Taryn Manning is an American actress and singer, best known for her roles in the netflix drama Orange Is the New Black, FX’s Sons of Anarchy, and the films Hustle & Flow and 8 Mile. Born in Falls Church,Virginia and raised in Tucson, Arizona, Taryn grew up living in a trailer park with her brother and single mother. While landing roles in television and film, Taryn formed the band Boomkat, and went on to release her solo album Freedom City in 2013. One of her singles peaked at number one on Billboard’sDance Club Songs Chart. Taryn went on to pioneer a career in acting and music. Taryn sat down with me to reflect on her career in acting, music, and how these relate to the development of her spiritual life in and out of Hollywood.
The overarching theme of our talk was how she has developed herself spiritually, mentally, and personally across the span of her career in the entertainment industry. Her three biggest insights to me were:
1. YOUR DREAM JOB STARTS WITH AN AUTHENTIC LIFE
To this day, after starring in over 50 movies, Taryn still gets excited about her roles. She doesn’t take them for granted or feel like they’re just “work.” Like many great actors, after playing a vast array of roles, she has developed a sense of her “dream role” – what she would like to play most of all. Her answer was profound: “My dream role is a woman whose faith in God saved her life. That’s not too popular inHollywood. But at the same time, to play a role about a woman so righteous and so holy...Well, I have along way to go before I can walk in her shoes. But it’s the kind of role I have to earn – because to be able to do it would mean that I’ve achieved it in my own life too.”
What’s so striking about Taryn’s outlook on Hollywood and acting is that she sees the potential of acting and progressing in the business as deeply tethered to developing her spiritual life. Her dream job is something that would only be possible once she developed herself spiritually enough to even do it. That’s the kind of job I want!
2. FAITH CAN SAVE YOU
“I grew up in Eastern religion. In the Bahá’í faith. But when I became 18 I kind of became a buddhist.I’ve always been a seeker of spirituality, meditation, that sort of thing. But as I got into acting I kept getting roles of Christian people, and I’d have to memorize bible verses to play those roles. And bit by bit... I don’t know... It just started to make sense. The lord comes tenderly, you know? He’ll never force himself upon you. And I started to like it. And the bible verses started sinking in.”
Taryn was not raised Christian, but she became one later in life. Not only is it rare for someone to view the relationship between their Hollywood life and their spiritual life as so tethered like Taryn does, butTaryn’s spiritual maturity also came from her involvement in Hollywood. It was from roles that she played, which opened up a new world of light for her. This is enough to give anyone hope that an industry that can be as ruthless and unforgiving as film and television can still give birth to such personal development.
3. GROWING UP WITHOUT LOVE DOESN’T MEAN LIVING WITHOUT IT
Taryn had a tumultuous childhood. Her father committed suicide when she was young, and her mother struggled as a single parent. Growing up in such an environment has shaped Taryn, and stays with her to this day. Here’s what she shared with me: “All I ever wanted was for my Mom to love me. My Mom put me in kindergarten when I was about four, and I swear she wanted me to get stolen or kidnapped. She just didn’t want me. She would let me go to concerts when I was six years old all by myself, she would make me walk home from school by myself. At the time I didn’t think about it, but now I realize how unsafe that is. Just two years ago my Mom even told me “I haven’t liked you since you were three.” She let me do whatever I wanted when I was little, even if it wasn’t safe.”
I asked Taryn if her perspective of her Mom has changed at all as she’s grown up, she said: “Well... NowI’ve come to realize that my Mom is just a human. And it turns out they don’t have to love you. And that’s been an obstacle.”
Taryn’s bold and high-spirited personality wouldn’t necessarily signal such emotional turmoil from her past. I was in awe of how she carries herself, and the wisdom beyond her years she’s attained. This was are minder for me of a brutal truth: that sometimes life is merciless–full stop. However, Taryn has chosen not to continue that cycle. Her priorities include helping others and doing as much good as she can with the little time we have on Earth. Taryn is a living reminder that who you are is not your fault, but it is your responsibility.
THE TWO THINGS THAT SCARE HER MOST:1. Stalkers 2. The Internet
BIGGEST MISPERCEPTION OF HER:
“That I’m white trash, uneducated, racist. The stereotype of growing up in a trailer park. But it’s not true.I don’t see color. I don’t see race. I really enjoy reading. I’m always trying to learn new things.”
“On stage you see the same people going up as you do comin’ down.”
THE BOOK SHE WOULD RECOMMEND:
The Art of War by Sun Tzu–an ancient Chinese military treatise about the art and tactics of dealing with your enemies.
“Laziness. I’m too lazy these days. I think the pandemic slowed me down. I’m working on building myself back up.” Of course someone as accomplished as Taryn still feels that she’s too lazy. God bless her.