Thursday, July 26, 2012

Internet Celeb of the Month: Taryn O'Neill



One day while browsing my Twitter feed, I saw a follow suggestion for Taryn O'Neill that caught my eye for a couple of reasons:

1.  Her profile picture was of her as Wonder Woman.


2. She looked incredibly familiar.

I'm not very keen on following actors and actresses unless they share many of my geeky interests and/or make me laugh consistently. Considering the fact that Twitter still nudges me every couple weeks to follow Kim Kardashian, I normally don't trust it...but still, I knew I had seen this woman before, and even if the Wonder Woman outfit was just "geek pandering" (something I have absolutely not tolerance for), she just definitely still pulled off the look.

I decided to listen to Twitter and find out just who exactly Taryn O'Neill was...and ended up finding a new favorite writer/actress to follow. For starters, the "I've seen her somewhere" before recognition turned out to be correct. Taryn has had guest spots on  television shows such as Lie To Me and NCIS and has booked numerous national commercials.

One of them happened to be in my favorite Orbit 'Dirty Mouth' television commercial of all time.






On the web side of things, Taryn also had a very big presence. She was part of the incredibly popular 'Elf Quest' fan film and worked as an actor and producer on the popular web series After Judgment and was featured in the award winning web series Compulsions.

I could just keep listing stuff, but her demo reel can pretty much sum it up. Instead of being like most actress' demo  reels that consist solely of terrible dialogue scenes and crying, this one has Taryn:

-Running from zombies
-Becoming a zombie
-Begging for mercy from a torturer/kidnapper
-Killing a hostage she has taken\
-Going full on amazon/elvish warrior
-As a soulless corporate vixen
-As a concerned and scared mother protecting her child
-Toting a shotgun and shooting you in the face.





What really won me over, however, was her writing.  From her spot on analysis about what was wrong with 'Prometheus' to her unabashed love for all things Joss Whedon, it was clear this girl wasn't just using sci-fi as some sort of grass roots stepping stone; she understood it, loved it, and loved to write about it. She also constantly showed a genuine fascination and understanding of science (Ted Talks, Carl Sagan quotes, cool space videos, etc.) on her blog

Taryn also had no shame going in the complete opposite direction and writing about fashion and physical fitness. This person wasn't faking anything, and the genuine article was beautiful, geeky awesomeness. I decided that I had to get an interview with the former figure skater turned badass sci-fi babe that was Taryn O'Neill, which she kindly agreed to do.



RBC: You used to be a competitive figure skater when you were younger. At what point did you decide to hang up the ice skates and start acting?

Taryn: I was 16. It wasn't a decision that I wanted to make, however. My knees had deteriorated to a point where I could no longer skate  (or walk) without a huge amount of pain. I had acted in a play when I was 10 and it was a natural move to transition into performing.



RBC You wrote a few pieces for the Huffington Post about the sport; do you still keep up with it?


Taryn: I do, but only in spurts. The Vancouver Olympics were an amazing experience, so I dove back into skating from a citizen journalist perspective. I'm still very passionate about ice dancing, which was the category that I had specialized and competed most in.




RBC: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X-Files were your first "gateway drugs" into sci-fi, correct?


Taryn: Yes! I loved Star Trek (both original and TNG) growing up and any scifi/ space movie (especially ET and The Black Hole) but I didn't realize how much scifi spoke to me until those two shows.


 
RBC: As a fellow Whedonite, I've gotta ask: Did you like 'Angel' as well? I feel like one of the few people in the universe that thought it was an infinitely better show than Buffy (although Buffy was still great, as well).

Taryn: I did love Angel. It had a great mythology - plus I had a huge crush on David Boreanz :) 

RBC: Now you sound like my wife...

Taryn: But looking back, I don't think any of the eps ever had the same impact on me emotionally that Buffy did. For a show that took place in high school and college, some of the episodes were incredibly sophisticated emotionally and thematically. 

For as much fantasy as the show had, it was completely grounded in reality, at least for me. Plus it had an ass kicking female lead. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Buffy were the reason I started training in Martial Arts.



RBC: Do you hold out any hope of a third X-Files movie getting made (that actually wraps up the plot points from the television series)?

Taryn: Hmm...that's a tough one. I love both that mythology and the dynamic between Mulder and Scully. But we might be past the time where the themes and big questions will be embraced by a large audience. 

I read a great article on Fringe where it talked about how X-Files came out during a time when the world was in a 'good place' and the dark mysteries that X-Files posed were fun escapist stories. We live in a darker time now. I think we are burnt out on the 'we can't trust the government' stories...even if it is an alien cover up. 

