Holland Taylor thought it was only natural that she be cast as the Great Leader, the most powerful person in the universe, in “Bill & Ted Face the Music.” After all, Taylor has made a career out of playing imperious figures who bend the world to their wills in everything from “Two and a Half Men” to “Legally Blonde.”
As the film got ready to hit theaters and on-demand platforms on Aug. 28, Taylor spoke with Variety about her love of the Bill & Ted films, the trick to comedy, and a possible second season of “Hollywood,” the Ryan Murphy series in which she co-starred as studio executive Ellen Kincaid.
Were you a fan of the “Bill & Ted” franchise?
I loved the first one. The second one, I hadn’t seen. But even 30 years later I remember it as a goofy fable that really worked. I liked that it was ludicrous, but the actors played it real, which is true of comedy. It has to be played deadly seriously. I loved the whole low-rent quality of the special effects.
What was it like to play the Great Leader?
Oh it was wonderfully ridiculous and sublime. I played her like I played Ann Richards [Taylor wrote and starred in ‘Ann,’ a one-woman show about the former Texas governor]. Of course it’s the story of my career. I’m always cast in these kind of roles.
What do you mean?
I’m always playing these silly or pompous or impossibly grand figures. I was the law professor in “Legally Blonde,” the judge in “The Practice,” all these women who are very powerful and confident. I’m not powerful, and I don’t have those qualities in real life. But somehow I’m able to sweep that all away, all my shyness and insecurity, when I’m acting.
You played Gov. Richards on tour and on Broadway. What would she think about our current political situation?
She would be more positive than I am. She always looked forward to the future. She understands that there were negative forces out there and she had a canny understanding of politics, but she also believes in goodwill and love and honesty and in people. I do think she’d be alarmed by the post office being destroyed and children being kept in cages at the border. She’d definitely say vote. Vote early. Vote by mail. Wait in line if you have to. But vote. Voting is our most cherished possession.
Netflix’s “Hollywood” reimagines the movie business of the 1950s as being much more inclusive than it was. It provides an alternative history in which women and people of color were given opportunities. Did the show land with more of a punch because of the debates around inclusion in the entertainment industry?
I think so. There’s a very good message to the whole thing. It makes the audience rue what happened and wish it hadn’t been the way that it was. It bends people towards imagining something better and participates in a sort of consciousness raising.
Will there be a second season of “Hollywood”?
I hope so, but we haven’t heard a thing. There’s been no discussion about moving forward with anything. Of course, everything has stalled with the pandemic, hasn’t it? It was certainly intended to have more than one season. It was supposed to be set up as an anthology like “American Horror Story,” where there would be much of the same cast every season, but we’d be playing different roles in a different time period.