Frank Hoyt Taylor: Character Actor
April 29, 2008Frank Hoyt Taylor has been working steadily in films since 1984, but his home — a pastoral farm in Dungannon, Va. — couldn't be farther away from the bright lights of Tinseltown.
In a telephone interview, Taylor admits that living in Southwest Virginia "limits the opportunities you have. If you're in Los Angeles, obviously you're available to the television market. You might get a call one morning to be at an audition in one hour, and they need to do the shoot 2-3 days later. That doesn't happen on the East Coast. But even Los Angeles or New York City has slow spells."
He says, "I haven't been to L.A. in four or five years because there's so much work on the East Coast right now. If I lived in L.A., I'd have gotten more work out there. If I got in a series or started working a lot, I would have to live there. On the plus side, the artistic community there is so much more accessible — you can hang out with other actors, take workshops, attend the theatre. For young people, it's worth it to live out there."
Taylor continues, "For me, there are parts of L.A. I like, but I get bored out there. Obviously, it's cheaper to live here on a farm, and I would miss home life here. The trade-off: I have to drive at least six hours to audition; that's when I'm less than an actor, and more part of the interstate highway."
For him personally, Taylor says, "it's kind of slow right now, and I'm not a movie star who can afford to turn down scripts. I sometimes think: am I ever going to work again? Then I get a job and feel better. In fact, I'm going to be working on a short film soon."
The University of Virginia-Wise alumni newsletter profiled Taylor in 2006. The writer visited Taylor in a house he built with his own hands on a farm surrounded by breathtaking mountain vistas. In the article, Taylor said, "I like California and I like going out there but when I get tired of it, I've got this beautiful place to come back to," Taylor said. "I consider myself very lucky that way."
The author wrote, "When Taylor's not tending his vegetable garden or caring for his beehives, he might be preparing for a part in an upcoming motion picture. The last few years have been especially busy for him, with parts in movies like Dreamer  and Junebug ."
Dreamer was inspired by the true story of a young girl who rescues and rehabilitates a race horse with a broken leg. Junebug is a comedy about a dealer in "outsider" art who travels from Chicago to North Carolina to meet her new in-laws.
According to an article in The Roanoke Times, "Taylor had a juicy role in Dreamer, played the preacher who helps inspire Johnny Cash to go straight in Walk the Line, and made a big impression in Junebug as a folk artist with a mountain dialect and suspect motives...[As his film work increased] he acted for a slew of impressive directors: Tim Burton in Big Fish, Rob Reiner in Ghosts of Mississippi, Betty Thomas in 28 Days."
The article also quotes Andrew Garrison, a film professor at the University of Texas and the director of Night Ride, a small 1995 film in which Taylor starred. Garrison told The Roanoke Times, ""I think it's really interesting that an actor can actually earn a living and not be in Hollywood or New York. As [Taylor] got more work and broader roles, he's had more opportunity to have a wide range of characters, yet I'm regretting that he hasn't scratched the surface of what he's capable of."
Garrison concludes, "I wish he were able to get more work, but he wanted to stay in Virginia and he's got a real life. His neighbors know him and he knows them. He acts, but he knows how to pull wire and mow hay. I really appreciate him as someone who has his own roots that connect him to something real."
Taylor says work in film projects is widespread on the East Coast, and "a lot of stuff is going on in Louisiana. I recently went to Atlanta for auditions that they put on tape and sent to Shreveport and New Orleans."
To continue acting, Taylor reads or auditions for a lot of films. He says, "I have a couple of agents who send me scripts. When casting directors get a project, they go through it and either send a list of characters to actors' agents, and they get in touch with actors they already know who might be right for the part. Actors also network with each other to keep track of [possible projects]."
— - Taylor has worked in several films with Robin Mullins, an actress living in Abingdon, Va. They had one scene together in Andy Garrison's film Night Ride, and Mullins played Taylor's girlfriend in two films. They both worked in Patriotville (2008), an independent film about a controversial casino scheduled to be built over a town's historic battlefield, and Coming Down the Mountain (2003), a made-for-TV movie that takes place in Eastern Kentucky about a man addicted to Oxycontin and selling it.
— - Taylor worked with Amy Adams in Junebug, when Adams was an up-and-coming actress, before she became the-hottest-actress-in-movies-today for her starring role in Enchanted, about a fairytale princess who is sent to the real world by an evil queen. Taylor also worked with Adams in Catch Me If You Can (2002), starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale Jr. who successfully conned millions of dollars worth of checks posing as a Pan Am pilot, doctor, and legal prosecutor.
— - The first time Taylor worked with child actress Dakota Fanning, on Dreamer, they both had the same agent in Atlanta. Most recently Taylor worked with Fanning on Hounddog, a controversial film that premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and is scheduled to debut in 500 North American theaters in July 2008. Shot in North Carolina and taking place in the 1950s American South, the film features Fanning as "a troubled 12-year-old girl who finds solace from a life of poverty and abuse through blues music."
Taylor describes Fanning as "an old soul — you get the feeling this kid's been around a long time. She's a natural, just like the characters she plays. She's very smart, and completely comfortable being around adults; she's very mature and responsible for her age. She has this great ability and believes in what she's doing and can open herself up emotionally in a way that's pretty amazing. She hardly ever makes a mistake. She doesn't over-act. She understands all the words. She's pretty amazing." But she's still a kid. On Dreamer, Taylor recalls how Fanning "hung out with her stand-in."
During a career that has spanned more than two decades, Taylor has appeared in dozens of movies and well-known television shows like Matlock, Alias, and In the Heat of the Night. His favorite roles include Wark in Junebug; Uncle Bogg, the character he played in 14 episodes of the popular Christy television series; Sheriff Guidry in HBO's Emmy-winning A Lesson Before Dying; and Delmer Collier in The Wilgus Stories.
According to the UVA article, "While his work may take him away from home for weeks at a time, Taylor's heart remains in Southwest Virginia. He hopes a future project might focus on the religion and spiritual music of the region."
— MEET Belle Avery and Robin Mullins.
Taylor lives in a home he built himself on a Scott County, Va. farm surrounded by breathtaking views. (Photo by Tim Cox)
During a career that has spanned more than two decades, Taylor has appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows. Taylor is shown in "Junebug" (2004). (Photo by Robert Kirk)
Taylor played the role of Delmer Collier in "The Wilgus Stories" (2000). (Photo by Jeff Whetstone)
Taylor points to a photo of him from the television series "Christy." (Photo by Tim Cox)