If you’re looking for someone to be the grounding force of a project, no other actress fits the bill better than Taylor Misiak.
When you’re working on something that is about (and stars) a truly larger-than-life character and actor the cast needs to bring their A-game in order for the show to thrive. For one of the best comedic ensembles gracing our TVs right now, they’ve more than risen to the occasion. On the FX comedy Dave, the show about the fictionalized version of rapper Lil Dicky (aka Dave Burd, obviously playing himself) the actors and their characters not only have to reach Burd’s level but bring something that humbles and humanizes Dave in order to resonate with audiences. For Taylor Misiak, who plays Dave’s lover Ally, she brings a sense of realism to the chaotic world of the rising rapper — a feat that not many would be able to say they could’ve accomplished if someone else was in her shoes.
Reeling from that crazy Season 2 finale, 1883 Magazine’s Kelsey Barnes chats with Taylor about her role on the FX comedy “Dave,” her incredible podcast “Table Flipping,” and more.
Your first credited role was back in 2011 and now you’re a series regular on a hit comedy show — how would you say you’ve grown as a human between now and then?
Oh my gosh, I think it would be easier to list the things that haven’t changed! [Laughs] Throughout my time in LA, I feel like in those years I’ve learned so much about myself and the industry, for sure. I’ve matured and changed in a lot of ways, and the only thing that hasn’t changed is this constant insatiable desire to be acting all of the time.
When speaking with your co-star Christine, she could not stop gushing about the cast and how everyone is so supportive of one another, both as humans and as actors. I know you first were in the music video for Pillow Talking by Lil Dicky — how did you end up getting the part of Ally? It sounds like Dave knew you were going to be the best actor for the role!
It’s a little bit of both. When I auditioned for the “Pillow Talking” music video, that’s when I met Dave and it was pretty intense. We were working intimately for about a week and that’s when he confessed to me that his ultimate dream was to do a sitcom about his life and his career in the rap industry. I immediately asked to audition for it and he thought I was talented so encouraged me to do so if it ever happened. Years later, when the opportunity came around, I already had a relationship with the casting director and I had a couple of acting credits under my belt since the music video. When it finally came down to decision-making time, Dave was actually a little reluctant to cast me.
Really? I’m so surprised.
Yeah! He was somewhat incredulous about the idea that statistically speaking, the best actress to play was one he already knew. He couldn’t believe we were in the city of Los Angeles with thousands of actresses competing for roles and that the best person for the job was someone he already knew. He kept calling me in over and over and the casting director was really rooting for me and the show-runner Jeff Schaffer was, too. Dave just needed to check all of the boxes which is funny to think about because you’d think I had an advantage after having worked with him before and already having this amazing chemistry and friendship prior, but it actually served as a disadvantage because one of his neuroses played against me! He FaceTimed me and officially offered me the role. He was really nice and praised me, basically saying that it was undeniable that the role of Ally was meant for me. He’s always rooting for me, he really is my biggest champion and no one has supported me or believed in me more than him — even if it sounds like he’s doing the opposite when I tell this story to someone else! [Laughs]
Ally has had a really interesting arc this season compared to the first, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
Season one was a lot about Dave and getting people to believe in him, whereas season 2 is about him pushing people away so he can figure out how to believe in himself. In the first season, Ally and Dave are dating and Ally is something of a vehicle for the audience to learn to love Dave; they allow themselves the permission to forgive Dave and have patience with him because Ally does. In season two, we see Ally in a place where, instead of giving that permission to love Dave, she is permitting herself to have boundaries and figuring out a space in her life that could still have a friendship with him but not in a way that it is a detriment to her. She grows so much between the two seasons and it’s been really interesting to play.
It’s interesting for viewers, too. Although it shouldn’t feel like a typical break-up because he’s famous, there is something so human and real about it.
It’s crazy because it seems like a unique break-up to watch on TV, but it’s an extremely relatable one that a lot of people experience. There’s something so human about having to end a relationship that has so much love, but the circumstances and the timing around it and the different objectives that you have as individuals get in the way of that. It’s a universal experience I would say.
I know in an episode a few weeks back there’s a song that Dave wrote for Ally and it’s the first time audiences really see and hear Dave’s growth as an artist while also demonstrating how much he leans on Ally for creative support. We see him go back to Ally to try to rekindle things and I know you find the song especially emotional, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on filming those scenes.
