Meet the new Taylor Cole.
The actress, an Arlington native who stars in Hallmark Channel’s Appetite for Love, has reinvented herself with a new look.
After years as a dangerous brunette, playing bad girls and troublemakers in such TV shows as The Event, Hawaii Five-0 and CSI: Miami, Cole is now a cute blonde.
“I wanted to play the sweet girl for a change,” she says. “I wanted to do a romantic comedy. For an actress, it is important to change your look, expand your horizons, make sure that people see you in a fresh new light.”
So now Cole is Wilhelmina “Mina” (“Don’t call me Willie”) Jones in Appetite for Love, a Valentine’s Day-themed love story that premieres at 8 p.m. Saturday.
“No guns in this movie,” she says with pride. “Just love sparks.”
The Lamar High School grad (Class of 2002) plays an up-and-coming rep for a restaurant management corporation who’s sent to small-town Tennessee on a troubleshooting mission.
It seems there’s an old-style diner, the original location in a newly acquired chain, that hasn’t made the mandatory changes to be exactly like all the other eateries. Mina must make the owner fall in line.
The plot twist — the kind that happens only in romantic comedies — is that it’s her hometown. She left the place 15 years ago without ever looking back. And the restaurant owner (played by Andrew Walker) is Mina’s former high school flame.
“They have different ideas about how the diner should be run and the kind of food it should serve,” Cole says. “He’s very into having a farm-to-table menu. But she’s pushing the company policy about churning out quick, fast, assembly-line meals — emphasis on making money, not on quality or nutrition.
“On top of that, they have this personal history between them.”
It’s not a spoiler to reveal that the old-fashioned, small-town approach will win out in their menu debate — and that the star-crossed couple will be madly in love again before the final credits.
As much as Cole enjoyed being in a romantic comedy, she also liked the fact that Appetite for Love has something meaningful to say about big restaurant chains and the products some are serving America.
“Oddly enough, I had just started a cleaner way of eating before this script came along,” Cole says. “I was focused on eating nutritious and clean, organic food and how it affects your body and mind and spirit. That’s a big part of what this movie is all about. So it was a perfect fit.”
Coming up, Cole has a guest role in an episode of Fox’s Second Chance (as a brunette) and then will start a recurring role as Sofya, a bad-news vampire, in CW’s The Originals (as a blonde).
“It’s tough being a blonde,” she says. “I’ve kept the look, but there’s a lot of work that goes into it.”
Cole broke into show business in 2004. Raised by her father, who still lives in Arlington, she was a tomboy and an athlete who never really considered acting as a career choice. But during a visit to California to see her mother, she got a chance to audition for a guest role in a WB show called Summerland.
Not only did she get the part in the pilot episode, but she also was invited to stick around as a series regular. By the time the show ended its two-season run, Cole was hooked.
“I have the best job in the world,” she says. “I get to play different characters and take on new personas. I am blown away that I get to do this for a living.”