Aisha Tyler has a thirst for trying new things. As an actress, she’s known for her roles on Criminal Minds, Friends, 24 and for voicing Lana Kane on FX’s Archer. She’s also a New York Times bestselling author, talk show host and comedian who made her mark in the male-dominated spirits world with her line of bottled cocktails, Courage + Stone.
Her true love as of late, however, is getting behind the camera and calling the shots. “I love actors and storytelling and finding extraordinary ways to say new things about the human experience,” she says. Tyler, 48, made her feature film directorial debut with the 2017 drama Axis, which she followed with several episodes of Criminal Minds. Now, she’s gearing up to direct Irwin Winkler’s upcoming female-themed thriller, Vigilante.
The star credits her zest for new ventures to her days of rowing crew for Dartmouth College. “As an athlete, you don’t run your best time and go, ‘Great. I’m done.’ You keep trying to run faster, you keep trying to jump higher, and you keep pushing yourself and testing your limits,” she says. So as long as she’s still able, Tyler plans to keep putting her name in the ring for whatever exciting new opportunity comes next.
Tyler talked to Parade.com about the 15th and final season of Criminal Minds, why she always makes time for french fries, and how President Obama inspired her daily breakfast order.
It’s bittersweet that Criminal Minds is coming to an end. But I’m grateful that unlike some shows, we were given the time to plan a proper series finale. We are all trying to savor our last moments on set. The end of the series is going to be really explosive!
Tara Lewis has been a lot of fun to play. She’s incredibly smart. She’s really passionate and fearless. Even though she’s tough—she’s there to fight very bad guys—she hasn’t lost her soul. I love the combination of hyper-intellectual and just ballsy badass lady.
I really like acting, but when you’re a director, you get to care for everybody. So it’s a much more interesting creative light for me. It’s important to me that there be diversity in filmmaking, and one way I can affect that is to be a filmmaker. I want to make space for other women and people of color to follow and open the landscape for others. I’m sure I’ll still act, but kind of on the Clint Eastwood/Ben Affleck model. Sometimes they act, sometimes they direct, sometimes they do both in the same project.
I eat the same thing for breakfast every day. And every three or four months I change it. I try to eliminate all non-essential decisions. I actually learned that reading an article about Obama where he said, “I wear the same suit and eat the same thing for breakfast every day so that I can reserve mental energy for critical decisions.” My current breakfast is a whole-wheat breakfast burrito with extra avocado. For years it was grilled chicken and broccoli—my castmates at The Talk would complain about the smell! But it kept me full for hours.
I was a competitive rower in college, so I still train on my rowing machine most days. I row four or five days a week. I’m also a big disciple of CrossFit. I just try to mix it up, but rowing is my number one. I’m probably rowing faster now than I was when I was in college!
I try not to beat myself up about what I eat because I think guilt is worse for you than what you ate. I eat healthy most days and then I eat what I want on the weekends—like french fries.
Everybody’s version of self-care is different. For me, it’s play—meeting friends, going to a concert, watching a movie. Self-care should just be about taking a little time every day to please yourself. I try to do that every day.