As a member of Slate Plus, you’ll get access to exclusive podcasts—including our newly launched series about Season 2 of Orange Is the New Black. Over the next couple of weeks, Slate television critic Willa Paskin will be talking with experts to explore the show’s second season through the lens of economics, race, LGBTQ issues, and more!
In the fourth conversation, Willa chats with Big Boo herself—actress and comedian Lea DeLaria—about her character, how she was cast, and the straight girl obsession with Big Boo.
This podcast contains major spoilers, so listen after you watch the Season 2 finale.
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Here's the transcript of the podcast, below:
Willa Paskin: Hi, and welcome to a Slate Plus podcast about Orange is the New Black. I’m Willa Paskin, Slate’s TV critic, and in the past few weeks, I’ve dissected different aspects of the show with various excellent guests. But this week I am so pleased to be joined by the most excellent Lea DeLaria. Hi!
Lea DeLaria: Hi!
Paskin: Thank you so much for being here. Lea, who has such a long career of being a stand-up comic, a jazz singer, an actress for more than three decades, appears on Orange is the New Black as the hilarious, tough Big Boo who is not to be trusted around screwdrivers or puppy dogs. We’re going to chat today—
DeLaria: Now we leave that up to the imagination.
DeLaria: Yeah, she says it got weird, she never really commits what we’re thinking.
Paskin: You think nothing went down with the dog? You think it was just that she was thinking?
DeLaria: I’m not making comment. Like abstract art, I think that’s the eye of the beholder.
Paskin: OK. I guess that’s true.
DeLaria: It’s up to the audience to decide whether or not it went down.
Paskin: It did get weird before it had to go down. It was weird already.
DeLaria: It got weird.
Paskin: So I think we’re going to talk about specifics—the dog is now out of the way—but also I sort of want to talk more generally about what Orange means to the culture, which I know you have a lot of thoughts about. So I wanted to start by talking about a scene that is not in the second season, but I think is one of the most, if maybe not the most memorable scene from maybe the whole show,
DeLaria: How do I know what we’re going to say?
Paskin: Which is the close up of Big Boo’s o-face while she’s masturbating with a contraband screwdriver. We’re starting, we’re going to hit it hard. So obviously now two seasons of the show exist, it’s sort of clear what Orange is about and it’s about showing women’s different experiences that you sort of don’t see on TV. But when that moment happens early in the show’s run, it almost felt like the crystallization, the announcement of that intense, you’re going to see people having life experiences that maybe you don’t see on TV. Did it feel like that to you?
DeLaria: OK, I jumped up and down like a little girl when Lisa Vanacore informed me what was going to happen in that episode—Lisa being one of our exc producers—for a couple of reasons. For one, like you said, I am a comic. And there isn’t a comic alive who doesn’t want to masturbate on camera for comedic effect. You know what I mean? To orgasm. I mean, let’s face it. And that’s a challenge right there for any comedian, because people are generally very squeamish about anything sexual, much less masturbation. Especially in America. We’re puritans about this stuff. So getting to do that and get it across and getting to make people laugh at it? That was—
Paskin: Well it wasn’t just laughing at it, right?
DeLaria: No, so—
Paskin: It’s sort of a dramatic moment as well.
DeLaria: Um, yeah, I’m hoping the comedy played more than the drama, cause that’s what I was shooting for. But I love that. But then, let’s just talk—how often do you see a fat chick get to be sexual in any way shape or form? And that’s something—like a lot of the issues they embrace in this show—that they’ve really embraced. I mean, that Big Boo is sexy, that she has a lot of girlfriends, that you literally see her masturbate on camera. That’s the sort of thing that’s usually reserved for what society would call the more “attractive” woman. Because they certainly don’t think of me as attractive, or Boo as attractive.
Paskin: That’s one of the interesting things about TV now, is that there sort of actually is a larger number every week of lesbians on TV. Not only on the leading roles like on The Fosters or The Good Wife, but also on these sort of supporting—
DeLaria: The Fosters? What?... I’m joking, I’m joking.
