Actress Jud Tylor
When she was 27 years old, the late feature film/television actress and former MGM contract star Laraine Day wed her second husband, American infielder and baseball manager Leo Durocher. The two were married from 1947 to 1960, during which time she became known to fans as “The First Lady of Baseball.” While Durocher was manager of The New York Yankees, Day wrote her first book, Day with the Giants, published in 1952. She also hosted a 15-minute television interview program of the same name that aired before New York Giants home games.
Given their association with as well as contributions to America’s favorite pastime, it is no surprise that Day and Durocher are part of 42, the newly released biographical feature film about the legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson. When its producers were looking for someone to play Day, they chose the beautiful and talented Jud Tylor. While casting can sometimes be a long and arduous process, this one turned out to be quite painless for the actress.
“I went in for my initial audition, which casting liked, and that was followed by a callback,” recalls Tylor. “That’s when I had the opportunity to read the entire script for 42, which I fell absolutely in love with. It’s such a phenomenal and inspiring story of one human being’s triumph against all odds.
“During the callback I read for [the movie’s writer/director] Brian Helgeland, who wrote two of my favorite films, Man on Fire and Mystic River, so to be in the room with him and be given a chance to read for him was such an honor in and of itself. At that point I felt very much invested in the project because, again, I loved the story as well as Brian’s interpretation of Laraine Day. I went back just one more time to read and then received a phone call telling me that I had booked the role.”
42 follows the life story of Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), who, under the guidance of Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), signed with the team and became the first African-American to break baseball’s color line. The film features other familiar names in the sports and entertainment industries including sportscaster Red Barber (John C. McGinley), ten-time All Star player Pee Wee Reese (Lucas Black), outfielder/manager Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk), Leo Durocher (Christopher Meloni) and, of course, Laraine Day (Tylor). What were some of the challenges for Tylor as far as stepping into the shoes of such a well-known actress?
“Whenever you’re part of a non-fictional piece and helping tell a real-life story as opposed to creating a fictional character in a fictional piece, there’s a sense of accountability,” she says. “You have a responsibility to the person who you’re portraying to bring them alive in the most honest and truthful way.
“I think that was probably my biggest challenge playing Laraine Day. She was a bit of a dichotomy because on the one hand she was this glamorous movie star who became involved in this very scandalous public affair. [C David Heymann’s 2009 book Bobby and Jackie: A Love Story claimed that the actress had at one time been a lover of John F. Kennedy. Her children later sued Haymann on slander charges.] On the other hand, Day was a devout Mormon who was very active in the church as well as being an environmentalist.
“Having the right hair, make-up and wardrobe were also definite assets in helping me step back into the era we were depicting. In this case, I think the 1940s were quite different from our modern day society in that there was an innocence that was lost in later years along with a sense of idealism as well as upholding of specific values and a much clearer specification of male/female roles. I tried to incorporate all those qualities into my portrayal of Laraine.”
From day one of her stepping onto set, right through to the end of production and everywhere in-between, Tylor’s experiences filming 42 are memorable to her for a variety of reasons.
“On my first day at work I met Harrison Ford, who to me is a legend,” says the actress. “I grew up with the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films, and I just think that he’s a hero and a classic old-time movie star. I’m delighted to tell you that Harrison Ford is exactly as I expected him to be. He’s charming and still sexy at 70 years old as well as incredibly supportive and kind to his fellow actors. He’s a lovely man and meeting Harrison Ford is probably what stands out most in my mind about starting out on this film. Working with him was amazing. The same is true of Brian Helgeland as well as Chris Meloni and everyone else involved.
“The funniest thing that happened while I was shooting 42 actually has to do with my dog. We filmed in Atlanta, Georgia, and because I was traveling I decided to take my dog Ranger with me. On my first day of work I left him in my trailer, and while I was on set I heard that there was a dog loose at craft services. It never dawned on me that it was Ranger, but when I got back to my trailer, the door was open and he was gone.
“I walked over to craft services and found him begging one of the crew members for a jelly doughnut. I assumed that I’d left my trailer door open or had not properly locked it, so I put him back inside and made sure the door was secure. Well, the next time I heard that a dog was loose over at craft services, I knew who the culprit was. That’s when I discovered that Ranger can open doors with handles. One day I should set up a video camera and see exactly how he does it, but I guess he stands up on his hind legs and put his weight on the door handle until he opens the door. So that’s my silly 42 set story.”
When Tylor was a little girl, the Canadian-born actress would build makeshift sets and perform one-man (or girl) plays for her parents. As she got older, her creative passion grew with her. While still at school, she did some modeling, but initially planned on taking a very different type of career path.
“I had decided to become a veterinarian when one of my friends who was working a great deal as an actress, introduced me to an agent,” notes the actress. “In my mind this was a way for me to make some extra income while going to school, so I read a monologue for him, and within two weeks I was auditioned for the role of one of the wives in the Rodney Dangerfield movie My 5 Wives. I managed to get the job, and from there I more or less put school on the back burner and just continued to book more work.
“So I feel like acting kind of chose me, not that it wasn’t something that I always had an interest in anyway, but that was the path that my life took. Of course, at first I really didn’t know what I was doing. I had no idea what continuity was or even a mark, so it was a learning experience for me and probably more than a little bit exasperating for some of the crew members. It was exciting for me, though. I loved the movie Back to School with Rodney Dangerfield, so stepping onto a film set for the first time with someone I admired was an incredible experience. He was a lovely man and I had to pinch myself that this was happening for real.”
Freshman Orientation, What Love Is and Charlie Wilson’s War are among the actress’s other feature film credits. On TV, Tylor has appeared in a number of made-for-TV movies and guest starred on such series as Viper, Seven Days, Smallville, Just Cause, Dawson’s Creek, CSI: Miami and Mad Men. She also played a recurring role on That ‘70s Show and was a series regular on Edgemont and, most recently, HBO’s Good God.
“Good God is somewhat of a hybrid of Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Office,” says Tylor. “The series stars Ken Finkleman, who also wrote and directed it, and is very intelligent, very politically correct and very funny. I play a character named Tory, who’s a bit of an anomaly. My character is an escort, but she also has this childlike innocence and goofy charm. Tory is also really sweet, a little naïve and a lot crazy,” jokes the actress. “I was actually nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for my performance as Tory. I didn’t win the award but I was flown to Toronto for the awards show and just to be nominated was a huge thrill for me.”
You can follow Jud Tylor on Twitter @judtylor