Actress Jade Tailor of Syfy’s fantasy series “The Magicians” received a warm welcome to NYFA New York City’s campus as a recent Guest Speaker. NYFA Acting for Film Chair Glynis Rigsby hosted the event, guiding the conversation through many inspiring stories from Tailor’s career.
“The big key is knowing your work so well that it doesn’t feel like work anymore,” Tailor told her audience of NYFA acting for film and musical theatre students. “Then you just get to play and enjoy it in the moment.”
Tailor is perhaps best known for her starring turn as Kady Orloff-Diaz in “The Magicians,” but NYFA students were inspired to hear the multifaceted artist’s story. The actress pursued her childhood dream despite various obstacles, and continues to nurture a passion for using her work as a platform to benefit others.
“I’ve always wanted to fight for people who were not privileged, who had a difficult time,” Tailor shared, “And I am blessed to have this platform, and I feel it’s my duty to utilize it in any way I can. I think that’s what the drive is, now that I have some semblance of being in the spotlight: I want to utilize that for good. And I want to do work that inspires me and inspires others.”
Growing up in Los Angeles with a mother who had worked as an actress in the 1970s and a father who had served in the Israeli Army’s Mossad division, Tailor says her family background gave her a unique perspective and helped her prepare for the realities of the industry, with a deep appreciation for training and craft.
“In a lot of ways those two aspects [of my parents] were a foundation of me working that hard,” Tailor explained. She learned to overcome nerves as a child in acting classes with actress Dee Wallace, of “E.T. the Extraterrestrial” fame. Upon deciding to pursue acting as an adult, Tailor candidly shared that there were years of “literally counting pennies to pay the rent,” a reality that encouraged many students to hear acknowledged by a working actor.
“It was definitely a long arduous road,” Tailor said. “But I knew I would get there if I put everything into it.”
The actress repeatedly emphasized the importance of developing confidence and making the decision to focus on the craft above all. She shared that this shift in mindset helped her enjoy the process and connect with her character during a pivotal audition for the producers of “True Blood,” where she went on to portray lead actor Stephen Moyer’s first victim.
“I really let go in that room and went, who is this character, what is her intention here? And I connected to the work and who she was, and I got a call a couple of hours later that I got the job.”
After booking “True Blood,” Tailor shared, “I was like ‘Yes I made it!’ and then I got no work. There are gonna be moments where you get this great gig and then there’s a lull for a long time.”
She stressed the importance of “having a great team behind you” as an actor, as well as “being conscious of the fact that you are going to have to sustain” through slow seasons as well as busy seasons. Tailor’s hard work was rewarded in 2015 when she booked “Aquarius” with David Duchovny: “I’ve been lucky to work with amazing people,” she said.
It was while working on “Aquarius” that Executive Producer John McNamara approached Tailor about reading for a role in “The Magicians,” which turned out to be a surprising story as well. Tailor originally auditioned for the role of Margot, but producers decided the role of Kady was a better fit, a character very different from the roles Tailor had previously portrayed on television.
“I am so lucky to be on this amazing show that I love and that’s really fun with a great cast and crew,” Tailor said of “The Magicians.” Yet even in this busy season, the actress has her vision cast for the long term, and is working to develop projects through her own production company, Eyeris Entertainment.
Tailor executive-produced “But I Love Him,” a film born through the actresses’ volunteer work as a domestic violence counselor. The piece dramatizes a woman’s experience through the cycle of abuse, and premiered at various festivals. “But I Love Him” is now used by various organizations as an education tool for raising awareness about domestic violence.
Among the many nuggets of wisdom Tailor shared, she advised students to trust their own uniqueness, bring their own authenticity to each role, and build confidence through hard work. This is advice Tailor puts into practice herself. “The work is so important to me,” shared Tailor, “And I always want to do work that is meaningful and inspires me and inspires others. I think when you’re inspired yourself it’s going to read to other people and then other people are going to be inspired too.”
When students asked about her acting technique, Jade jokes that she calls herself an “eclectic realist,” pointing to the uniqueness of each human being. “We have different things that will resonate, with some of us more so than others,” she explained. “Some people are more logical beings, some of us are more emotional beings. For me, I’m instinctively more emotional.”
In imagining what’s next for her, Tailor shared she’d love to return to live performance. She has a passion for theatre, having sung at The Blue Note and performed in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” Of the stage, Jade says, “It’s my background and my heart, and to go back to Broadway at some point would be amazing … but to do good work that inspires people, that’s really the end goal.”
Season 2 of “The Magicians” is now available on Netflix. The New York Film Academy would like to thank Jade Tailor for her visit in our Guest Speaker Series.