Paskin: Oh, I was like do you really not watch television?
DeLaria: I was joking, I’m obsessed with television.
Paskin: Obviously most of these characters and most of these women are pin-up models or they’re very, very attractive in sort of a stereotypical way. There’s been this advance in how much gay people are seen on TV, but there’s not that many homosexual men, because I think that is also threatening. And there’s not women who don’t look a certain way.
DeLaria: Well, if you’re talking about historically what’s happened to lesbians on television, if we’re going to have that conversation, historically whenever lesbians are brought in for anything on television, it’s always gorgeous girls that straight men want to see them get it on. That’s what it’s about: their fantasy. It’s not the reality of who we are, and that’s been every show.
That’s been every show, let’s face it. Even The L Word, that was what that show was. And the share of television it was getting, there aren’t that many lesbians on the planet. It wasn’t lesbians watching The L Word. It’s that simple. And I don’t mean to make The L Word the Patzy, I’m just saying, this is the way it’s been for us. So along come Jenji Kohan, Jenji has always sort of flown in the face of what Hollywood thinks is great, from the beginning.
And I think a lot of that is probably because she comes from Hollywood royalty. I mean, her father is such a huge producer/writer. I mean, she’s smart and she’s funny as hell—one of the funniest people I know, and not threatened and no fucks given, right? With Jenji.
So she comes in and says this is an interesting story, and what makes it more interesting than just the story itself that sort of fish out of water story, is here’s all these lives of these women that you never see. You never see these people in television, in film, in anything! But they’re right there on the page in this book, let’s bring those people to life and run with it. And man does she run with it. So we’re lucky, I think.
Paskin: I’m going to make you tell the story about you getting cast. But before I do that, I want to ask you, was there a moment when you were like “Oh, this is THAT show?” or—
DeLaria: No, because the reality of these kinds of shows is you don’t get the whole script until you’re in the show. So I had auditioned two times so I’d seen the things that I was reading and I remember at the time I was reading them going, “This show is fucking funny. Because this is going to be a funny show, I’ve got to be on this fucking show.” I mean, I never wanted a show more than I wanted this show.
We knew, though, when we started shooting the pilot, when we were in there, we saw what was going on. I’d love to tell the story about at one point, it was during the second episode, I came in to what we call video village, so that’s where all the technical people sit around and watch what you’re shooting and the script supervisor, Erin [Feeley], whom we love, will go “all right, that’s and, not the” like make sure you say the words right.
You picked that script that was really funny, that screwdriver scene, a couple of times we had to re-film it because I was not bringing the screwdriver out the same way, I mean, it’s just really hilarious.
DeLaria: Continuity, all that stuff. But I walked over to video village and literally every person sitting in video village was a lesbian. Literally. There are a lot of lesbians, yes, I wouldn’t say—no, that’s not true—yes, there are more lesbians than I have ever seen before in my life in any television show. It’s fucking insane. But they’re also more women, and because there are more women, I think there are more lesbians—do you know what I mean? I think, yeah, there are way less men on the crew than I’ve ever seen before.
I watch it and it was just everybody: the Netflix representatives, producers, directors, there were writers; we were all lesbians. And I just looked at it and said, “This set’s a fucking dyke bar, all we need is a pool table and a DJ spinning ‘We Are Family’, right?” And the whole place burst out laughing. I love to tell that story, so it’s like of course we have really great and interesting positive images of lesbians: they’re right there.
Paskin: So tell me the story about getting cast on the show.
DeLaria: I’ll even expand on it a little bit since we’ve got time; it’s a podcast and all. I was in Canada. I had just broken up a 10-year relationship. I didn’t break it up, she broke up with me, so I was in a fucking mess of a state. I was staying with some friends in Canada who live on the lake, so it was that kind of pretty scenery, live by the lake and curl up in a fetal position and weep for hours and hours and hours and think about committing suicide but don’t actually do it.
