You know her on Orange is the New Black as Crazy Eyes, the eccentric woman eager to make new prison inmate Piper her wife. But actress Uzo Aduba is far saner than the character she portrays on that Netflix hit.
I caught up with the breakout star at the NBC party during the Television Critics Association press tour this week, jumping at the chance to say hello and praise Aduba for her work.
Interestingly enough, Aduba wasn’t even trying out for Crazy Eyes when she was cast on the series. In fact, creator Jenji Kohan had never even seen Aduba’s full version of Crazy Eyes, but clearly saw potential in Aduba.
“I had auditioned for another part and I got a phone call... that I might work well in that part [as Crazy Eyes] and she invited me to play it," Aduba told me.
Aduba was thrilled to be cast in a show she felt was incredibly written, praising Kohan for giving her an opportunity.
“I am just so grateful that she trusted me enough to play that part and thankfully invited me to stay on for the rest of the season. When I say Jenji Kohan is a risk taker - and a brilliant one at that - along with our writers, I really, really mean it.”
As anyone who watched Orange is the New Black knows, the prison inmates are a diverse, unique group. Those who discusses the show typically have a favorite... but Aduba has three. She feels strongly about Piper’s story especially.
“I love watching this person who truly has no association to this world... And watching her assimilate or integrate herself into this world. And what parts of herself she loses or strengthens. She has this really great line towards the end of the season, where she says, ‘I’m scared that I’m not myself in this prison and I’m scared that I am,’ and watching how true that is has been really interesting.”
Aduba also has an affinity for Tastee, portrayed by Danielle Brooks, who “has such a youth and a spirit and a joy and a want to be better” and for Dayanara (Dascha Polanco), whose affair interests Aduba immensely.
“I love the idea of watching two people who know that there’s maybe an end, not that I know anything, because I don’t, but people who are going into a tragic love story, a potentially tragic love story and try and work their way through it.”
But it’s not all tragedy and darkness on the set of this prison dramedy. Aduba gave us an idea of her relationships with the cast behind the scenes.
“Because it’s so serious feeling and there are some heavy themes and a lot of these women have had things taken away from them, I think off set we pull a 180 from that," the actress said. "We watch other people shoot as well. Watching them and rooting for them…We play music, we have dance parties, we’ve been on vacation together, we just truly enjoy each other’s company.”
And here's the answer to the question everyone wants to know about: Aduba didn’t do her own peeing in that memorable scene, but she certainly was shocked to read it in the script.
“I thought it was incredibly daring for [writer Sian Hedder] to do…. I couldn’t believe at first that she had written it, but she had done research and that actually happens in the system…She dramatized it, but it does happen. So at first I was like, 'what are we doing,' then I started thinking about where we are, who these people are. They’ve been stripped of so many different things, they’re living in this animalistic environment already, so it’s not so far fetched for one to behave in a primal fashion. And certainly not for Crazy Eyes to exhibit that in that way.”
You can find the entire first season of Orange is the New Black streaming on Netflix and we can all look forward to Season 2 2014.