Dallas-based actor Paul T. Taylor is living an actor’s fantasy -- as he plays Old Green Grasshopper in James and the Giant Peach at Dallas Children’s Theater, Taylor is anticipating the release of the film, Hellraiser: Judgement in which he plays the ultimate villain, Pinhead.
In addition to playing several roles at Dallas Children’s Theater, Taylor has appeared at Stage West, WaterTower Theatre, Theatre Three, and Uptown Players. His television and film credits include Friday Night Lights, Prison Break, Barney and Friends, Sin City, Wonderful World and Soul Man.
Playing Pinhead represents a career breakthrough. “At this point in my career, I had sort of accepted I do theater in Dallas and Fort Worth. I once in a while will get a small role in a television show or I’ll get a commercial. Once in a while. Maybe sometimes I’ll get a movie, but the big stuff doesn’t happen here and it’s not happening for me. So then suddenly to get this, it’s kind of like after thirty-five years in the business, there’s a pay-off and a surprise,” Taylor said.
His current role at the Dallas Children’s Theater is a joyful assignment because Taylor loves the world of Roald Dahl.
“It is a fantasy. It is Roald Dahl. Just because it is Roald Dahl, it’s crazy and it doesn’t really make sense, but it’s deep at the same time. It speaks in truths we can relate to. His books are always about the underdog and the kids who get bullied. There’s always a comeuppance for the bullies and the good kids always win,” Taylor said.
Playing Old Green Grasshopper allows Taylor to experiment to create an unusual character. “I love that he’s kind. I like the fact that he’s old. I like physically trying to embody him. I’m an old grasshopper. Who knows what that looks like? I’m knock-kneed and I have my hands in a weird sort of arthritic way,” Taylor said.
Performing for children is a specific challenge, even for a seasoned performer like Taylor.“With kids, it’s either ‘Okay, we’re going to give you our attention and love you or we’re just going to be bored and kick the seat.’ You get such honest responses from kids,” Taylor said.
Taylor enjoys introducing new audiences of all ages to theater, but children are his favorite audiences. “They’re like sponges. When you are in children’s theater, you have an audience full of little minds who are hopefully not as cynical and hard as adults can be so you can introduce new ideas that are brand new ideas and you can change their lives,” Taylor said.
Playing Pinhead in Hellraiser: Judgement is a different kind of joy for Taylor. He is a devoted fan of the horror franchise. After Doug Bradley decided not to return to the character he originated, a casting director offered Taylor the opportunity to audition for the iconic role. Taylor became the director’s and the studio’s first choice to play role of the leader of the Cenobites, a religious order existing in an extra-dimensional realm that uses puzzle boxes to harvest human souls.
Taylor’s Pinhead is deliberately different from Bradley’s celebrated version. “The script called for a different take on Pinhead. It’s the same Pinhead that was originally created. It’s the same character but it’s a different time in Pinhead’s existence. It’s a little later on,” Taylor said. “He’s not just coming into people’s lives and tearing their souls apart because they opened the box. Now he’s existing in a place where he’s doing the behind-the-scenes work, he’s thinking, he’s in his space.”
To prepare for the role, Taylor built up his confidence by wandering around his sketchy South Oak Cliff neighborhood alone. “That’s about no fear. Pinhead has no fear. It’s wonderful to play a role like that because that’s where as an actor you can live and it makes you stronger,” Taylor said.
Taylor’s Pinhead has a quiet self-assurance. “Pinhead is impenetrable. You cannot defeat him. He has the powers of God given to him. He has these powers that give him the strength so that he doesn’t even have to try to destroy you. The stillness that comes from that confidence is really the basis of Pinhead for me,” Taylor said.
Taylor does not know when the film will be released, but it has already changed his career. He has been offered more local film work and he has been attending sci-fi and horror conventions. Taylor loves connecting with the fans of the Hellraiser franchise and he is excited about the future. “This is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life,” Taylor said. “And I might get happier. Who knows?”
James and the Giant Peach plays at the Dallas Children’s Theater from May 5 – 27.
Kimberly Richard is a North Texan with a passion for the arts. She’s worked with Theatre Three, Inc. and interned for the English National Opera and Royal Shakespeare Company. She graduated from Austin College and currently lives in Garland with her very pampered cocker spaniel, Tessa.