So that’s where I was, and my manager was like trying to get me out of it, and he was like “There’s a new show coming down the pike, and they really want you do to do this.” And I said, “No, I’m not coming to New York.” “All right, put yourself on film and send it down.” So I put myself on film and I read for the part that Cathy Curtin has—
Paskin: The correctional officer.
DeLaria: The correctional officer, yeah.
Paskin: You would have been a really intimidating correctional officer.
DeLaria: Yeah, but I’m so more a prisoner.
Paskin: It’s true, it’s true. I know what you mean.
DeLaria: I’m fine being a correctional officer, why not? And it’s not like it’s the first time I’ve played a police officer—as you know, my entire career in Hollywood has been police officers, P.E. teachers and police lieutenants. My Hollywood niche. Oh, and inappropriately hitting on every straight girl at every function. That would be the other niche that I had.
Paskin: Do you ever stop wanting to play those parts?
DeLaria: I stopped. Oh, I literally stopped. I think the last time I did that was Friends. I mean, I did it so many times, I think Friends was the last time I did it. And then I said to my agents “No more.” But up until that time, for easily seven years, in my Hollywood career, that’s all I did. And sometimes police lieutenants were interesting, for instance I was in Matlock for two seasons. That was interesting.
Paskin: We could talk about every show you’ve ever been on.
DeLaria: Sure, let’s do that!
Paskin: So you’re in the fetal position in Canada…
DeLaria: Right, and then I do this part. It was funny. It was funny. And they loved me. They wanted to see me again, and they wanted to see me in the prison. They just were thinking not a correctional officer. So they had me read for the part that’s played by Lin Tucci, Anita DeMarco is the older woman who has the heart attack, she’s like “I don’t like to dwell.” Remember that one?
Paskin: The one that was kind of in the first room, whenever you come to prison, she comes to greet you.
DeLaria: Yeah, yeah, yeah, she greets you, she showed her around, she did this whole thing. It was an awesome part. I was like this is a great role. So just sat down and went for it. And Jen Euston, who has been nominated for an Emmy,
Paskin: And is a great casting director.
DeLaria: And has been nominated for an Emmy for this show and well-deserved. She’s a great casting director. I was reading with her and she was like, “Lea, you’re exactly what we’re looking for,” you know, doing that thing, “This is exactly what they want, oh my god this is so good.” And I felt good, I’ve been doing this a long time, you just said it, three decades, and you can always tell when you’ve done a good one and a bad one. Every one of us will tell you that. I knew I had done a really good audition, so I was really happy.
So I go to my manager’s office, and he’s on the phone with Jen. And it doesn’t sound good. It’s not good at all. I can hear him going, “ I see, I see.” And “I see” is not good, it’s never good. And I’m sitting across from him, and he’s holding up his hand and he hangs up the phone. And he goes, “They love you.” That’s never a good sign. First they go “They love you,” then there is a but. “They love you, but”you don’t look old enough to play this part,” which is very funny because I think Lin Tucci is a couple years younger than me, but I have great genes! I have great genes. I have nice genes.
Anyway, he’s like “but they really want you, they swear they’re going to find something for you.” Now, I—again, any actor listening to me just burst out laughing, because you hear that fucking sentence all the time. You hear it all the time—
Paskin: And it’s never true.
DeLaria: Oh, I’m still waiting for the part they were writing for me in Law & Order, which has been off the air for five years, right? So and that was kind of it. And what had happened was I had been having kind of a spate of really good auditions but not getting the part.
And it should have been parts that really should have gone to me, but it always went to the pretty girl instead. It was like what does a 22-year-old gorgeous blonde with huge tits know about that kind of evil, evil sarcasm? I mean, what reason does she have for that evil, angry? And they would always go with that person.
Paskin: You were like “I know about evil!”
