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Lili Taylor takes on parental love and human isolation in 'The Cold Lands'

Lili Taylor in "The Cold Lands"
Lili Taylor in "The Cold Lands"

“The Cold Lands” (written and directed by Tom Gilroy) is a dramatic film about an 11-year-old boy named Atticus (played by Silas Yelich), who lives an isolated existence with his single mother, Nicole (played by Lili Taylor), in the Catskills region of upstate New York. (The movie’s title comes from a nickname that the local people have for an area where people go to disappear.) Nicole homeschools Atticus and teaches him to be independent, free-thinking and curious.

Lili Taylor at the New York City press junket for "The Cold Lands"
Carla Hay

Atticus’ survival skills are put to the test when Nicole suddenly dies, and he runs away to avoid being put into foster care. Along the way, he meets a drifter named Carter (played by Peter Scanavino), who takes Atticus under his wing. I recently caught up with Taylor for this exclusive interview at the New York City press junket for “The Cold Lands.”

The viewer doesn’t really know much about Nicole’s life before the story in “The Cold Lands” begins. Did you develop any type of back story for Nicole with “The Cold Lands” writer/director Tom Gilroy? What do you think her led her to live such an isolated life with her son Atticus?

Tom is old friend of mine. We’ve known each other and worked together for about 20 years, so he’s been filling me on the back story of the piece and her. She’s loosely based on a woman that he knows. And then I kind of did my own thing to make her real to me.

I’m a mom, so a lot of her philosophies or strategies I don’t agree with, but that’s OK. I don’t have to. I think pulling your kid too outside of society is not so great. I think there are other things though that she’s doing that are terrific: just giving him a better idea of the whole big picture of life and trying to give him a tool belt, to the best of her ability.

There are hints that Nicole is sick with an illness that’s not mentioned in the movie, and she refuses medical treatment, which we’re led to believe assume is why she died. But is there anything that Tom Gilroy discussed wit you about the circumstances of Nicole’s death?

She was really sick, but she was doing self-medicating, in a way. That’s where Western medicine is a good idea, when you’re really sick. That’s where some of her philosophies may have gotten in the way of her having a longer life. I’m a believer of Western medicine. I think it’s there for a reason, especially when you need the big guns.

Silas Yelich has been getting very good reviews for his performance in “The Cold Lands.” Can you talk about what it was like working with such a promising young actor?

Tom had been working with Silas for a year in upstate New York, so I could already feel that I’d walked into that foundation. And basically, Silas is innocent and sort of raw. And I wanted to support all of that and be gentle and make room for him and just embrace his innocence, in a way.

You also star in the sci-fi TV series “Almost Human,” which is executive produced by J.J. Abrams. Have you heard yet if the Fox network has renewed the show for a second season?

I’ll find out in May [2014].

What’s next for you?

I’m doing a play called “The Library” at the Public Theater [in New York City]. Steven Soderbergh is directing it. I think it’s his second play, but his first play in the United States, I think. It’s great. He’s a fertile mind. It’s a neat experience, because he’s so filmic, it’s got an added dimension to the theater.

What have you heard about “The Conjuring 2”? The movie is definitely going to happen but there have been reports that there will be a new family being haunted in the movie. Is that true?

Yeah, it will be another family.

What would you like to do as an actress that you haven’t done yet?

I think a musical or [starring in] a comedy.

For more info: "The Cold Lands" website


Interview with Lili Taylor and "The Conjuring" co-stars (New York Comic-Con 2012 panel)

Interview with Lili Taylor and "Almost Human" co-stars (Comic-Con International 2013 Panel)

Interview with Lili Taylor and Minka Kelly for "Almost Human"

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