Person of Interest
Saying No to Stardom
Shooting star. Aspiring actor Tyler Layton graduated from college knowing she needed additional training—and to neutralize her Birmingham, Ala., accent. While in the University of California Irvine’s exclusive acting program, she signed with agents in Los Angeles and New York, soon landing a starring role in the early 1990s TV series Silk Stalkings.
Money and misery. Agents “take one look at you—blonde with blue eyes and perfect teeth—and they want you to go to Hollywood and make a bunch of money,” she says. “I couldn’t have signed with agents and done theater. I jumped into some really cheesy television. It made me rich, but it didn’t make me feel good. I really missed the theater.”
A life without poetry. “No matter what you say about television, it’s not poetry. Good theater is,” she says. TV requires 20-second takes that are spliced together. “That’s not acting, that’s editing. Acting is in the moment, in your face, and I love it. I would rather make half the money and do that, than all the money I made in television and not do it.”
Moving on. Four years later, she returned to the theater and spent seven seasons with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, in productions ranging from Troilus and Cressida to Bus Stop to Rabbit Hole. “One day I’m putting in my big boobs and putting on my wig and fake eyelashes, I’m 38 or 39, and I just started thinking, ‘I think I’m done,’” says Layton, now 42. That’s when she decided to teach.
Passing it on. A former colleague from Irvine, now head of Florida Gulf Coast University’s theater department, hired her last fall. Now, she’s helping students realize that their dreams are achievable. She’s also working on a memoir/one-woman play. “My life has gone absolutely perfectly, and now I’m writing about my funny little life.”