the time and there was gonna be an overlap of filming and so scream MTV and Weinstein company said you’re not allowed. That’s like that’s a different kind of heartbreak. That’s like a that’s like, well I got it but I couldn’t so like it still feels like mine. So it takes me a minute to watch it but I still will watch it to see what happened.

But it’s one of those where it’s just like … I put my heart and soul like this is — A League of their Own is my favorite movie. I dressed up as Dottie Henson every Purim for years. Not for Halloween. Never for Halloween. Only for Purim.

Lezwatch.TV: Because it’s all right to do it for Purim! 

Bex: Exactly! You dress up on Purim as the people you like. You dress up for Halloween as the people you hate, or the people you love to hate.

Dottie Henson, I was a softball catcher, that was I wanted to go pro. That’s what I thought my trajectory in life was. And so having the show come around felt like my moment to do that and having the character having a trans character playing the game was like ah!!! and then it just…

Lezwatch.TV: Maybe season two.

Bex: Maybe season two, you know. I’ve got my fingers crossed and I still want them to do just like “Queer actors in LA, play softball tryouts and see if we can cast you as other teams.” I don’t know why they don’t do that. Like I could play, could play like Racine Bells. Have they filled out of that team yet?

Lezwatch.TV: We’ve seen them. But… the final fight was the Blue Sox versus Peaches. I’m also, it’s one of my favorite movies. Anytime it’s on tv, my wife and I will watch it right up until the last bit and then we’re like, no, we can’t watch the last bit where everyone’s old.

Bex: Yeah, I love the last bit where everyone’s old because it’s like they’re actually because I start to think like, okay, you’re old, you’re allowed to be lesbian now just you’re all old gays.

LezWatch.TV: Because that doesn’t happen in the movie. I just, all I get is sad.

Bex: Okay, it didn’t happen blatantly, but there are so many — I re-watched this  recently and I was like, you know what that ending is so gay. Like look at Marla [Hooch]. Marla is a very successful lesbian now. I don’t care, her husband is trans. Let it be like, just all of them are just gay and happy.

LezWatch.TV: My wife and I were always like, no, no, no Rosie and Madonna’s characters. 

Bex: Absolutely. 100%.

LezWatch.TV: But the reason that I mentioned it, and now I’m sad that I did, is that you were mentioning that without 20 episodes, it’s hard to get all those stories. Somehow they managed to do a lot of that in just under nine hours. […]

Bex: My gay kickball team is blowing up our WhatsApp. Just with memes. Just gay. A gay league of their own memes. 

About Mika A. Epstein

Mika has been deep in fandom since she could say 'Trekkie.' With decades experience in running fansites, developing software, and organizing communities, she's taken on the challenge of delving into the recesses of television for queers long forgotten. Making this site with Tracy is nothing short of serendipity. Mika lives with her wife and their cats in Southern California. Of course she has a hybrid, but she'd rather ride her bicycle.

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