PHOTOGRAPHY: Jerry Maestas
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT: Derrick Freske
VIDEOGRAPHY: Anissa Amalia
STYLING: Becky Thompson
MAKEUP: Katrina Klein at The Wall Group
HAIR: Rena Calhoun at SWA
WORDS: Jasmine Perrier
There is a lot of supernatural and fantasy in Kaylee Bryant’s world. But when it comes to her own reality, she is all about being true to herself and passionate about her work.
Starting out as a model when she was 8, the 22-year-old actress remembers herself as a very shy child. ‘‘I couldn’t look people in the eyes, or shake somebody’s hand,’’ she recalls. However when her family photographer put the camera up to her, she suddenly felt comfortable in public. Kaylee grew up watching a lot of films which eventually got her on the track of wanting to pursue an acting career at a young age. ‘‘I used to pretend to be sick so I can stay home from school because all I wanted to do was watch Mulan and The Addams Family on repeat. I actually went about a year pretending to be Wednesday Addams,’’ she tells. ‘‘It wasn’t until I was around 7 or 8 years old that I felt like that was an actual part that somebody could play.’’
As she dived into acting on a professional level, Kaylee has been in the entertainment industry for years. ‘‘My family and friends are extraordinarily supportive,’’ she says. Grasping any chance she has to embody a new character, her résumé includes appearances in series such as American Horror Story, Santa Clarita Diet, The Real O’Neals as well as Disney’s Dog with a Blog and Kickin’ It. ‘‘I don’t think I ever feel deeply comfortable with saying that acting is my career path because I will always want to work more than possible and seek any business opportunities that I can. But the reality is that this is a very inconsistent career choice in general,’’ she shares, before adding, ‘‘I accept that not every role is for me. That is a sort of negativity that I have been trying to overcome ever since I started.’’
To this day, it shocks me when people come up to me on the street and know who I am, just because I don’t think of myself as anything other than Kaylee that shows up to work every day
Despite the uncertain landscape of the acting world, Kaylee kept hitting the audition circuit and ultimately landed a starring role in The CW’s drama series Legacies, a spinoff of popular shows The Vampire Diaries and The Originals. Created by Julie Plec who runs the entire Vampire Diaries Universe, Legacies introduces the story of the next generation of supernatural beings who attend the ‘‘Salvatore Boarding School’’ for the gifted teens. ‘‘I feel really lucky to be on Legacies right now,’’ Kaylee admits. Since 2018, she has been portraying Josette —Josie— Saltzman, one of the school’s most powerful students along with her twin sister Lizzie (Jenny Boyd) as they both have the ability to pull power from other things or people to use their magic.
When she auditioned for Legacies, Kaylee immediately connected with her character. ‘‘What attracted me specifically to Josie was, number one, her sexual fluidity. It was very appealing to me to have that representation for young men and women,’’ she reveals. ‘‘So much work had to be done into her self-process, and so little of it was said. I was ecstatic to take on that challenge.’’ The first season of Legacies, which premiered in October 2018, was undoubtedly highly anticipated by the fans and the series has proved thus far that it has plenty of legs both in terms of plot and characters.
Throughout season one, we followed Josie’s discovery of her own individuality. ‘‘Josie started off this show as a 15-year-old girl who just didn’t know who she was or how to stand up for herself, or when to stand up for herself,’’ Kaylee says. According to the actress, this is a character who remains particularly challenging. ‘‘In every episode something very impactful happens, so there is always something going on through Josie’s brain and as an actor I want to validate every single thought that she has.’’ Nevertheless Kaylee enjoys having a lot more opportunities to experience different things in Josie’s shoes. ‘‘With the luxury that is time, I have a lot of time to actually mature and understand how to have healthy conversations with her dad, her sister, and different friends. It has been really refreshing to see and feel a character grow.’’
I don’t think I ever feel deeply comfortable with saying that acting is my career path because I will always want to work more than possible and seek any business opportunities that I can
With the success of its predecessors, Legacies had a lot to live up to and even earned a second season which debuted last October 10th on The CW to keep the legacy alive. ‘‘I’m excited to see the fans’ reactions to a different Josie in a lot of ways, and I’m excited to see how they react to maybe an overall more mature show in general,’’ Kaylee says on the evolution of her character and the show as season two moves forward. ‘‘These kids have grown up over the summer, they have been through a very traumatic event and they’ve all grown about it.’’
Working on Legacies has been ‘‘an interesting learning curve’’ for Kaylee who was in Atlanta, filming episode 8, when we discussed over the phone. ‘‘I’ve learned so much through this process and I don’t know how much I can even put into words, because I feel like every single day I’m learning something new,’’ she states while she was in the middle of 9-month work of shooting. ‘‘We have a new director every single episode that I’m learning from, new cast members coming in every week. What’s really amazing about being on a television show and being an actor in general, is that it’s a very collaborative process so when everybody is willing to listen to everybody, it can be a really exciting process. And now that I’m at work 16 hours a day, five days a week, we’ve created a bit of a family.’’
When talking about the massive fan response to the series and how she deals with her new exposure, Kaylee says, ‘‘To this day, it shocks me when people come up to me on the street and know who I am, just because I don’t think of myself as anything other than Kaylee that shows up to work every day, and wants to create really interesting and exciting pieces of art people can enjoy. So it’s been weird but at the same it makes me happy that people are enjoying the work that we are all putting into this show.’’
After nearly two years of helping shape Josie Saltzman, Kaylee has become a fan favorite. As a fan of The Vampire Diaries and The Originals herself, she understood to a certain extent the cultural phenomenon that came along with this world. ‘‘It was really exciting and really overwhelming all at the same time,’’ she says before adding, ‘‘I think up to this day I still don’t truly understand how many people watch the show and care so much about these characters. And I don’t think I ever really can until I’m sitting at San Diego Comic Con and seeing everybody’s faces.’’
Beyond her professional aspirations, the rising star is interested in being an honest voice for the young people who look up to her and, therefore, she wants to stay true to herself. ‘‘I’ve always seen people on social media using their platforms so well, and I always thought that would be the path I’d take,’’ she says. ‘‘I just want to make sure that I’m as educated as I possibly can be, so that I’m not spreading any information that isn’t completely true or isn’t completely right in my head. And I’d like people to form their own opinions as well.’’
While Kaylee makes the best of her tremendous ride since she has joined the Vampire Diaries Universe, she confides it would be exciting to her to play a character who is the opposite of Josie. ‘‘I’ve kind of gotten into a grove of who she is. I don’t know what the exact opposite of Josie would be, but it’s something that I want,’’ she laughs. When reflecting on her journey and what she has accomplished so far, she concludes, ‘‘That was a huge learning curve for me to be able to understand that getting a booking, and a paid check, or being on set isn’t exactly the answer to what is success.’’