Disney+ has been out for over a month now, providing plenty of time to dig into all of the wonderful content on the service, both original and library. Hidden amongst the flashier shows like The Mandalorian and The Imagineering Story, is Encore, a show produced by Kristen Bell that brings together cast of high school musicals for one final Encore performance. The show is a lot of fun and features a lot of fun people each and every week.
One of the actors on the show was Brittany Kay Taylor, who played Mrs. Potts in the second episode about Beauty and the Beast. After watching the show, I got the chance to chat with Brittany about her experience on the show and her new relationship with Susan Egan and below you can find the slightly edited transcript of our conversation.
Q: How did your school get chosen to be on the show?
Brittany: So one day, when I'm working from home and I am scrolling through Instagram, I see Kristin Bell post on Instagram about this new show called Encore and before I even finish reading the description, I was like, “I am going to be on the show.” In fact I immediately, immediately went and applied, and I remember calling my mom and I was in full body shakes, my whole body was shaking. I was like, “Mom, I'm going to be on the show. I'm going to be on the show.” I just knew with my full body it was going to happen. It's one of the few moments in my life where I've had a premonition like that, especially that strong, but I immediately knew it was going to happen.
Q: Did you keep in touch with everyone over the years?
Brittany: One person I never ever thought I would ever see again in my entire life was Shelby Henderson. She's the one who wanted to go to Harvard, she played Cogsworth, and she's such a soft spoken person and I always wondered if she would go to Harvard. She used to have the biggest haystack of hair that was so iconic to her and to see her again with short hair was wild.
Q: Did it feel natural being all back together then on that first day?
Brittany: It was the closest thing I will ever experience to time travel. It's like you really revert back to your high school self. A lot of people have lives that have been like “There's no way I'd have fun with this many people if I ran into them from high school.” And it's like, “Well I've never been this excited when I ran into someone at Walmart.”
Q: How was the transition going back to the stage from doing voice acting work?
Brittany: I remember the exact moment when I was in high school performing at a high school musical, and I had that moment where I felt fully alive in my gifts for the first time. And it's that moment where you go, Wow, this is something that makes you special, or this is the thing that you're good at.” And you try to honor that voice. It all came at such a good time because I've been, for the last couple of years, trying to create a space where I could continue to do those things and work on those gifts. And so for Kristen Bell to be, the actual fairy godmother that takes me to this place where I could re-engage with that passion. But do so at such a professional level was just the most amazing experience.
Q: What was it like working with professionals in that area?
Brittany: It was the best. It was so cool. It was great. Everyone from casting to the producers to the creative director, the MD, everyone that we engaged with was just top notch incredible. Which is just so amazing to see people using their gifts at such a high level. love working with Adam Wachter, the musical director, he's the breakout star of Encore. He's amazing, he really is. I love how they switch out different creative directors and choreographers and stuff, but it's noticeable when his commentary isn't there. He adds so much to the show, and he was great to be around throughout the the experience because he is honest and he is funny and he's going to tell it as it is in a way that, you reacted in some kind of reality, but it's also uplifting. It's not the end of the world if it's not the best thing that's ever happened.
Tucker was great to work with. He's really, really incredible, and he is killing it up in New York. It was amazing to see Val from the office. She was amazing, so funny. One of the funniest things, so it's her little catchphrase is “that's the baby”. So she'd be like, “Step, step, step, stop. That's the baby. We just stomped on the baby.” But it was great, it was great. I mean, you have five days to get it together and so when you have such a high level of professionalism in the room, it really helps you rise to the occasion.
Q: How much of the play came back to you?
Brittany: Well, you know it's funny, very little. Really little. And what was so amazing about the experience with just reuniting with the cast that sometimes I'd be like, “Oh, also don't forget you have a performance.” And I definitely feel like I learned a lot, especially working with Adam on the title song of “Beauty and the Beast.” He helped me a tremendous amount, actually singing it the way it was intended, which would've been great to have back in high school. But really, it's amazing that not a lot of it really stuck with me, but it was fun to kind of rediscover it and trace back and find it again.
Q: What was it like getting to sing with Susan Egan (Belle in the Original Broadway Cast of Beauty and the Beast)?
Brittany: Yes, I'm biased, but I feel like when she came in and did the master class with us, that that was one of those powerful moments in the season so far. And her talent is so extraordinary. We're in this room with her, and she is singing “Home” for us and making it a five course meal at the end of which I thought Belle was about to start the French Revolution. She had such a presence about her that you could see how she would reach out to the very back seat of the farthest corner of a Broadway theater hall. And to be in the same room as that was incredible. It was amazing to see her work with Desi because Desi’s voice is a gift. She has an incredible voice and to see her have the opportunity to shine in that unique way was really beautiful to watch.
Q: One of the most powerful parts of the episode was the deep talk experience. What was that like in person?
Brittany: I call that the cry room. It was really interesting. There's so many takeaways from this and it's hard to just break it down. One of the things that's so interesting is, in high school everyone, to a level, is very presentational and vulnerability is not something that's necessarily honored right? You're figuring out who you are and by figuring out who you are, you kind of are developing a persona. So to be in a room with these people that you've spent a good chunk of your formative years with and to see them kind of open up the book and get past just the cover and show what was going on in their heart at that time was really moving for me because some things you would suspect, but you didn't really get to fully know.
