Chiaroscuro is a word coined to describe Taryn Manning – the contrasts most striking between her ebullient, pixie pleasures and the weight of her atomic albatross. It’s hard to know whether you want to hug her, strip her, cradle her, or worship her, which kind of makes Manning a star.
Well-known for playing Bukowski-esque dark angels in projects like Sons of Anarchy, Hustle & Flow, 8 Mile, and the just-released The Perfect Age of Rock & Roll, Manning puts some stilettos on that vulnerability when she straps on a Fender and wraps a horny leg around a mike stand as a solo recording artist or one-half of the gritty dance outfit, Boomkat.
In conversation with Celebs.com’s J. Rentilly, Manning is wide open, bubbly, propulsive, careening and eminently lovable, learning to fly after years in a cocoon of heartache, indentured to typecasting and a run of rough relationships.
What she wants most these days is to drop the crestfallen routine and send in the clowns; Manning’s ready to make ‘em laugh. It’s about time, she says.
Celebs.com: “Fearless” is a word that seems to well describe you.
Taryn Manning: Thank you very much. I’ll take that as a compliment. Fear can totally sabotage us. But I do have to admit, these industries are brutal. It’s been up and down. There have been times I’ve lost my balls, if you will. I don’t like that side of me. I feel like, just recently, I’ve gotten it all back together and “fearless” definitely applies again. With filmmaking especially, I just shut everything out and I just go for it, man.
Celebs: How do you do that?
TM: Maybe its just a natural progression of maturity, but also, to be honest with you, this is the first time in a long time I’ve been totally single, like with nobody influencing me or any kind of man telling me what I do. I am so fearless and kind of like a butterfly, and so a lot of men want to control that. When you try and capture me, I don’t do well under those circumstances. I think fearless for me now has a lot to do with being single.
Celebs: That kind of change must influence your creativity. Will we be hearing a liberated Taryn on your forthcoming CD?
TM: I think I might name my CD Freedom, because I do feel free again. I’m not a prisoner anymore of my own mind, and I’ve really accepted that I’ve been typecast as an actress as a certain kind of girl. For a long time, that really pissed me off. I always wondered, why won’t they let me play these other kinds of roles? And then I realized: it’s because I’m a freaking musician. I can’t hide that spirit in me. I need to quit trying to hide it. So I’ve accepted it. I feel like I’ve been reborn, almost. I’m very excited. I have these butterflies in my stomach that really good stuff is coming for me.
Celebs: Sounds like you have a spiritual practice of some sort. Tell me about that.
TM: I’ve gotten really into doing a Buddhist chanting thing, and I’ve really gotten into the chanting to quiet the idle chit-chat in my mind. I’ve gotten a handle on all of the negative thoughts, you know? (Laughs) I know. Trust me, I know.
Celebs: You’ve said that you’ve been through a lot in your life and that you can’t hide it, even when you’re acting. Is the act of creation a cathartic thing for you?
TM: Yeah. I’ve done so many dramatic roles, and I’ve pulled from a lot of really personal stuff, like losing my father the way that I did, but I really want to do a comedy. I don’t want to be exorcising demons my entire career; I’d also like to goof around a little bit. In my real life, I’m such a complete goofball. I’m not this crying, devastated girl, like a lot of the girls I play. My mission right now is to get into a comedy and to freaking make people laugh because I am no crybaby, like everybody might think I am. I’m putting it out there: I’m doing a comedy and I’m going to show my lighthearted side. Of course, the girl will probably still be edgy.
Celebs: It’s said that every actor wants to be a rock star and every rock star wants to be an actor. You’ve kind of got both going on.
TM: It’s not that we want to be necessarily, it’s that a lot of us can’t help it. Human beings are multi-faceted. Creative people have talents and gifts, and they’re usually not only for one thing. This is a funny story, though. I just did this way awesome movie for Syfy, and every single actor on the movie also had a CD. We all exchanged our CDs. That’s how we bonded between blowing up zombies during the apocalypse. People need a creative outlet, especially when the rest of the world is sucking.
Celebs: Earlier this year, you were on the cover of Playboy, and did a really hot photo set for inside the book. Good creative outlet?
TM: (Laughs) I’d been asked to do Playboy several times in my career, and I turned it down and I turned it down, but this time it just felt right. I’m more comfortable in my skin these days, and with who I am. I collaborated with the magazine on the concept of the shoot and it turned out so great. I want to show that to my family. I want to share that with my kids one day. I want that as party of my history. When you do Playboy, you’re part of a family. I’m good with that.
Celebs: Your own family was involved in the entertainment industry, right?
TM: My father was a musician and my mother was a dancer, but there was by no means any nepotism going on. I was not born into the industry by anybody’s imagination. This is just me doing what I do.
Celebs: You’ve worked in both the film and the music industries. Which is more ruthless?
TM: I’ve had some rough experiences go down in both places, but I would have to say the worst day of my professional life was the morning I got the phone call that DreamWorks Records was going out of business. My brother and I had our band (Boomkats) and the single was going up the charts really quickly and things were taking off, really going great, and then that one call just derailed everything. The only worse phone call I’ve ever gotten was the one telling me my dad had killed himself.
Celebs: It’s only appropriate that you play a road manager in The Perfect Age of Rock & Roll; you’ve kind of lived that life.
TM: I know people just like that character and maybe because of that it’s super-important to me that Rose has some redeeming qualities, even if there are not a lot of them. All of us make poor choices in life sometimes, and Rose definitely does – the music industry can bring out the worst in people, I guess – but I wanted audiences to see her regret and her grace. I think we found that. In the closing scene, the director (Scott D. Rosenbaum) just let the camera roll and told me to do what I wanted. It was all improvised, and it was this, like, 10-minute monologue about regret and losing things and being sad. I was extremely sad that they cut it as much as they did in the final movie, because the director told me he could have cut an entire short film out of that monologue. I mean it was some Oscar-heavy shit.
Celebs: A long time ago, you described yourself as “an animalistic rock chick.” How are you feeling today?
TM: Did I really say that? Yeah. I probably did. (Laughs) I’ve grown up a lot, but I am an animal onstage when I’m singing. Animalistic? (Laughs) Yeah. That’s me. Some of the time anyway.
Celebs: Is it true that your nickname is “Rainbow Brite”?
TM: (Laughs) I love rainbows and unicorns, so what? There’s a very young, playful side to me that I’m not gonna give up, even when I’m 50-years old. Why would I?