DeLaria: I know about evil. I know where the darkness comes from! You know, that kind of dry, sarcastic humor. And I just had it. I couldn’t believe it, honestly. I just couldn’t believe it. And I screamed at him “If they’re making a television show that takes place in a fucking women’s prison and there isn’t a part for me, then I quit! I fucking quit! I’m done.”
I lived in England at the time, I lived in London, and I put myself a NY-Lon, I was a New York-Londoner. And I said “That’s it, I quit. I’m going to Europe, I’m going to do stand up and sing,” because I had a great career doing that there and “fuck acting, I’m never acting again. If someone wants to go a call me ‘We’re going to give you a part’ I’ll take it, I’ll fly back for that, but I’m through.” I packed up all my stuff, I flew to London, I was done.
Then when I got off the plane, I got to my place in London, and the phone just message, message, message, message from Jeremy, “OK, now you’ve had your little hissy fit, now you have to come back because they actually did write a part for you.”
Paskin: It happens every so often. It happened the one time.
DeLaria: It, you know, I had heard that it happens, but I never thought it would happen for me. And it did. It did. Again, well of course I have to call Jenji a genius for that alone. But they took this part that was supposed to be a smaller part and expanded it big time. And just kept bringing me back.
Paskin: You’ve talked about how because they kind of wrote the part for you, so much of you is Big Boo.
DeLaria: So much.
Paskin: Obviously you don’t seem like a particularly embarrass-able person, is there any time when you’re just like “Oof?”
DeLaria: I have to say that the dog thing, when I first read it, I thought this better be done right or we’re going to fuck up. You know what I mean? There were a couple of moments, but that was one of the biggest moments where I knew I was going to trust my director, Michael Trim, whom I trust more than, I love Mickey Trim, he’s a great director. I trust him, trust the editors, really trust Lauren Morelli, who wrote that episode, and that all of us can come together, collaborate, and get it done right. And I feel like we did. Right?
DeLaria: I have not received one “I’m offended by that” thing. In fact, it’s all been the opposite “That was hilarious.” I can’t tell you the #peanutbutter and #itgotweird I had sent my way, and it was one of the first like, those little memes that came up, boom.
Paskin: So do you watch the show beforehand? How do you watch it?
DeLaria: No, we don’t get to watch it beforehand?
Paskin: So how do you watch?
DeLaria: We watch it at the same time y'all watch it. Well, they’ll do the premiere with the big television red carpet, which is insane by the way. I’ve never seen a television show get that kind of premiere. It was crazy. [Jason] Biggs and I, we kind of spent a lot of time on the carpet together, because we kind of came in at the same time, and we’re going “Look at this, it’s like a major motion picture.” It was, it was insane. It was an entire city block taken up with cameras.
Paskin: Did that feel awesome?
DeLaria: Oh, it felt insane. I mean, beyond awesome. It was crazy, and the fans across the street like it was the Emmys, screaming as we pulled up. It was just nutty. Nutty. So yeah, you get to see that one first. But other than that, we don’t see them until yall see them.
Paskin: So did you binge-watch them?
DeLaria: What happened for this season was my girlfriend, because I have a new girlfriend, my girlfriend invited everybody, like a group. Which I will never do again, because groups talk.
Paskin: It’s really hard to watch something with a group.
DeLaria: And I had to just go back and sort of watch a bunch of them again. So I would be like guys there is something that I’m doing that’s coming up that I really want to see how it turned out, you know what I mean? It’s weird. Because I’m sort of love/hate with my work and lots of times I really hate something I’ve done. And everyone else thinks it’s great and I’m just like “That just sucked.” In my head I’m like “That fucking sucked.”
Paskin: It is also the thing about the show, because it is so many different characters, it’s likely that there’s parts of the show you have no idea about or like you know parts of the script that you didn’t pay much attention to because they really have nothing to do with you.