Especially Kathy, when she talks about will you have a home? I mean wow, what a moment. And in high school we knew that theater was her home. I think we wanted to honor that safety there, we didn't ask about her outside life. Because that was her safe place. But to see her do so well and to see her expose what was going on, it was very, very interesting. I think people were very honest with themselves. Also, it was really cool to not only get to travel back in time and be in high school, but it was also like being in a high school and getting to see the future. I think my high school self would be proud of me, which is really a gift to realize.
Q: We only get to see part of the actual performance. How do you feel like it went having been there on stage?
Brittany: I think it's interesting that the main critique I hear of this show is people that want more of it, which is the best possible complaint you could possibly have. I feel like so much happened in that week that was so amazing, but it's hard to fit it in in an hour. I honestly feel like my entire cast is really very talented. I've mentioned Shelby before. Shelby is the most hilarious, amazing Cogsworth, and she is so that character in real life. Everything has a place, she's an idealist and she keeps things going. She's kind of the mother hen. Desiree is such a resilient spirit and has overcome so much in her life and still has such a beauty and a joy and a tenacity about her. Brad is a ladies man. Lumiere, he dated every girl in school. One of my regrets is he asked me out to one of the dances and I said no. I should have gone with him. Zane is a Beast, you can see it. I don't even have to explain that. Yes, everyone fits with their character so much, and I wish people got to see that a little bit more, and I wish people get to see more of the performance.
And of course, during the real performance, there's little hiccups and mess ups here and there, we basically had one rehearsal. It definitely could have been better, but I think what we were able to accomplish in such a short amount of time was incredible. And what was also amazing is it's so much love in the room, and that's something you kind of get to see a little bit. But that audience was there to really just love every second. Most shows, people come and they sit back and they cross their arms and they want to be entertained and they're like, “You better do a good job because I spent money on this.” Everyone was coming in knowing what an incredible opportunity this was, or what a special experience it was and so, there was so much love that really made the performance really special.
Q: How did performing this Encore performance compare to the performances in high school?
Brittany: It was funny to go back and watch the high performance because really they're special. That original high school performance, it was actually pretty good for high school. Of course it wasn't professional level. I would say my costume this time around was much better. It was fun to play it again as an adult and understand the character better and understand the story better. I think both in high school and both now I wanted to make the character funny because in high school that was what was hard for me in high school is I feel like I have so much comedic energy and so to play an old woman, authentically but not funny, was really difficult for me. It was like, “I don't know how to be old sincerely either because it's charactery, but also I'm funny.” So this time around to have permission to be funny and just a dork and bring myself to the character was really a gift.
Q: What do you think makes Encore so special?
Brittany: One thing that I think is very special about the show is that reality television can sometimes get a bad reputation for being forced or somewhat scripted. And this experience was not like that at all. I never felt like it was too far of a stretch from reality. Of course, the story needs to be told. There needs to be a beginning, a middle and an end. But really I think they capture something really, really authentic. Which is why we all want more of it. We all want more. I want to see more of the stories. I would love to have seen them reuniting and just who they are as individuals.
Q: What are you about now that Encore wrapped?
I started a company called Saturday Morning TV, and I dub global animation in English. And so at the top of the show (Encore), I was actually singing a song that came from a show in Korea. So it was originally in Korean, 50 K-Pop songs that I got to rewrite all of those songs and then direct them. But when you see me singing, I'm actually creating a demo for the actor. We had Ashley Argota and Tyler Shamy voice those roles, and they both have Disney and Nickelodeon credits, they're really, really talented. And so I directed them in that. It's on Como Kids TV. When I was on the show, I asked Susan Egan if she'd voice a role for me and she said yes and so after the show I flew out to Nashville where she lived and got to work with her again and direct her to a theme song.
Q: Do you have any final thoughts about Encore?
Brittany: Being on Encore, it was wild. Going back to the beginning when I was scrolling on Kristen Bell's Instagram and saw that, my first thought is like man being on this show would really help me with my business, which is my whole heart, my whole passion, and I've been working really hard and it's been really difficult to get to the point where I am. And when the show happened, it was such a moment of synchronicity. It just felt like things were coming together, and things are going to happen. Encore came at such a time where it was like both things were starting to come together, but in such an excruciating way, it was really hard and was it going to be worth it?
For me to have that Encore experience and to revisit that time in high school when my love for art and creativity was so pure and so unaffected by the stresses and expectations of the “real world”, to go back and revisit that purity and joy in creation but do so at such a professional level was probably the most profound thing that could happen to me at that specific time in my life. Probably one of the biggest gifts of my life. I feel silly saying that because I know different people on the show have had different experiences, but truly being on the show was probably one of the most influential moments in my history of being alive.
So I think my biggest takeaway from the Encore experiences is there is so much magic that is available in everyday life, and dreams really do come true. You've got to do your part, you've got to work. Dreams come true and so Encore really made me feel like anything's possible. It sounds cliche, but it's real for me.
Cole Geryak is a childless millennial making his way through the world. He has ridden every single ride in Disneyland in one day, all while wearing a shirt and tie. Imagination is his middle name, and his heart truly lies in the parks.