Music has this power over me where I have such a muscle memory instinct that kicks in and I start crying, and this song does the exact same thing. Those scenes were super nerve-wracking and challenging because I knew this was a really pivotal moment for the two of them. We didn’t have the actual song when we were shooting because Dave is so busy and wears so many hats, he isn’t able to complete the music until after the show has wrapped. Originally I was going to be listening to pretty much nothing but the day before I asked him if he could just put a version of the song on a voice memo, just something to listen to that would surprise me. It ended up being the Dave and Ally theme that we’re all familiar with at this point and a couple of lines that Dave spoke over, and then the rest was left up to the imagination. It was pretty intimidating, but once we got into the swing of it it was easy to get into the right state of mind. I was thinking about the fact that this is what Ally has been hoping for so, so long — she’s been wanting this gesture from Dave that shows he is taking responsibility and acknowledging his mistakes. He is confessing how much he does love her and care about her and how integral she is with life, but she has done so much work on herself to make her happiness something independent from Dave. This gesture is all that she wanted but Ally leaning into that could be a downfall in terms of her personal growth. At the end of the day, it was really easy to shoot just because of where my head was at.
Something I really love about the show is that, although it’s a comedy, it tackles serious issues like mental health. What does it mean to you to be part of a show that is both uplifting people through its comedy and also through its demonstration of mental health?
It is my favourite part of the show. The show has really changed my outlook as an actor because I want to keep doing projects and telling stories that surprise people at different levels. I love hearing when people say I wasn’t going to watch this show, I just thought it was going to be a big dick joke and suddenly I find myself crying! It’s so exciting to be a part of a story that is connecting with people when they don’t expect it, especially during a year when people were feeling really lost and really scared. It’s so wonderful that our show ended up making people laugh and feel seen. I knew when we were making it that it was going to be special, but even then I didn’t really understand the impact episodes like “Hype Man” would have on people.
You started your podcast “Table Flipping” with your friend where you analyze the different ways women are portrayed on reality TV. What made you want to start a podcast like this?
Yeah, my friend works in scripted television and at the beginning of our friendship, we realized we were always texting back and forth about reality shows and the different reality characters. We thought it would be cool to make a podcast where there was a safe space for writers and actors and comedians to come and talk about reality TV because people hide that they watch it! It has had such an influence on a lot of us and there are so many spaces to talk about people like Walter White from Breaking Bad or Tony Soprano from The Sopranos, but not any to discuss reality TV characters. It’s interesting to look at the complicated bits of TV and how they frame and shape certain characters. Sometimes in regular TV shows women, in particular, are always forced to be certain ways, whether it’s being framed as super likeable or overtly sexual and, although that does happen in reality TV for sure, it’s definitely a lot messier. The Hills is a great example — look at the way we chewed up and spit out Heidi and Spencer, who were actually way ahead of their time. If they were big now, they would have been like absolute superstars. It’s important to look at how these different characters are making us feel and why we were connecting with LC and not Heidi, or what was it about Whitney Port that was more interesting to us.
Tying it back to “Dave,” I know it’s very much a collaborative process on the show and he wants everyone to feel comfortable and suggest things if you don’t feel your character would say or do something. What is it like to be a woman on screen being able to portray your character in a way that is collaborative and freeing?
Every aspect of our show has Dave’s fingerprints all over it, but he’s such a fantastic listener and he knows it’s really important to amplify people’s voices so that the characters are unique and are different and creating a believable and special and diverse world. The trap of working with somebody who is so influential in every part of the series is that it could be just his view, but he really goes out of his way to have conversations about what our characters would or would not realistically do and say. For example, in season one episode three, it was a big deep dive into Ally and Dave’s sex life and there was a point where I didn’t think Ally would react a certain way, so I asked them to change it because it was not believable to me. To be heard and to be given a safe space to have those sometimes difficult and sensitive conversations means we can create a way more authentic episode. I’m playing a fully realized female character on a show that is centred around a male character and in a hyper male world, but because Christine & I are given the space to exist in a world with believable authentic scenes.
Lastly, if you could manifest something for yourself this year… what would it be?
Professionally, I’m really eager to dive into a new character. It’s an honour to play Ally – but I’m jonesing to be a part of telling more stories. Then personally, I’m really, really trying to manifest Damian Lillard coming to the Philadelphia Seventy Sixers!
Interview by Kelsey Barnes
Photography by Kevin Scanlon
Check out Season 1 & 2 of Dave, streaming now on Hulu.