RBC: Your Operation B.A.B.E blog (Badass Alien-fighting Body Endeavor) was originally inspired by the character 'Ripley' from the Alien franchise. 

Time to ask a question that can tell a lot about a person: Which was better--Alien or Aliens, and why? (Alien 3 is nowhere near as good as the first two and no one likes Alien: Resurrection, anyway)

Taryn: Alien. Don't get me wrong; I love how wicked badass Ripley becomes in Aliens, fighting the Queen in the mecha robot suit, etc. But the first Alien was simply amazing sci-fi filmmaking (the future world is completely believable) and terrifying. Plus, I love how Ripley was originally written for a man, so I appreciated Sigorney's performance even more. 

                                                                                                                         digitalchicktv.com

Ripley probably wouldn't have minded have Taryn for back up, though...


RBC: Do you draw inspiration from other strong female characters on the big screen like you did from Ripley (like the T2 version of Sarah Connor)?

Taryn: I am a junkie for a strong female character. On the big screen, I will watch Milla Jovovich and Angelina Jolie in whatever action role they inhabit. 

I gravitate towards more of the 'lone wolf' type female characters- so Sarah Connor (especially in T2) is a benchmark of badass to me and I loved her character arc. I think that TV, however, brings us more fleshed out aspirational female characters. I loved Sydney Bristow (I even auditioned for the part when I first started acting). I think Jennifer Gardner did a fantastic job bringing her to life where the balance between her career as a spy and her cover as a 'regular gal' seemed authentic. 

I also loved Kara Thrace on BSG and Peta Wilson's Nikita in the first Nikita TV series. They were both hard as nails, yet had deep, dark vulnerabilities. 

Signourney Weaver and Carla Gugino are amazing and fierce in USA's new show 'Political Animals', but I think my favorite female character on TV right now is Arya in Game of Thrones.  

RBC: You seem to constantly refer to yourself as a "new writer," but your work always feels very polished whenever I read it. Did you used to do a lot of writing in school or before you started working in the entertainment industry?


Taryn: Thank you for the compliment; I didn't realize that I make that statement so often. 

It probably stems out of an insecurity that I don't have any formal training as a screenwriter. I wrote a lot of papers in school and read a lot of scripts when I came to Hollywood (I worked on a literary agent's desk), but I didn't write that much creatively until a few years ago. 

Once I started blogging, my writing brain awoke and I just started doing it...and tried to educate myself about it as much as possible along the way (books, blogs, podcasts, etc.). I am in awe of masterful screenwriters; I never appreciated the worlds they created on the page until I opened my first Final Draft document.  

RBC: You could have easily just stuck with acting, but you seem to have this insanely strong desire to create content as well. Where does that come from and how did it start?

Taryn: I honestly can't help it. Almost daily I have a new idea or epiphany that strikes me that I need to incorporate into a story or that can be the seed for an entirely new project. 

I think it began when I started researching the first project I ever started developing. It was sci-fi/fantasy and was set in a slightly dystopic world on a different timeline than our own. I realized the amazing power of creating a unique world with its own laws and then creating living breathing characters and storylines within it. I also realized the power that these stories could have. 

I am really hopeful that a number of storyworlds that I have created will actually be brought to the screen this year. 


RBC: I do have to strongly disagree with something that you wrote: You claimed that you wouldn't pass the limit test for being a "true geek" due to not being a gamer or religiously devoted to certain sci-fi mythologies.

You don't have to play the game to look good in it.

The fact is, you do pass the litmus test (with flying colors) because it's clear that you actually LOVE sci-fi/fantasy and are working to create within it, unlike some celebs who simply use it as a stepping stone that they shrug off once bigger/more mainstream offers come in.

*Off my soapbox* Tying into that, you've managed to land a lot of mainstream rolls while still working heavily on the "geek" side of things. How is the vibe on the set of a procedural drama or comedy different than a sci-fi project?

Taryn: Ha! Thank you :) 

The term 'geek' is definitely another thing that I can be sensitive about. I dove into sci-fi/fantasy later in life, so missed out on some key sci-fi classics, particularly comics. But i am definitely passionate about sci-fi storytelling, as well as the fundamentals behind it, i.e. science and cosmology. I've been teaching myself as much physics and 'space' as my brain can handle. 

