Adventures of an action actress

Vancouver’s Sharon Taylor kicks ass (often literally) in genre roles

Sharon Taylor didn’t give herself the label “action actress” – she’s got a former employer to thank for that – but she embraces it with everything she’s got.

Maybe it’s because it sums up precisely what her childhood self saw in Kathleen Turner as she watched and re-watched a grainy VHS copy of Romancing the Stone: a capable and brilliant woman holding her own in a rough and tumble situation.  

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But it’s one thing to behold Turner’s Joan Wilder mustering up her courage in the jungles of Colombia (not to mention Linda Hamilton, as Sarah Connor, doing chin-ups in Terminator 2: Judgment Day), and another to actually book, and be known for, those kinds of mighty, take-no-prisoners roles.

For Taylor – whose lengthy filmography includes The 100, Continuum, Smallville, and Stargate: Atlantis, as well as an increasing number of cop and federal agent roles – the journey from a non-showbiz family in North Vancouver to in-demand action actress kicked into high-gear during a class trip to the Vancouver Playhouse when she was in grade 12.  

Seated in the darkened theatre, a mesmerized Taylor opened her mind to the possibility of a career in the arts.

“I remember sitting there thinking – and, at that time, I had no idea what these actors got paid – ‘if I can get paid doing what I love, enough to pay the bills, I’d be okay with that,’” she recalls over tea in Kitsilano.  

There would be a few stops on her way to action actress status: the theatre program at Simon Fraser University; her post-graduation theatre company, Shifting Point Theatre (“Our mandate was to produce shows that promoted change in society. We were so optimistic. We did shows all over the place. Eventually we don’t make any money, so then I decide, ‘I’ll try the TV and film thing’”); and a secretarial job in a downtown law firm that allowed her to schedule her breaks around auditions.

Taylor’s first screen job was as a “tough bartender” in a Lifetime movie.

“I’d never been on set before,” laughs Taylor. “I’d never been a background performer. I’d never visited a friend on set. I didn’t know anything that was going on. So I was watching the whole time.”

But she knew more than she thought she did. Her theatre training, she soon realized, had given her a solid foundation.

“I think the theatre training, because they are so on you about your speech and your projection, taught me to speak really well, which works great for science fiction characters,” says Taylor. “I think the theatre foundation really helped for playing science fiction genre work, and if you look at my resume, most of it is science fiction.”

Taylor is widely known for playing Amelia Banks on Stargate: Atlantis

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Source: Dennys Ilic photo

Stargate’s been an amazing gift, because even though the show is over and the last episode I shot was in 2009, I’m still doing conventions,” says Taylor. “I can imagine being a lead character and having that type of longevity with your fans, but for a smaller character like mine, I didn’t expect that, but the fan base is loyal. Sci-fi fans are passionate, intelligent, and so much fun.”

It was on Stargate: Atlantis that Taylor officially earned her action actress status. She’d been studying kickboxing for six years and had already earned her black belt when these facts popped up in a casual conversation with one of the producers.

“He was like, ‘Really, that’s so interesting, hmm,’ and he walked away, and the next script I got, my character was fighting off an evil alien who’s come onto my ship,” says Taylor, who also teaches kickboxing.

Her kickboxing abilities served her well in 2015’s 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown, a WWE film starring Dean Ambrose which marked the first time Taylor performed all of her own stunts (including a no-holds-barred fight scene with Ambrose).

While Taylor says she’s grateful to have played so many capable, ass-kicking women in her career, she’s itching to add some different beats to her repertoire.

“I’m often the bad guy’s girlfriend, but there’s never any romance,” says Taylor. “That’s why I wrote my own film where I get to be a cop who’s tough and takes care of business, but also falls in love in a funny way. I’ve been starting to let people read it, and shop it around a bit.”

Next up for Taylor: a co-starring role in Murder, Unresolved, helmed by award-winning local director Jason Bourque (Black Fly).

Taylor can currently be seen as Detective Jenkins in Lifetime’s A Mother’s Instinct. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow Taylor’s adventures in action acting at @SharonCTaylor.

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