SyFy’s Aftermath may have only lasted one season, but that was more than enough time for rising actress Taylor Hickson to make an impression on audiences. Cast as the emotional and rebellious Brianna Copeland, Hickson had a unique opportunity to explore her range as an actress. And there’s no doubt that there’s more to come from this young talent.
In just two years’ time, Hickson has transformed herself from an average teen in pursuit of a music career into a dynamic actress capable of holding her own alongside industry veterans. From the outside, Hickson’s journey toward her breakout role in Aftermath has an almost movie-like quality to it. But make no mistake: it’s a journey built on determination and hard work. And Hickson seems keen on pushing herself to new creative heights.
I recently spoke with Hickson about her role in Aftermath and how she’s learning to navigate the film and television industry:
TARA MARTINEZ: How did the role of Brianna come to you? What was your audition process like?
TAYLOR HICKSON: I think the first thing that I did was read the script—I was submitted for it and I read the first script and I took a lot of notes. I wrote some diary entries from Brianna’s point of view and then I went in. I drove four hours to the audition after I’d already sent in a tape. So, I sent in a tape and they said they wanted to see me again, and I went in and I was the only blonde girl in the room. All the other girls were, like, really emo looking, dark hair, and I was like, Oh great, awesome. And there was one other person there for my sister and that was Julia [Sarah Stone], so I saw her and said, “Are you going for this character, too?” and she’s like, “No, I’m going for the sister.” And I was like, “Oh, you’d be really good for that” because she was the only one there that didn’t really match.
So, yeah, and then after that I did the audition; I was really nervous and I went home—drove four hours home and it was mid-winter so I was driving back on the Coquihalla and it took us a long time. Then a few days later, I think I got a call and they said they wanted to do a screen test and I was like, Oh my gosh! I’ve never done a screen test for anything before. I was like freaking out and they gave me a date and I was like—coming to this date I’m like profusely sweating and like freaking out day to day, just trying to—I was over-preparing. You know, just poring over all this information and, you know, what could happen. You’ve got to prepare for what will happen, like, financially so you’re looking at all that. You know, set-up-a-deal-for-you kind of thing. I was trying to prepare myself, you know, that it’s so close that it might vanish in thin air. And so, the day—they hadn’t even booked me a flight yet, but the day that it was supposed to happen, they called me and I’m like thinking, Oh, my agent’s going to call me and give me the flight info because I hadn’t heard anything. It had been dead for like a week. My agent finally rings the phone and I’d been sitting by my phone for days, and I pick up the phone and I’m like, “Hello?” and he’s like, “Hi, so I have some news.” And I’m like, “Oh no, I’m not going. I knew it. I’m not going.” They had been auditioning in LA and I knew that. And he said, “You’re not going to be screen testing unfortunately anymore.” And I’m like, “Are you serious?” and he’s like, “Yes, because you booked the role.” I’m like, “You asshole!” [laughs]
So, yeah, I started crying. I didn’t know how to feel, I was so devastated when he told me that. But yeah, it was actually quite a short process. Before I ever got to do a tape, he told me that he had his eye on this project for a while, but he wouldn’t tell me the name of it because he didn’t want me to get my hopes up. He said, “I actually think you’d be really good for this.” It was really strange because he waited for months before he actually got a script and said, “I was trying to get you an audition for this. I pushed really hard.” And they didn’t want to see me because of my lack of experience originally. He pushed and pushed and then they finally let me come in and audition.
TM: Nice. So, you talk about getting nervous. Is that getting easier for you? Is that getting easier each time you audition for something or when you are considered for something?
TH: Not at all. I did an audition for something in Winnipeg—I was working on a movie out there—and the casting director told me, she’s like, “I read this with you in mind.” And the producer said when he read it, he read it with me in mind and they said, “It’s looking good for you. You’re going in with good chances anyway.” And I could not believe how nervous I was. I was actually friends with the guy who was reading with me and I was still, like, shaking and I couldn’t—and I was like, “Oh, can I do that again?” and they’re like, “You’re doing great; you’re great!” And I was the only one in there reading for that character at that time so, you know, it wasn’t like—I wasn’t feeling pressure from anybody else and I couldn’t shake it. You know, I’ve always had that even with my music. I get super awful anxiety. That’s part of it, the adrenaline.
TM: You mentioned before that when you were preparing to audition for Brianna, you were writing diary entries and stuff like that. In what other ways did you prepare for this character? How did you go about bringing her to life?
TH: It’s so difficult to prepare for kind of anything in film because, you know, everything is so on the fly all the time; everything is always changing. You get there and you can completely rewrite a scene in like ten minutes. Or lines change or content changes or location will alter, what occurs in a scene as well. So, I mean, I prepared as best I could just to try and get into her head. But the thing was, at the end of the day, I found so much about Brianna that were like parts of me that bringing her to life was just kind of—it became sort of like an effortless—you know, like every day you pick up more of her and you learn more of her. At first I was just trying to go off the writers, what they wanted and this idea of Brianna. And they told me, they were like, “You know that we’re writing to you, right? We see the way you brought her to life and we write that to you.” And I was like, “So, that’s why she’s becoming more personable and more dynamic and more of a human being than a page character.”