DeLaria: In the first season when we were shooting, I was reading script after script after script that I stopped reading the storyline between Dascha [Polanco, who plays Daya] and Bennett, because I realized that I got so invested in it that I wanted to see it unfold before me, I wanted to see what was going to happen, do you know what I mean?
I would have done that with the Vee/Red stuff, for the second season. I would have done that but so much of what my character did was informed by what was going on with them that I couldn’t.
Paskin: I read something that you had said about Piper and you were like “Such a great character because you just want to smack her in the face.” That seems like a really authentic viewing experience.
DeLaria: Absolutely. That’s why I love in the second season how Piper’s become smart so they brought Brook in, right? Soso, sorry. So that’s the one you just want to smack, shove anything in her mouth as Nicky did, to get her to shut the fuck up. But it’s really fun to see how Piper has matured within the confines of this society that she now looks at Brook the way that everybody used to look at her. It’s sort of brilliant.
Paskin: You have talked often about one of the things that you like about Boo is that she’s really smart, and yet so often butch lesbians on TV, among other things, do not ever get to be smart. They’re exceedingly dumb.
DeLaria: Never. Beyond dumb.
Paskin: So I was just curious about the sort of Vee/Red storyline because it doesn’t seem like Boo played the most intelligently.
DeLaria: Well, the thing you’ve got to understand is that if you think about it, in all of the… shall we say confrontations—but interactions I think is better—between Boo and Red, Red’s not very nice to Boo.
Paskin: No, not at all.
DeLaria: Ever. Red has always treated Boo like a poor stepchild. And I think that was kind of the final straw for Boo when she whacked her.
Paskin: It’s totally understandable why Boo has so much resentment toward Red. But just knowing the sort of politics, the racial politics, especially of the prison, the idea that she was going to get taken in by Vee and sort of have this new family, is more naive than you would expect Boo to be.
DeLaria: Well, you know, I think that Vee lead her on. I think that Vee played her the way Vee plays people, and it’s not easy to play Boo—let’s face it—but I think that in this particular instance, this is how I informed the story as much as a person who learned acting at the improv comedy store can inform a character, the way I informed it was that she was so emotionally caught up in being pissed off at Red that she wasn’t thinking properly.
Paskin: Right, that was her priority: to get back at Red and let the chips fall where they may.
DeLaria: Cause Boo, thinking about it, knew that there was a tunnel there, she would have used it for her own purposes.
Paskin: There were a lot of people getting out of prison this season.
DeLaria: Oh yeah.
Paskin: It seemed kind of easy to get out of prison.
DeLaria: Yeah, but they weren’t getting out. First, you know, there was Yael [Stone, who plays Morello] who drove off, but she got away with it.
DeLaria: So were you surprised by that? Let me ask you a question: Did you see that coming?
Paskin: The Morello storyline? I did not, and I actually think it’s the most impressive and uncomfortable and totally amazing… I love the show but I thought that one of the things… I understand, I think it’s so humanist in it’s vision but it makes everyone look so sympathetic. You think, “I think there’re some really awful people in prison, but nobody on this show is awful,” you basically kind of love all of them.
DeLaria: Well, except for Vee.
Paskin: Vee is awful.
DeLaria: But, just desserts. Whack.
Paskin: Morello was such an interesting story, because it’s so fucked up. Like she put an explosive device under that guy’s car.
DeLaria: Yeah, crazy. But that’s not why she was in prison. Now, that’s the interesting thing.
Paskin: That is why she’s in prison.
Paskin: You think she’s in prison for mail fraud?
DeLaria: Yes, why do you think Boo said? Now, I’ll just give you a little foreshadow. Season one, episode six, that’s the one where the daggering between Boo and Crazy Eyes, it’s that big dance. We’re playing Scrabble in the beginning of that, like a made up Scrabble, that whole thing about knife and knives, right? OK, where Boo says to her, “I hope they don’t get your wedding dress off E-Bay, because that would be ironic.” Yeah.
Paskin: Oh. But then why was that guy testifying at her trial? Just character witnessing?
