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PHOTOGRAPHY BY MAARTEN DE BOER
STYLED BY EVAN SIMONITSCH
INTERVIEW BY KATINA GOULKAOS
It is rare to find someone in this industry that is as level headed as our next subject. His honest and charming disposition combined with his subtle confidence is what makes Tyler Blackburn so intriguing. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Blackburn is best known for his roles on Pretty Little Liars and Roswell New Mexico. His deep self-awareness is something that separates him from the herd and what may be the key to his success.
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Imagista: How did you get into acting? Do you think growing up in Los Angeles had an influence on that?
Tyler Blackburn: I think it had some influence on feeling like it was possible. When you are so close to it, it makes you feel like it is something that is in your reach in a way. I feel like it had an influence on me in that way but to be honest I always felt like I wanted to be a performer. I knew this as early as pre-school, we did different performances and stuff and it was my favorite part of pre-school. I was always putting on performances for my friends and family, I would write scripts and film them with my friends and be in them. It was just something I always felt in my blood for some reason. So that, coupled with living in LA felt a little bit more attainable.
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Imagista: At what age did you start doing it at a more serious level?
Tyler Blackburn: When I was about 12 or 13 I started auditioning for a few things. I mostly did commercials and print work and then in high school, I kind of stopped auditioning. I lived a little further away from LA at this point and I wanted to just live like a normal teenage life. I felt a little awkward so I wanted to just take a break. I started auditioning again my senior year of high school, so I have been doing this for a while.
Imagista: Was it something your family was supportive of?
Tyler Blackburn: Of course they were supportive. My mom especially, she would drive me to auditions and stuff but she never crossed that stage mom line. She just wanted me to do whatever I wanted to do. My dad is in the music industry and he had a different take on the business and truly understood the odds and how hard it is. He came from a place of “have a backup plan” but he was supportive.
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Imagista: What was your first major role?
Tyler Blackburn: For me, when I started feeling like it was more a full-time thing is when I booked a short run on Days of Our Lives, I am sure you’ve heard of it!
I only worked on it for about 2 months but it was like a consistent job and I was making so much money in my eyes and I realized that it was my job. It was a great place to start and it was great training when filming a soap opera you only get one or two takes to get it right so it was amazing training for that reason. I felt like a legitimate actor, I had booked a few small roles on other projects, which were great, but this was the first consistent job and it was a great experience.
Imagista: I actually first noticed you on Pretty Little Liars, which became such a huge success, what was being part of that show like for you?
Tyler Blackburn: You know it really truly was a whirlwind, it really changed my life, it was amazing. It started off as just a consistent job and I felt grateful to be there, I loved my character, I loved the shows creator Marlene King, I obviously loved working with the girls and I felt excited about it. Then they made me a series regular and I ended up being on it for the entire run and during that time, to explore myself as a working actor was a dream come true. As the show was coming out, social media was becoming the beast that it is today and I think our show was so perfect for that kind of outlet and that made it blow up even bigger. That simultaneously made it blow up even bigger. There were aspects of it that I wasn’t really able to prepare myself for, basically like one day no longer being anonymous anymore and things like that were a little bit jarring at times or anxiety-inducing. Now it is a bit more normal. It was great to have a bunch of us going through the same thing at the same time.
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Imagista: Currently you are on Roswell New Mexico, can you tell me about your character on that show and what the transition from one series to another has been like?
Tyler Blackburn: As PLL was coming to an end, I was ready for something different but it was also a moment of anxiety because you go from having a job to having to find your next chapter. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in the young adult world just because I wanted to try something different. When this script came along, I remembered the original series from the ’90s and after reading the script for the pilot I just really thought it was a modernized take on the stories. My character, his name is Alex Manes and when you meet him he has been discharged from the air force after losing half of one of his legs. You quickly realize that he also has this torrid love affair with one of the other characters on the show and you find out that he is gay and that he has a very intense abusive relationship with his father. This entire season has been about my character learning how to accept himself, accept the love that his has for Michael but also to find his personal power and move away from his father and find his own voice. It has been a real arch and something different from any character I have ever played. I think as an actor the opportunity to do that is pretty amazing and I am very proud of the character and very proud of the show and I love the other actors and characters. Overall it has been a very enriching experience and I am so grateful for it.
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Imagista: That is amazing. I am sure there are a lot of people watching the show who are going through some of the same things that appreciate you touching on so many serious topics.
Tyler Blackburn: For me, I didn’t fully realize the impact that it would have until it started airing and the response was so positive. Even down to represent a character who is an amputee, we have gotten comments from people, thanking us for picking a character that was an amputee and showing his journey and his vulnerable side. Eve outside the queer community, people are loving the realness of this show and the character. I didn’t know how deeply it would affect me on a personal level to have people respond the way they have.
Imagista: Do you have similarities to your character Alex?
Tyler Blackburn: Oh yeah, many. One thing about the writing is that each character is very layered and you find out more about them as the episodes go on. For me, personally, I know the feeling of questioning your place in life, what is your value, what makes me accepted and loved and I feel like that is a very human quality. I feel like he is ultimately someone who is trying to find their inner power and I feel like as I have gotten older and gone through my journey I have really tried to find what my personal power and voice is and to be proud of that voice That is why I love this journey for him.
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Imagista: You were mentioning before how almost instant your fame was, how were you able to stay grounded?
Tyler Blackburn: There were moments when I felt a little less grounded, ill be honest with that, just because it is all a little bit confusing, some of it intoxicating. Ultimately, my main interest in life is to feel happy. I know that sounds a little bit cheesy, but I feel like my barometer of what brings happiness is pretty good. Some aspects of this business can suck your soul they don’t add to it, so I feel like in some way my innate moral compass put me in a direction that attracted a lot of good people. I think having family, other than my father, is even close to this business, which is humbling. Maybe having a natural instinct to search for self-awareness has helped me. I am someone who asks a lot of questions about life and I don’t want to mess around with bullshit, I want the real deal. I don’t think I let too much cloud that, which I think kept me grounded.
Imagista: You seem to have acquired a lot of wisdom. Could you pass down any of that wisdom to our reader’s and give some advice to young actors looking to follow in your footsteps?
Tyler Blackburn: I feel like there is a lot I can say to be honest. I would say the most important is really having a strong sense of self and identity because this industry is a bit tumultuous. There is a lot of rejection, a lot of people talking at you and kind of deciding for you what you are or what is good for you. I think it could really cause a lot of confusion, so I think doing a lot of work on yourself and focusing on your personal identity is the most important. That also includes, having a life outside of this business, find other things that you like to do simultaneously that enrich you. Have a well-rounded life is something that I think is important. As an actor, I feel like the most interesting ones are the ones that bring something unique to a character and I think you could only do that by embracing your own uniqueness. I think it’s hard to do that in this business because we are being compared to other people but it is exciting to watch an actor that is unique so I would say embrace your uniqueness. There is so much more I could say but that’s top 3!
Imagista: Can you tell me something we can’t find about you on Google?
Tyler Blackburn: I was the captain of the swim team when I was in 10th grade, which was an accomplishment. I didn’t grow up athletic, I didn’t play sports as a young kid and it wasn’t until high school that I tried to join a sports team. I tried out in 9th & 10th grade and I was made captain, which was pretty cool!
Tyler on Instagram @tylerjblackburn