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March 28, 2016

Keeping the Pace in High Waist

Living a double life comes easily to Holly Taylor.

Amy Amatangelo
  • Emy Soto/FX

When high school senior Holly Taylor dons her '80s wardrobe, it’s not for a retro fashion statement — it's for her other job.

Outside school hours, she's Paige Jennings, the daughter of deep-cover KGB spies in FX's The Americans, set in Reagan-era Washington, D.C.

Paige spent the first two seasons suspicious but unaware of her parents' true identities. That all changed in season three, when she finally learned the truth (season four began in March).

Only 13 when she auditioned for the role, Taylor, now 18, had no idea her character would become crucial to the plot. "They just slowly progressed in giving me more," she explains. "I didn't feel pressure, which was really great."

Her career got an early start. Taylor began dancing at age three and landed a role in Broadway's Billy Elliot when she was 11. She credits her parents with supporting her career. "They knew that I'm a hard-working person and very motivated. We knew that we could make something happen together."

The commute from her New Jersey home to the show's Brooklyn set can range from 45 minutes to five hours if traffic is bad. "It definitely raises your blood pressure," she says.

Juggling her professional and personal lives — auditions, shooting the scenes, serving on the student council, studying with an on-set tutor and applying to colleges — is challenging. Taylor relies on a phone calendar to stay organized. "I put everything in there," she says and laughs. "It's like, 'Breathe air at 4:03 p.m.'"

The only downside to playing Paige has been those '80s clothes. "Turtlenecks where I feel like I'm being choked the whole day or really high-waisted jeans that cut my rib cage in half — I don't know why people thought this was a good idea."

But that comes with the gig. As does dealing with curious fans. And like a good spy, she's adept at not revealing plot points, even when her friends' parents press her for inside info. "I don't give much away," she says. "People get frustrated, but I've got to do my job."

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