DeLaria: As I understand it, that trial—now, I could be wrong, and I am, Netflix zoom in and correct this, but I thought that was the restraining trial.
Paskin: Oh, right, because she had a restraining order. So she was in trouble multiple ways.
DeLaria: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Paskin: Yeah, but I thought that storyline was like heartbreaking, because she’s such a sweet, fragile person, but you had no idea how—
DeLaria: She’s insane.
DeLaria: She’s completely insane. She’s like as nutty as a fucking nut, a fruitcake nut. She’s so, she’s nuttier than the Marines, she’s nutty. She’s filled with nuts.
Paskin: I did one of these chats with Dan Savage and I sort of asked him to give advice to the characters and I sort of laid out her storyline, and he was like “What? Get away. There is no advice for that person, that’s crazy. She’s insane.”
DeLaria: And you know what’s lovely is Yael is the most charming, lovely and funny, and she’s so completely Australian, right? When I saw that scene from that episode where she’s on the phone with her sister, I had to call her, I was like “Girl, that was the most amazing scene, I mean, your acting is incredible. You’re insane, you’re fucking insane. You’re crying, you’re screaming and you’re making that funny while you’re breaking our hearts.”
I’ve known Uzo [Aduba], who plays Crazy Eyes, we did a musical together in 2010 I want to say, that was when we first met at A.R.T. called Prometheus Bound. And like Uzo has a story very similar to mine, she just was getting ready to go back to school, she didn’t feel like her career was happening, and I was like, “Give it time, give it time, give it time, give it space, give it time.” But she was going back to school and then she got this part.
And watching her, we did that movie night, you know that second episode we do the movie where I pull the corn out from my bra and salt from the other one and eat it? We were doing that and I turned because I could see the camera, and it was Uzo that was being shot, and I could see it in the screen, and Uzo, it’s my friend Uzo, and she’s laughing and talking “blah,” like that, and then the director goes, speed, and there is no way to describe the way she completely—before all of our eyes, in the monitor—became this character when she was just like “blah blah blah blah,” and it scared the shit out us. I was like Uzo, I know you’re good, but that fucking freaked me out, I don’t know if I can go out or have a beer with you anymore, that scared me to death!
What’s great about this—and again, Jen Euston, kudos—our show is like the island of misfit toys, it’s like all of these old New York actresses that we all know because we’ve been going to theatre and seeing them, maybe other people don’t know, just a lot of them. People that we admire their work and they’re on this show. And it’s kind of this old Broadway people, tons of us. And I’m one of those, so tons of us, right? And then these girls that just graduated from Juilliard.
Paskin: So many girls from Juilliard.
DeLaria: JUST graduated from Juilliard. I mean, like a minute ago. And me and Beth Fowler [Sister Ingalls] and Annie Golden [Romano] are like, “Look, it’s not going to work like this. This is not your first gig. When this show ends—and it will ens, because all shows end—when this show ends, do not expect to get your first audition and get right back in the fucking saddle. Save your money! It’s a risky business.”
Paskin: They’re having a nice experience now.
DeLaria: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
Paskin: And I’m sure they don’t believe you anyway, because.
DeLaria: I think some of them are smart enough to, do you know what I mean? Samira [Wiley, who plays Poussey] and Dani [Brooks, who plays Taystee] and some of these—
Paskin: That’s Poussey.
DeLaria: I’m sorry, Poussey and Taystee. I don’t do the character name thing, I really should.
Paskin: No, they’re real people to you.
DeLaria: Absolutely. They’re smart. And Uzo really knows. And Uzo is quite young too, she’s not older. And then of course along with all that you’ve got the veterans, you’ve got Laura Prepon [Alex Vause] in there and Taylor’s [Shilling, who plays Piper] been around and you know what I mean? It’s all very interesting.
Paskin: So June Thomas, who’s a member of our staff, has joked with me about how straight girls are obsessed with lesbians. Like, they’re obsessed with Alex and Taylor Shilling’s character.
