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Exclusive: Taylor Schilling on the COVID craziness of her new pandemic satire series The Bite

Taylor Schilling
Taylor Schilling. Pic credit: CBS Studios and Spectrum Originals

If it is too soon for you to have a sense of humor about the pandemic, then The Bite from creators Robert and Michelle King may not make your binge-watch list, but if you can appreciate the dark humor of this story about a pandemic within a pandemic, then put these six episodes in your must-see queue.

The Bite, from Spectrum Originals, is the story of two New York City apartment dwellers, Rachel (Audra McDonald) and her upstairs neighbor Lily (Taylor Schilling), two strong women who are dealing with the COVID pandemic as best they can, working from home, when a new strain of the virus arrives with a much more lethal bite to it.

We’re not giving anything away to say that Lily is supporting herself as a dominatrix as a way of paying her bills until she finds success as a writer, and she is just about to sell her first memoir when a client infected with the new zombie-virus arrives at her doorstep.

Monsters & Critics had the opportunity to speak with Taylor Schilling about her role, her take on humanity rising to the occasion, especially New Yorkers in times of crisis, and why we love zombies.

Monsters and Critics: This is reminiscent of the Kings series BrainDead. Were you aware of them? Did you know their writing?

Taylor Schilling: The Good Wife and The Good Fight are iconic shows, so I definitely was aware of their writing. I’ve heard other people refer to BrainDead when discussing this show and I’ve never seen it, so I’m not super familiar with that, but I do know that they have an interest in zombies and monsters. They have that side to them.

M&C: What was it about Lily that enticed you to take the role?

Taylor Schilling: I just thought she was so dynamic. I thought she was so fascinating. I really appreciated the way her dom work infiltrated all aspects of her life. It was a really interesting role to dive into.

M&C: Lily’s family has her convinced that she’s not the dependable one, but when push comes to shove, this is a woman who wants to save the world. Do you have that in you as well? Do you have that DNA?

Taylor Schilling: I think so. You know what I think is so interesting. I was talking to someone about this earlier. I feel like that sense of drop everything and help the collective, if the track is properly laid, that is an instinct for a lot of human beings to help the collective, become a part of it and join in. And that also is a feeling that is very specific to New York City in a time of crisis.

I think it may be a universal feeling. If, like I said, if the bed is made properly, whatever you want to say, if the table’s laid properly, I think it’s something that humans are built to do. We’re wired to help.

Taylor Schilling Pic credit: CBS Studios and Spectrum Originals

M&C: We’re coming out of a pandemic and this is a story about a pandemic within a pandemic, but with a dark sense of humor. Do you think it’s too soon for us to laugh at it, or do you think that people will start to have a sense of humor about what we’ve been through?

Taylor Schilling: I think that this is the time to laugh and create heightened realities around what we’re experiencing. I really experienced this show as satire. I heard someone describe it as a drama, and I was like, “What the hell?” I think it’s a deeply satirical take on what’s happening and that’s necessary.

I think that when we reflect ourselves back to ourselves with satire and, you know, The Bite isn’t the reality of America or planet earth in 2020 with COVID-19, this is an alternate reality that’s reflecting on reality.

That’s very healing, and it provides a lot of space for reflection and critical analysis as we can get outside of ourselves and laugh. I think humor really allows for recalibration and integration of the human experience. It’s one of the reasons a story back to the Greeks is so important.

And, I think that later on, with more time and more processing, there will be great, great, great works of art about this period of time, but this is something that was in the middle of. It feels like a beautiful grace note to help us digest what’s happening. It’s like a probiotic helping us digest our experience.

M&C: There’s also the minor story point in there about how our vanity and the extreme lengths people will go to in order to stay youthful affects what happens to mankind.

Taylor Schilling: Absolutely. Well, certainly self-obsession and separation. Obsession with self and individualism is very American. It’s really tricky.

M&C: The Walking Dead was such a huge hit. Why do you think people like these zombie stories so much?

Taylor Schilling: I think because zombies can be made analogous to any cultural, social, or political situation happening at any moment in time. The idea of shells of people who are blindly following the herd and devouring and consuming everything in their path is fascinating.

They are uniquely suited to reflecting back human behavior. That they are brainless creatures that are consuming everything in their path and with no discernment are great foils for humans, be it this situation or any situation. I think it’s fascinating. The undead are fascinating. We can learn from them, see ourselves, tell stories.

M&C: You know how people hate the ending of Lost? I’m not going to give it away, but do you think they will hate the end of this?

Taylor Schilling: Probably. It’s an intense ending. Certainly, if they’re invested in the show and the characters, it might be a frustrating way to end.

All six episodes of The Bite are streaming ad-free exclusively on Spectrum’s On Demand platform now.

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