A Taylor-Made Career

If you’ve watched even a few movies or televisions shows in the last few decades, chances are pretty good you’ve seen Holland Taylor in something. The prolific stage and screen actress has had prominent roles in dozens of movies and TV shows over the last thirty years, developing the kind of steady career many actresses can only dream of, and you can currently see her on the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men, where she has a recurring role as the acerbic mother of brothers played by Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer.

But many AfterEllen.com readers probably know her as Peggy Peabody in The L Word, and Ms. Petrie in Angela Robinson‘s lesbian teen romantic comedy D.E.B.S.

Taylor with Megan Good in D.E.B.S.

Taylor first got involved with D.E.B.S. when she saw the short film premiere at the Power Up gala in 2002. “It was maybe six or seven minutes long and it was just hysterical,” she recalls in a phone interview. “It showed a lot of the director’s talent. So I went up to Angela afterwards and told her how much I liked it. Later, when it got made into a feature, she wrote in a part for me.”

The 62-year-old Philadelphia native also worked with Robinson indirectly when she guest-starred on the first season of The L Word in 2003 — Robinson was a staff writer on Showtime’s hit lesbian series at the time.

“I thought the character was just delicious,” Taylor says of “has-bian” Peggy Peabody, the role series creator Ilene Chaiken recruited her for. “The script was very, very thoroughly written. I thought it was Ilene’s script, I didn’t think it was written by a staff writer., and I said ‘Well, I think this is just wonderful!’ It was only afterwards that I realized it was Angela’s script.”

Taylor with Jennifer Beals in The L WordTaylor became the first of what would become a parade of well-known guest stars on The L Word.

“I wouldn’t not do it because it was a lesbian-themed show,” she says, when asked whether she had any concerns about appearing on a show with such potentially controversial subject matter. “I’m not going to say ‘oh, I’m not going to be associated with that show.’ It’s a very cool show.”

Like the lesbian relationships on The L Word, Taylor thinks the lesbian romance in D.E.B.S. works because it’s not heavy-handed, but it’s not downplayed, either.

The romance plays as just one more twist in a satirical film full of twists and turns. But, says Taylor, “when you make a jest like that, you have to make it boldly. If you’re at all timid about it, it won’t work with the audience, because it’s like telling a joke weakly — the air goes out of it and the audience senses that you don’t believe in it yourself, so why should they?”

Taylor is dismayed that lesbian relationships like those on The L Word and in D.E.B.S. are still relatively rare and controversial on screen. “It actually sort of embarrasses me for mankind, that there should be the amount of attention on [sexual orientation] that there is. It’s like ‘are you nuts? How can you possibly feel this way?'”