Q&A with Myles A. Taylor: Disabled actor shows depth of his character

Andrea del Campo and Myles A. Taylor in a scene from Kill Me Now. Photo: Dylan Hewlett

Myles A. Taylor plays Joey in Kill Me Now, Brad Fraser’s black comedy currently at the National Arts Centre. The character is a teenager with a severe disability, and the play focuses on the relationship between Joey and his father Jake, a widower and his son’s caregiver. An unexpected event radically changes the course of their relationship.

Taylor, 28 and a theatre and film student at the University of Winnipeg, is still close enough to his teenage years to remember them vividly. More to the point, Taylor has cerebral palsy and works from a wheelchair. Joey may be fictional, but Taylor gets where he’s coming from.

Taylor spoke with ARTSFILE’s Patrick Langston about Joey, being an actor with a disability, and love. The following is an edited transcript of the conversation.

Q. This is your first professional gig. Has does that feel?

A. It feels strange and weird and wonderful and good.

Q. Why did you get into theatre in the first place?

A. I was a web designer but I got bored and said, “Wait a minute. I love movies  – why not go back to school and learn to be an actor?” I like telling stories and now I’m getting paid to make s*** up.

Q. Tell me something about Joey.

A. He’s a typical 17-year-old and all that that entails — sexuality, being mad at your parents just for being your parents – and that’s coupled with the rigour of having a disability and the challenges and the joys of what that means for him. What drives him is (a wish for) independence, individuality, and the notion that he is better than his body and wheelchair depict him to be.  They betray him as a person. Other people see the chair and hear the speech and assume that it’s through the entirety of his person.

Q. What do you like about him?

A. He’s pretty much like me, and, for a first role, it’s been a little easier than A Streetcar Named Desire, where I’ve never been Stanley Kowalski. I’ve gone through what Joey’s going through: I want to move out; I want to be independent; I want to find a girlfriend but I think I’m too misshapen and ugly to find one.

Q. Those are things you’ve thought?

A. Yup.

Q. Are there limits for you as an actor with disabilities?

A. In some cases. In (Kill Me Now), the role wasn’t written for someone with disabilities. In a couple of scenes, I need to get out the bath and change costumes in about two seconds. It would be tough for an able-bodied person to do it; I don’t know how we do it every night.

Q. What do you need to think about when auditioning for a role?

A. First and foremost is, ‘Am I the right person as a performer for the role?’ Then accessibility comes into play: ‘Can I get into the theatre?’ and if I can’t what do we do about that?

Q. Do you plan to continue acting?

A. I’ll do whatever comes my way but I consider myself more of a writer/director. I’ve independently produced short films and a web series of comedic shorts called Life in the Wheel World. It’s a fictional version of myself going through my daily tasks. It’s on YouTube.

Q. What does Kill Me Now tell us that we need to know?

A. Love each other. Not in some grandiose, ridiculous manner, but love the human beings in your circle. And remember that despite whatever disabilities we have, we all love and feel the same way and go through the same things, just at different speeds and in different directions.

Kill Me Now is in the National Arts Centre Studio until May 6. For tickets and more information: NAC box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, 1-888-991-2787, nac-cna.ca.

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Patrick Langston covered English professional theatre for the Ottawa Citizen from 2008 to 2016. He also wrote about music, travel, the local housing industry and other subjects for the paper. Patrick continues to contribute to Ottawa Magazine, Diplomat and International Canada Magazine, and other publications.