Taylor Russell Reads Three Books at Once, Throughout the Day

The Waves actress loves NPR’s This American Life, Patti Smith’s Woolgathering, and counts Alfre Woodard as a mentor.

The actress Taylor Russell walked into Chanel and Charles Finch’s Pre-Oscar Award Dinner on Saturday night in Los Angeles with sweet words and a smile for everyone she saw. The 25-year-old Waves star from Vancouver, Canada, said that her relationship with the fashion house is a new one, and that she genuinely was pleased to be there. It didn’t feel like a sound bite; Russell is kind and brimming with youthful humility. When she spoke, she focused intently on the topic of conversation and replied with thoughtful earnest. Director Sofia Coppola, who was also at the party and in the vicinity during Russell’s interview, called the actress’s name, and in response, Russell gently placed her hands on this reporter’s shoulders, to communicate that she was still paying attention to the discussion at hand. “Yes,” Russell said. “I’m listening.”

Here, she gives an in-depth depiction of her cultural inclinations, which tend to skew high-brow: Patti Smith short novels, episodes of This American Life, and mentorship from the legendary actress Alfre Woodard.

You’ve mentioned that Laura Dern is a hero of yours. Who is another Hollywood hero you’ve met this awards season?

Alfre Woodard has been so impactful in my life, and she’s really brought me in and taken me under her wing and really cared for me. She honored me this year at her Sistahs Soiree and it was one of the most special things I’ve ever been to. I felt really seen by her, and she made me feel part of the club.

For Alfre to make you feel that way, that’s goals.

I know. She’s such an incredible talent and she does that with a lot of women. It’s not about competition at all for her, it’s about creating a community.

I heard you asked for your “Waves” costars’s baby pictures so you could feel closer to them, like you knew them better. Did you give them yours, too?

I think I must have. Yes, I think they asked me for some photos of me and I definitely gave them in return. It wasn’t one-sided.

They were like, if we’re showing you…

You better show us, yeah.

Who had the cutest baby photo?

Everybody’s so cute as a baby. You can’t—yeah, no, everyone is a cute child.

What’s one thing that people would find surprising about being on set for “Waves”?

I think just how spontaneous everything was. Because of the structure, it seems like it would be, I guess, maybe more, I don’t know, structured in some way. But it really felt loose and free and we had the freedom to do what we wanted to do.

What are the books currently sitting on your bedside table?

Oh my gosh, I have so many right now. I like to read a couple books at a time, so I’m reading Woolgathering by Patti Smith, a short book of hers, which is so poetic and a good book to think about yourself and think about life, to reflect on. I’m also reading A Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung, and then I’m reading this fantasy novel, The Name of the Wind. Three different books, but I’m cracking through them all.

So you’re one of those people who likes to read multiple books at once.

Yes, because—especially when I’m reading a fantasy book—I need something that’s more grounding. Or at different times of the day, I like to read: so in the morning, I’ll read Woolgathering, in the middle of the day, I’d read a fantasy book, like The Name of the Wind, and then at night I like to read something that’s going to impact my sleep and my thoughts during the night.

Taylor Russell

Who’s a director you’re interested in working with?

So many. Jonathan Glazer is a big one, Claire Denis, Paul Thomas Anderson, Sofia Coppola, who’s right over there, so there you go.

What’s the last thing you do before bed?

I read, most of the time. Or listen to some music and either stretch or dance around a little bit. But most likely, read and stretch.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

Lay in bed for a little while. I put the blinds up, hopefully there’s some sun, and I just kind of stare at the ceiling and think about breathing, really. And I try to step into the day in a way that feels full.

What is the last concert you went to?

I saw Kate Tempest. She was so incredible.

What’s the last movie you saw in theaters?

The Assistant.

What podcasts do you listen to?

I listen to a lot of This American Life, NPR. The OG. And this other one, Root of Evil. It’s very scary, it’s about the Black Dahlia murders and it’s freaky. But a good balance: This American Life and a murder podcast.

What’s the last piece of art you bought or ogled?

I bought a drawing from this artist named Michelle Blade, she’s a ceramicist and she has these line drawings that feel really spiritual and grounded in elements earthly and having to do with animals. I bought a couple of her pieces through Instagram. And then an artist I really love and I really want to get one of her pieces, my friend introduced me to her, her name’s Genieve Figgis. And that is something I’d like to acquire at some point, probably down the line.