Ron Taylor, author, studio govt and variety pioneer, dies at 71

Recent out of Yale within the early Nineteen Seventies, Ron Taylor wished to enter international service for the U.S. State Division. Given his household’s historical past of accomplishment and social engagement in Los Angeles, this appeared an affordable objective.

“He would have been quite adept at it,” Taylor’s brother Steve mentioned this week.

However earlier than that dream might take form, a job at ABC popped up. Then a promotion. Then an opportunity to work as a programming govt on a miniseries referred to as “Roots.”

Launched on a profession as author, producer, studio govt and educator, Taylor grew to become a pioneer in pushing the leisure trade towards higher variety.

A part of his work was instructing at USC, the place on Monday morning college students in Taylor’s ethics class took their finals. After he and his co-teachers bade the scholars farewell, Taylor headed to the health club on campus — the place he collapsed and was pronounced useless. He was 71.

His loss of life shocked household, associates and admirers in present enterprise and academia, lots of whom famous how Taylor’s profession had advanced right into a mission to pry open doorways that had lengthy been closed.

“You could see that diplomatic skill that he must have had to exercise for decades,” mentioned USC professor of cinematic arts Lisa Leeman, who was with Taylor on that final day of instructing. “It couldn’t have been easy.”

Taylor attended John Marshall Excessive College in Los Feliz, the place he was pupil physique president and performed soccer and basketball. At Yale College, he majored in Latin American research.

However as soon as he landed inside the leisure trade, siblings mentioned, his path was clear.

As a author, producer and govt over the subsequent 45 years, he took on jobs and tasks at Warner Bros., Disney, UPN, MGM, Spelling Productions and Sony TV, typically as the one individual of coloration within the room, often aiming to spice up variety in an trade resistant to alter.

Taylor’s resume notes that he gave a number of trade standouts their first jobs in tv, together with producer John Wells (“ER”) and director and choreographer Kenny Ortega. From 2003 via 2010, Taylor served as vp of numerous programming at Fox Broadcasting.

“He was there in a rough time,” mentioned Hilary Ward, an L.A.-based actor, pal of Taylor and visiting school member on the Carnegie Mellon College of Drama in Pittsburgh. Because the lone individual of coloration in such conditions, “there’s a real pressure to be excellent. Not only do you have to do the job, you have to do it so expertly that you’re undeniable,” she mentioned.

Recognized for his simple smile and measured tone, Taylor typically discovered his method to assignments as a instructor or mentor. This included adjunct instructing for Columbia Faculty Chicago, operating a mentorship program for the Administrators Guild of America and, starting in spring 2021, main lessons at USC’s College of Cinematic Arts.

In August, “Red & White Blues,” a function screenplay Taylor wrote with Nelson Handel, gained grand prize within the Save the Cat! Screenplay Problem competitors.

Taylor additionally served a number of years on the Studio Metropolis Neighborhood Council.

“He brought a calm discernment to a room,” mentioned Christopher Carlson, a screenwriter who knew Taylor from church. “He was the kind of person who, after a brouhaha, could bring things into clarity.”

Taylor grew up in Los Angeles as considered one of 5 youngsters. His father, James B. Taylor, was a math instructor who grew to become a highschool principal in Solar Valley and South Los Angeles, then rose to be deputy superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified College District through the debate over busing within the Nineteen Seventies. Animo James B. Taylor Constitution Center College in Watts is known as for the senior Taylor, who died in 2016.

Taylor’s mom, Jane Johnson Taylor, a pianist, organist and instructor, performed a central function for many years at Mount Hollywood Congregational Church, which by the Nineteen Thirties had develop into one of many metropolis’s first church buildings with a racially built-in congregation. She was additionally a cousin of the Nobel laureate and United Nations official Ralph J. Bunche, whom Ron Taylor grew up calling “Cousin Ralph.”

Ron Taylor adopted in his mom’s function with the church, serving in a wide range of outstanding positions — starting with the function of child Jesus within the church’s 1951 nativity play, persevering with within the Nineties and past as treasurer and spokesman. He was typically joined by his spouse, Jane Taylor, and youngest son, Grant.

9 days earlier than his loss of life, Taylor was within the church courtyard along with his grandson, Thomas, having fun with an arts and crafts truthful.

The Rev. Ashley Hiestand, who arrived as pastor on the church two years in the past, mentioned she was struck instantly by Taylor’s “energy, his presence, his light. He just shone and he made you feel safe, welcome and free.”

“He meant a lot to a lot of people,” mentioned pal actor Amy Hill, finest identified for taking part in Kumu on the rebooted “Magnum P.I.”

In her years of working with the East West Gamers theater firm in Los Angeles, Hill mentioned, she might at all times rely on seeing Taylor at openings and particular occasions, on the lookout for expertise and probabilities to advance his trigger.

Of their ethics class’ final common session on Nov. 28, Leeman mentioned, the dialog turned to pay inequities and Taylor introduced up an inequity between co-stars he’d encountered in considered one of his studio jobs.

“The students were totally on the edge of their seats, because it was a true-life story of someone who identified the source of a problem and was able to bring it to people’s attention and made a difference. It was a beautiful, perfect way to wrap up our last class together,” Leeman mentioned, recalling the applause from the category.

“It left students feeling that we each can make a difference. Because Ron had.”

Among the many 5 Taylor siblings — together with a health care provider, a lawyer, a composer and the president of a charitable basis — “Ronnie was the smartest, no question,” mentioned Nancy Taylor, a youthful sister. “When my mom passed and my dad passed, we siblings wanted Ronnie to be the speaker.”

Along with his spouse and son Grant, Taylor is survived by sons Miklos, Andrew and Tristan; one grandson; and siblings Carolyn Taylor-Olson, Stephen James Taylor, Peter J. Taylor and Nancy Taylor.