This week, Taylor James, will debut onscreen this week as the biblical hero in Pure Flix’s action movie Samson. The film also stars Billy Zane, Golden Globe® winner Rutger Hauer, Jackson Rathbone, Lindsay Wagner, and Caitlin Leahy. James, previously seen in Justice League and Mamma Mia, launched his acting career on London’s West End as an original cast member in the U.K. production of the musical Footloose.
In this exclusive interview, James speaks about what drew him to the role that he was “born to play,” some of his memories from production, and his admiration for inspiring directors such as Bruce Macdonald and Zach Snyder (Justice League).
The writers flesh out the character of Samson. Everyone knows his highlights and this movie has more of a backstory. What are some of the ways you identified with him?
His struggle for me was his reluctance to walk the path that was laid out for him and I had to see why he was reluctant, that he had youthful emotions and youthful qualities. I had to remember what it was like for that, someone’s who very reluctant to do things. Not saying he’s spoiled. He’s hard-headed, he’s passionate. He had all these youthful emotions that we learn to control as we get older and we learn to use to get the benefit from them. We use them for fuel. I wanted to know why he was reluctant. When I tapped into that mind frame and saw that he wanted love and then when he lost the love, the fear came in and those were the next steps toward redemption.
How did you get involved with the film?
I had an opportunity to audition for a role. From there, that was when things took a slightly different turn. In that moment, I realized I wanted to play this part. I had to be involved in this project. We as actors get some auditions that you’re a bit like ‘Meh,’ and then you get some that you’re a bit like ‘Woah, I really want to do that!’ Then there are the one or two roles that you get in your lifetime that you feel you’re born to play and I don’t mean that in an arrogant way. I just believe that Samson was the role for me and I had a connection that was so powerful. When I had the opportunity to speak with Bruce (Macdonald), the director, we spoke at length for an hour before we crossed the bridge of casting and auditioning. He had seen a couple of tapes prior to that but we just wanted to talk about Samson’s message. We had unity on the passion of storytelling and the art and what we wanted to tell and how we wanted to tell it. He broke down some themes within the story, the screenplay and they just resonated with me. That made it so exciting. I suppose I just knew in that moment that I had to play Samson.
When you are up for a role like this, do you audition already “ready to go” physically or do you say “Give me a few weeks and I’ll get there”?
I am someone who likes to be the best version of myself at all times. I strive for perfection. I’m not a perfectionist. I strive for perfection. I strive to push myself, and to challenge myself. I don’t like to be spoiled or become lazy or become complacent. I have a huge passion for health and fitness. So my physical transformation for the role of Samson really didn’t need months of preparation. I was fortunate that I am, I’m not going to say a physical powerhouse, but I’m in pretty good condition and I just tweaked a couple of variables to make it link with Samson the character as opposed to tweaking a variable to make me look good on screen.
Amazing! They’re great humans and they’re very talented at what they do. I learned from them hugely in terms of how they tell stories. Sometimes an actor likes to remove a bit of dialogue and focus on maybe a gesture or a movement or utilize something within the scene, maybe a prop, to aid the storytelling. When we have the luxury of a camera being able to go so close into the windows of our souls, right into the eyes, we can manipulate that. I think Rutger, especially, had such a different approach, a real wild card approach on it. He’s had that throughout his career and I think it makes it very exciting to watch as an actor. I definitely gleaned as much as I possibly could from a creative and professional standpoint. Then as a fanboy, it was pretty cool to know that my mother was Bionic Woman and my father was in Blade Runner. They were super great. They’re absolutely wonderful people. I had lunch with Lindsey not so long ago when I was in Los Angeles. It just shows how beautiful they are both on and off screen.
Where did you film it and was there anything about the production that you carried away as a sweet memory?
Every single moment from the day I got the email about the opportunity to the moment we’re still speaking on the phone now I’ll always remember and will cherish and hold on to forever. It has been one of the best experiences of my life and that’s due to the cast, the creative team, the story, the platform, which we are telling this story and the audience, which are ready to listen to it. We filmed it in South Africa so changing my location and going to South Africa for a few months and it was wonderful. The location, the climate, the people are beautiful. I think you can see that evident in the film. We didn’t have to pretend. We didn’t have to suspend people’s disbelief, because the locations became our locations for the scene. It makes it easier as an audience and an actor. The most memorable chapter for me is my time with Bruce, the director. He was very kind and he opened up the doors to his house and his family to a lot of us, especially, and I managed to share Easter with them. I managed to share dinners with them, walks through the park, and I feel the love that I received the South African team and the Samson team will stay with me forever.
I’m a big super hero nerd and I loved Justice League. It’s just so cool that you were a part of that film, too.
Just as a side thing, Zach Snyder, the director, he is a fantastic man. You can smile knowing that he is a good man as well. I’m not going to say there are very few of them, but when you meet such wonderful men in this business, it’s very inspirational.
Well I am glad he rose to the challenge of bringing it to the big screen.
As an artist, the one thing I want to link those two (Macdonald and Snyder) is that when you are led by inspirational, great figures, it ultimately lifts the project. With Samson, from the producers of PureFlix, to the marketing team, to the creative, to the cast, it’s such a team of love and I think that’s inspiring and something that we can all take from that.