Under a Harsh Spotlight, Taylor Russell Is Thriving

So what routine has Russell, newly minted theater star, settled on over these past few months? When she finishes a show, she takes a melatonin and begins what she calls “the wind down.” She meditates a lot. She tries to stay off social media, having deleted it altogether during The Effect’s initial London run. “It doesn’t make me feel great,” she says. “I know that when I’m not on it, my life is better.” She loves to walk around New York. And while she doesn’t tell me this part directly, a regular outpouring of gossip, photographs, and speculation reveals that she’s also been spending time with Harry Styles, with whom she’s been romantically linked since June of last year.

Theater is very new for Russell, and so is frenetic tabloid attention. I ask Russell about the media now circling her everyday life, and how she’s learning to balance that reality with focusing on the play. “My concern and my focus is going to be on the work,” she says after a few moments of silence. “My work is the most interesting thing to me, so that’s what I’ll say about that.” But has she found the prying frustrating or difficult amid such an intensive professional period? Russell thinks carefully about this, staring off in silence for about 25 seconds before responding.

“There are going to be things all the time around you that feel like they’re trying to pull your attention in different places in your life—whether that’s stuff with your family, or having a really bad day, or just different things,” Russell says. “You have to find ways in which you can keep yourself really balanced and really safe. I feel like a lot of my work in the world, for myself personally, is about carving out areas in which I’m with safe people and feel really grounded.”

Russell conveys that grounded quality in conversation, even if she comes at it with a certain guardedness. Given the rawness of her work in The Effect—by its final act, the tears streaming down her face are unmistakable—I wonder what about the play and its themes of love and happiness resonated with her most strongly. But she prefers to view its impact in terms of the audience: “I get reflections all the time of what it means to people in different ways, and that’s the more interesting stuff because it’s a new fresh take on it every night, whereas mine is more focused on specificities.”

What’s most obvious, both in the way that Russell carries herself on stage and the way she’s able to shake it off when the show is done, is that we’re talking about a pro here, still just beginning to reveal what she’s capable of. “Every time I do a project, I’m like, ‘Let’s see if I can pull this thing off,’” she says, throwing her hands in the air as if she’s on a rollercoaster. After eight months, her journey with The Effect is nearly over. “I feel like I’m at the end of my inspiration here, and I need to kind of go away and recoup and build up some new muscles somewhere else.” What might that be? Russell will soon head to Korea to film Hope opposite Michael Fassbender; beyond that, “there’s some other things this year, which I can’t say yet.” She smiles.

It must be exciting, at least, to have high-profile projects too secret to even put on the record. “I know, it’s so annoying— ‘Oh, big thing coming, can’t tell you!’” Russell says with a laugh. “Well, I actually don’t even know the last time I’ve said that. Usually I’m like, ‘Oh, I hope there’s something coming that I cannot tell you about soon.’ So, that’s good. That’s a good change for me.”

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