Behind the scenes on the Teen Vogue shoot
According to Taylor, there is a very specific sort of girl who's going to sign up for what's become known to Twilight fans as Team Jacob. "If she likes having a really close friendship with a guy," he begins, "being able to tell him anything, and then having that friendship slowly transform into something more...." The seventeen-year-old stops himself and laughs. "I find myself using the word transform a lot lately," he explains, "because that's what Jacob does."
It's not exactly a spoiler to say that Taylor's character in November's New Moon is going through some intense changes. As everyone who's seen the movie's trailer or read the books knows, Jacob Black is now a werewolf. And the changes that Taylor himself underwent in order to keep the part—as he says, "hitting the gym, hiring a personal trainer, eating the right foods, and eating a lot of them"—were equally evident. When that first trailer premiered at the MTV Movie Awards, the live (and apparently largely female) audience responded to a two-second shot of Taylor, shirtless, by screaming like they were on a roller coaster. Not that he's about to let all that adulation go to his head. "I think the fans would love anybody who played Jacob," he says mildly, when the reception is mentioned. "I'm just lucky to be the one who got the chance."
Taylor got into acting via a somewhat circuitous path. As a kid growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he started competing in a sport called Xtreme Martial Arts—which he describes as "almost like gymnastics, in that you do a routine, but there's a lot of kicks and punches and flips"—and he found that he was pretty good; by the time he retired, at thirteen, he was a four-time world champ. It was his Hollywood-based karate coach (a onetime blue Power Ranger) who suggested that Taylor give show business a chance. "At first," he recalls, "I wasn't interested, but he said I could stay at his house for a few weeks, meet with some agents, go on auditions. " By the end of that month, Taylor says, "I liked it. Taking on roles that were the opposite of what I could be in real life? That's still my favorite thing."
Now Taylor lives with his family an hour outside Los Angeles, although the distance does little to dissuade the paparazzi. "There are twelve cars that camp outside my house," he marvels. "You can't ever really get used to it, because it's not normal to have people snapping pictures of everything you do. You just have to try not to let it affect you." Tabloid attention and spurious rumors are the norm for the Twilight cast right now—Taylor and his costars are already hard at work on the third film, Eclipse. And he seems quite capable of taking it all in stride: Asked about his alleged early summer romance with Disney star Selena Gomez, he says, quite unperturbedly, "She's a great girl." Asked whether Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are indeed entangled in a torrid love triangle, he just laughs. "It's crazy," he admits, "but the fans help. They're a big part of the motivation."
As if on cue, a pair of wide-eyed young sisters approach his table, looking ecstatic. "We're all Team Jacob in our house," their mother says. Taylor does have a point when he insists that people are reacting, in part, to the character he plays—these two are each clutching one of author Stephenie Meyer's dictionary-size tomes for him to autograph—but he's also being too humble. The girls are definitely old enough to understand that Taylor is a rising star, not a teen werewolf, and they still look pretty starstruck.