DeLaria: Oh, you cannot forget Big Boo. They’re completely obsessed with Big Boo. I’m going to start showing you.
Paskin: Have you noticed that this is a thing?
DeLaria: Yes! Are you kidding? That’s my hashtag: I’m a Jonas Brother. #imajonasbrother. I live in Bushwick, so walking down the street last Saturday, actually going to the liquor store, which is on the corner, it’s a street. This is Wilson, which is not a minor street, OK? It’s like a major thoroughfare, a car drive up, stops in the middle of the street and this girl, who is like 19, whips her door open, the door is open and the car is stopped in the middle of the street.
And she is running out, screaming “Big Boo, please take a picture with me!” I’m like Girl, traffic behind her? And then the other traffic can’t get through because the door’s open and there is a car parked!
Paskin: And this is New York City, so everyone’s like “I’m going to lose it.”
DeLaria: Honk, honk, honk. And she doesn’t give a fuck. She wants her picture with Big Boo. It’s been like that since it dropped. It started airing last July 11. I mean that’s when I started making the joke about being a Jonas Brother. And it’s all like 10-24 year old straight girls that chase me down the street. And of course the guys do too. But it is a majority young straight women. It’s crazy. And, yes, of course they crush out on the other girls, too. But I am the poster child for Woman Crush Wednesday. It’s hilarious.
Paskin: Was that surprising to you? Like how many people, not just are into the show because the show is good and it has many people come up to you on the street and just tweak out?
DeLaria: Yeah, I mean I have been moderately famous my whole life, I’ve been moderately famous since I was like 24 years old, right? So for quite some time. And for moderately famous, I always say it was a long climb to the middle. That’s where I was. I have spent my entire life being asked for autographs and getting my picture taken. That happens to me. Not like this. Nothing like this. No, I wasn’t prepared for this. It was like crazy.
This is brand new, what Netflix is doing. This is brand new, this year. You’re a television critic, so you must understand, this is just brand spanking new, they’re writing it as they go along. This business model of theirs of dropping everything at once all over the world, so what we experience—or have been experiencing—is instantaneous fame in the digital age. And no one’s done that before. No one knows quite how to deal with that. I think we’re all playing it as it falls.
Paskin: As an actor, have you noticed since the show started, have other shows changed because of Orange?
DeLaria: I think so, I think there’s other women prison things coming down the pipe. I noticed even American Horror Story got way more female-centric in that second season.
Paskin: Because one of the things that you hope with a show like this, that shows like firstly there are all these amazing actresses that people are putting in tiny parts that obviously can rise to leading roles, and people are interested in their stories, stories that common wisdom has that nobody cared about. It’s probably too soon to say, just what you get asked to be in, is it expanding at all?
DeLaria: I think what’s changed for me is that I don’t have to audition as much. But of course, you still have to audition, there are certain people you just do. And I think more than that, people are seeing me in other roles; do you know what I mean? Because when I first came to New York and did “On The Town” on Broadway, I was playing a heterosexual girl that had to get laid yesterday. But then it was like that disappeared and that didn’t matter anymore, and then it was just lesbian, lesbian, lesbian.
Paskin: They got that idea of your in their head and then that was it.
DeLaria: Now, I think people are really interested in seeing my take on a variety of different kinds of roles. And I have to say that, to me, comes from the writing out of Orange and people have been able to see me do a variety of different things. So now they’re like, “Oh, wow, she doesn’t just have to be the hardass blah blah blah.” So that’s good.
Paskin: So you’re filming season three now, right?
Paskin: So we don’t know Boo’s back story yet. Have you thought about it, do you know what it is?
DeLaria: They tell all of us what our back stories are to help us get the characters. I mean—
Paskin: Obviously it’s a secret.
DeLaria: Yeah, no, I can’t really. That’s one of the things that I can’t reveal.
Paskin: But you do know it and it does—
DeLaria: I do know it.
