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Bex Taylor Klaus

Bex Taylor-Klaus makes it seem easy. The Atlanta native landed her first acting job, a high-profile role on AMC’s “The Killing,” a mere six months after moving to Los Angeles.

Even back at her very first audition, at age 16, she stood out from the nervous crowd. “I could see all these people sitting there wiggling, shaking,” she recalled. “For some reason, I felt totally at ease. I felt more solid standing there [doing the audition] than every other day at school. It just felt right.”

30under30_v3Now, just shy of her 19th birthday, Taylor-Klaus already has achieved the type of success most actors spend years chasing. She joined the cast of “The Killing” in the show’s third season as Bullet, a gritty lesbian runaway living on the streets of Seattle. After a friend disappears, Bullet starts working, sometimes reluctantly, with police Detectives Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) to track down a serial killer who preys on young prostitutes.

In last week’s gut-wrenching episode — and here’s where we provide the requisite spoiler alert — it was revealed that Bullet had become a victim herself when her body was discovered in the trunk of a suspect’s car.

When we interviewed her in June, Taylor-Klaus was enjoying a much more pleasant setting, at the Starbucks at Ansley Mall. She was spending some downtime with her family in Atlanta after production had wrapped, sworn to secrecy about the shocking conclusion of her role on the show. Before heading back to L.A. to work on a short film, she caught up with cousins, visited favorite spots such as Willy’s and Piedmont Park, and tried to take a few moments to let everything sink in.

“I’m still getting it through my thick skull that this actually happened,” she said. “I thought [my first role] would be something small, a guest star or a walk-on. This is a dream come true.”

The dream started as a hobby. As a child, she was active in school plays at Paideia while balancing that with her other passion, sports. She has participated in almost every type of sporting event, from organized teams to pickup games. She sees overlaps between acting and athletics, especially with her favorite sport, softball.

“I play catcher, and I’m in control of the whole field,” Taylor-Klaus said. “I have to pay attention to everything: the batter, the pitches they can’t hit, the runners. I have to know everything. It’s the same with acting. You have one world where you are your character, but you’re also in a world where you have to be aware of the camera, you have to know where to step and what you’re supposed to say.”

Her local theatrical training included two summers with Atlanta Workshop Players, a performing arts program that offers day camps for young people. One of her counselors was Daniel Platzman, now on tour as the drummer for the Top 40 band Imagine Dragons. “She was definitely one of the kids who stood out,” Platzman said of Taylor-Klaus. “She grasped all the concepts really quickly. I am not surprised by her success at all.”

Bullet in "The Killing"

Bullet is the third-season “MVP” of “The Killing.”

But as much as she enjoyed acting in school, she never considered it as a potential full-time career until one November weekend in 2010, when she and her siblings went to an open audition for Celebrity Star Event, a training program that conducts talent searches nationwide. Taylor-Klaus saw it mostly as a lark, while her younger brother and sister were excited to meet the actors running the event, Phill Lewis and Adrian R’Mante from the Disney Channel’s “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.”

The morning of the audition, Taylor-Klaus quickly put together a monologue, and halfway through her performance, Lewis broke in: “You have something,” he told her. “Don’t ever stop.”

She took his advice and enrolled in the program’s summer camp in Los Angeles. From there, R’Mante invited her back for his 2012 pilot season intensive, where he showcases his top students for industry talent agents. He says that after Taylor-Klaus’ performance, she immediately had agencies fighting to sign her. “Bex is going to be a major star,” he declared. “She is going to be Charlize Theron.”

After coaching Taylor-Klaus for more than two years, R’Mante considers her one of his program’s biggest success stories. But he acknowledges that all the training in the world is no match for natural skill. “You can’t teach personality,” he said. “You can’t teach how to be real. You just get it or you don’t. She gets it.”

With the support of her parents, who are both life coaches, Taylor-Klaus made the move to L.A. last August, on her 18th birthday. In February, she got her first call for “The Killing.”

Bex Taylor-Klaus at her high school graduation in May, wearing her "Bullet" boots.

Taylor-Klaus at her high school graduation in May, wearing her “Bullet” boots.

Before her untimely demise, Bullet had become a breakout character for viewers and critics alike. The pop culture site A.V. Club labeled her the “season-three MVP,” while Salon had declared that Taylor-Klaus is “one of the best reasons to watch the show.”

For Taylor-Klaus, her sadness at the character’s death is about more than just no longer being part of the cast. She feels the loss of Bullet as a person and mourns the character’s potential beyond the eight episodes in which she appeared. “I knew everything she wanted to do when she grew up,” Taylor-Klaus said in a follow-up conversation this week. “I knew who she was, who she wanted to be, and then I watched it all get taken away.”

In contrast to the dark, intense world Bullet inhabited, Taylor-Klaus embraces her goofball side both on the set and off. She reveled in cracking up her co-stars between takes, and she enjoys interacting with fans through her Twitter and accounts by trying to come up with “the weirdest, most ridiculous” answers to their questions. When one fan asked what she’s going to wear when she wins an Emmy Award, she replied, “A life-size Tyrannosaurus Rex costume so I can be T Bex.” (“Bex,” by the way, is short for Rebecca.)

And even though she now lives roughly 3,000 miles from home, her family’s influence remains strong, especially against the more superficial aspects of Hollywood. “They’re always there to lend a helpful insult whenever my ego gets too big,” she joked. “Just because they’re my family, and I love them and they love me.”

Regardless of where her career takes her next, she said playing Bullet has affected her “in the best possible way,” giving her a renewed confidence and determination as she looks forward. “As an actor, you’re given a character as kind of a shell, and it’s your job to breathe life into it,” she said. “Bullet’s the one who breathed life into me.”

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