TM: So, what kinds of things about Brianna do you relate to? Or what do you relate to most about her?
TH: There’s a few. The number one thing is that family is everything to her. And recently, within the last year, I’ve just—being away from them so much I get it. I mean, like, for Aftermath I moved into a city; I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know where I was. I had my own place and I was seventeen, eighteen when I moved out by myself. I didn’t know what I was doing and I was thrown into this industry like so fast; everything happened so fast. From the time I booked Aftermath to the time I moved to Vancouver was a couple months, so everything was so overwhelming and I felt so alone. I didn’t know anybody and I was like, I get it. This is what Brianna goes through all of season one. You know, she’s by herself and has to fend for herself and learn how to grow up really quickly and that’s definitely what this industry does to you. So, you know, there are parts of her that I—she’s very temperamental, too. I get that. I’m just as hormonal a teenager as she is. But the main thing is family. She gets it and I resonate with her on that.
TM: The Copelands are a really strong and fierce family unit. What do you think ultimately binds them and keeps them going strong in the face of adversity?
TH: The pressure and being so unsure of what the next five minutes of your life will look like. They face so much and it’s the unexpected, I think, that keeps the Copelands together.
TM: Over the course of the season, do you think Brianna’s relationship with Dana changed because of what they’ve experienced? Have the gotten closer?
TH: Oh, absolutely. I mean, they still argue but that’s like what happens with me and my sister. Me and my sister have only gotten closer. And the same with Bri and Dana. It’s funny because when we first got on the series, we were strangers. It was quite a distant relationship and then as the days went on and spending every day with that person, our characters were building their relationship and becoming closer and more connected, and that’s definitely what happened with me and Julia. So, it was really interesting to bring our relationship behind the camera to life.
TM: That’s really nice. Let’s talk a little bit about acting. How did you get started? What made you want to become an actress?
TH: When I first graduated high school, I graduated a year early so that I could focus on my music career. And about six months after i graduated, my aunt’s sister—I also call her my aunt, but she’s not my blood—she Facebooked me and she’s an actress in Vancouver and she was the top agent of this agency that I’m with and she said like, “This brand new agent just joined and he’s looking for teenagers to fill his roster because he doesn’t have anybody yet.”
She’d been trying to help him out and her son, she put her son on with him—he’s like five or six—and so, he was looking for teenagers and she was like, “Well, I don’t know very many but here’s my niece Taylor.” And he’s like, “Oh, she’s very interesting looking and she’s unique.” She told him that I was in the arts, I was in music and so, he’s like, “Okay, well, maybe she’d be interesting in acting.” And so, she Facebooked me saying, “Hey. Want to come in and meet this guy?” And I said, “Well, I’m four hours away and I don’t have any experience. I feel like I wouldn’t be any good. I don’t watch TV or movies. I don’t know anything about anything.” And she was like, “You don’t need to. Just come see him next time you’re in town.” And I was like, “Okay, whatever. Deal.” Like, I never come to town.
It was like a Wednesday or something and then that weekend my sister ended up going to a soccer tournament in Vancouver. I was like, Okay, that’s bizarre. I’ll go, I guess. You know, I told her and she sent me some sides which is like sort of audition material. It was from a TV series that had already come out. I wasn’t familiar, but it was about this like roughed-up girl who was trying to build back up her relationship with her mother. So, I went into this office and I’m like shaking. Everyone seems so professional and knew what they were doing, and I walk in and they’re like, Who’s this? What is this doing here? and I’m like Oh no. And then I walk in and he’s like, “Hi, I’m Cory. Nice to meet you.” I’m like, “Hi!”
I went in and my mom was waiting outside. I probably looked so nerdy, but I read and I was like, “Okay, I’ll have my people call your people. I don’t have people.” And he’s like, “Wait, I want to talk about your audition.” And I was like, “Oh what’s up?” and he’s like, “Well, I want to sign you today!” And I’m like, “What? Are you joking? Is this like Pranked or something?” And he’s like “No, no.” And then I’m like, “Well, how much does it cost?” He’s like, “If any agency tells you to pay money, it’s fraud. It won’t cost you anything.” And I’m like, “Oh, okay.” He sat down and said, “If you’re willing to drive four hours to every audition and back, we can have something going.” So, for three weeks I was doing that and I booked my first part in a movie called Go With Me which has now been renamed to Blackway. And that was how I got into acting.
TM: That’s a really awesome story and inspiring, too, I think.
TH: Yeah, like, I don’t find it that interesting. But I just hope to inspire people because, you know, everybody says, “Oh it’s too late.” Like my dad was talking about going back to school for something and he’s like, “I don’t know. It’s kind of too late” and I’m like, “Is it?” And like I made a career for myself in two years that I knew nothing about and that was just a learning process. And if you want something, go get it.