Paskin: Did they tell you right at the beginning?
DeLaria: Right at the beginning.
Paskin: Oh, that’s so cool.
DeLaria: Yeah, the first day I showed up on the set I learned a lot of things, that her nickname is Big Boo because she was everybody’s boo basically. She had a lot of girlfriends.
Paskin: Was it fun to do the sex-off?
DeLaria: Oh, that was just beyond. It’s always fun to do anything with Natasha Lyonne [Nicky Nichols], first of all. I have loved her forever. I mean, Slums of Beverly Hills and before, I just think she’s an amazing actress and she’s very, very funny. She’s the one person on the planet that makes me shut up. I don’t talk, I just laugh my ass off if Natasha is anywhere around me.
Paskin: This wasn’t your scene, this was her scene we see under the shower door, the one in the pink two in the stink, that’s like come on. But when you’re filming the scene—
DeLaria: I was really, really lobbying for three in the pink, but they wouldn’t let me say three in the pink. But I was like, you know, the real lesbian… what’s three in the pink?
Paskin: They didn’t take it. They didn’t take that note.
DeLaria: No, no. But they did like the touchdown. That one was thrown in.
Paskin: With a scene like that, just logistics, choreography of it, what is going on there?
DeLaria: Oh, it’s crazy. You have no idea. They have to remove stalls, they have to remove doors, they have to shoot overhead, they have to shoot under. That one had about 20 POVs trying to get this minor five-second scene, you know what I mean?
Paskin: It was really short.
DeLaria: But really funny. But I think also that people are really interested in where it is we are going to do these sexual acts that we’re doing in prison. Because there is close-circuit TV everywhere, so where can you get away with it? Well, you can get away with it in the bathroom because they by law can’t have the cameras in there.
Paskin: I’ve actually been to set once, maybe during the first season, and it really looks like prison.
DeLaria: It’s amazing, isn’t it?
Paskin: It’s amazing. It’s in Queens, in Astoria, you walk into this huge sound stage, you walk into the set for the bathroom and the shower curtains are disgusting. Like I don’t know who put the mold on them, but they are covered in—
DeLaria: Well, you know it’s fake, it’s not real mold.
Paskin: Totally, but it looks really filthy.
DeLaria: Did you touch the bricks? Because they’re plastic. Honestly, I believe that we did not get an Emmy nomination because they thought we were filming in a prison. I really do think that. I don’t think I’m being naive thinking that. I can’t tell you how many people in the business have said to me, “So what prison do you film in?” WE FILM ON A SOUND STAGE. IT’S A SET. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? WHAT PRISON? Oh my god. San Quentin, we’re in San Quentin.
Paskin: Well, you film—
DeLaria: They just move the men over.
Paskin: Well, you film the outside scenes somewhere, right?
DeLaria: Yeah, in Rockland County, as I understand it, Psychiatric Ward for teenage boys. It has creepy energy, certain areas of that, and I’m not that lesbian, I’m not like “Let’s burn sage,” I’m not that lesbian, but honestly, yeah. I’m not sure what we need to do, but there’s a couple of corners that you go and you go, “I’m getting out of this corner, because I don’t know what that energy is, but it’s creepy.”
Paskin: You’re in prison all day. Is it ever claustrophobic?
DeLaria: Well, no, because the walls are open, because it’s a sound stage, you know what I mean? But I imagine if the walls were closed. I’ve had people say to me “How can you work, it’s so dirty?” I was like, “It’s fake, it’s a set.”
Paskin: How many people have asked you to sign screwdrivers?
DeLaria: Honestly, I haven’t kept track. I jokingly said at one point 44, I think it was at the Paley Festival, because someone was like “How many?” But yeah, too many to count.
Paskin: Too many to count. Thank you so much, this was so fun. I had a great time.
DeLaria: Oh, Willa, thank you. I had a blast.
Paskin: All right, thanks guys for listening.