With regards to the being on a mainstream set versus a sci-fi/fantasy one, it's really more along the lines of the difference between a big budget studio shoot (or national commercial) vs. an indie set. The mainstream sets want to keep the status quo. They want Hollywood and advertising to stay the same; it's where the money is. 



But the indie sets, whether new media or film, are looking to change the paradigm of storytelling and the platform that it is released upon. It's an energetic experience to be on set where you 'know' that you're creating something unique.  

RBC: You've built a pretty large presence on the web with some great series like 'After Judgment' and 'Compulsions.' What draws you towards new media projects like this?

Taryn: New media in general is exciting to me. I co-produced After Judgment (along with acting in it) at a time when webseries were just starting to get made. I saw an exciting opportunity to forge new territory in the entertainment/ storytelling landscape. I come from a family of entrepreneurs so this is my way of embracing that trait. 

RBC: Do you see new media projects overtaking film or television one day?

Taryn: I believe it will just all become MEDIA. Different stories at different budgets will be told on the appropriate platforms that will allow the most effective reach to an audience. 

But if you want to have a thriving career in the future, I think you have to understand how successful digital content (like content coming out of Youtube) is being made and marketed. 


RBC: Along those lines, you're also really into fan films...which is awesome...but how the heck do you find time to do projects like that (which often end up being pretty high end) and balance them with paying acting gigs?


Taryn: I just find the time! If it's a great property, like Elfquest, or the Hunger Games Star Squad fan film, playing a character from that world is such a treat; it's like going to fantasy camp! 

These fan films can also lead to great things for the creator. I was up for the role of the woman in the Portal fan film by Dan Trachtenberg; his career took off after that was released!


RBC: I've also heard that you're pretty big into fashion; is that something you would ever like to expand into a larger career?

Taryn: I do like fashion; I remember carting 2 massive Italian Vogues back home after a family trip when I was 10. 

I just see fashion as another artistic outlet and an opportunity to express myself. I'm really excited that the project I'm writing for Stan Lee's World of Heroes channel Super.Model takes place in the fashion world. It's ass kicking sci-fi with fashion! 

Hopefully I can be involved in some of the styling for it, but I don't see a future as a designer...but then again, I like to wear lots of creative hats! Or should I say I carry a lot of bags. I am bag/ purse obsessed!


RBCI noticed that you graduated from Duke University. Do you follow their basketball team at all...and if so, how do you sleep at night? Sorry, but I had to ask; I'm a University of Kentucky grad :)

Taryn: Uh oh, you're a Wildcat? ;) 

Yes, I follow it, but not closely. I'll watch a game here and there and watch the NCAA Tourney. I went to a few amazing Duke/UNC games when I was there. I'm a HUGE hockey fan, though; Go Canucks!

RBC: I guess you get a pass on the Duke thing due to being awesome.

Back on topic, has your martial arts training ever come in handy so that someone was on the receiving end of a well deserved Taryn O'Neill ass kicking?


Taryn: No, thank goodness. I hope to do a bunch of ass kicking on screen in the future, but real life fighting is something I always look to avoid. 

RBC: What projects (writing and acting) are you currently working on?

Taryn: My big project is SUPER.MODEL, the digital series I'm writing for Stan Lee's World of Heroes channel on Youtube. It's being produced by Vuguru, Michael Eisner's digital studio. I'm currently writing it and am a co-producer on it. I've been involved with it for almost a year now and I can't wait to get it cast and in front of a camera! 

I'm also in the end stages of writing and developing a futuristic scifi series with Mark Gantt (The Bannen Way). He will hopefully direct it and we will both star in it. I've been building 'the world' now for over a year and it's completely badass! 

I have a number of other projects in development that cover the spectrum from a sexy female ensemble comedy to teen thriller..and there is a new acting role that I'm up for but I don't want to jinx it.  I'm really excited to be so busy.

RBC: Any dream projects you're still hoping to be a part of?

TarynWonder Woman. I will always have hope to play some iteration of the fierce Amazon warrior.


I think everyone would be alright with that.


RBC: Anything you'd like to say to your fans?

TarynI am incredibly grateful to anyone who follows and supports my work. As a creative, my whole point of existence it to make someone feel or think something, to connect across our ever changing digital world.

RBC: Keep making stuff and we'll keep watching it.

-Be sure to follow Taryn on Twitter for updates on her latest projects.

-To read some great stuff about the world of sci-fi, content creation, exercise/fitness, and fashion, check out her official page and the Operation B.A.B.E blog.





Please feel free to leave a comment below. If you'd like to sing my praises or tell me how much I suck more personally, I can also be found on Twitter.