Orange Is The New Black premiered its second season June 6th, exclusively on Netflix. If you’re caught up and have watched all the episodes, then you’re in for a great treat. We spoke to the very talented Kate Mulgrew and Lorraine Toussaint at the Crosby Hotel in New York City.
The actresses, who play Vee and Red, gave us the 411 on all your favorite moments from Season 2. Is Vee’s fate set in stone? How did Kate come up with Red’s accent? What was it like on set the day of their big fight scenes? Check out all that and much more below!
GlobalGrind: If Vee and Red were to meet out of prison and interact, how do you think their interaction would go?
Kate Mulgrew: It would go well. As it did initially inside of prison. That’s why it evolved into what it was. It was an immediate attraction. Psychopaths are charming people. Charismatic. And Red is not without her own.
You don’t think there would be much of a rivalry?
Lorraine Toussaint: I think there would be for Vee. I think that is the nature of this character. If there were a reason to compete, if there were a reason to dominate, she would. And if there weren’t she would create one, because it’s important to her. That’s an important aspect of it. I think she needs that to thrive. She thrives on conflict and so whether the situation inside or outside, that’s her nature. That’s the great fable about the scorpion and the frog. She’s the scorpion.
How fun was it for you, Lorraine, going through all of those emotions? Your character Vee is so manipulative. She cries one scene, she’s angry, she gets into fights. So you do everything, whereas some of the other characters just have one mood. So how fun was that for you?
LT: That was fun! That was fun because it’s kind of quixotic. Once I realized that part of her magic is how quickly I can change directions, how quickly I can flip it, and what that does to her internally- what that feels like. It’s a real charge, to flip the script, and the effect it creates is part of it, and as an actor, once I realize, ‘Oh that’s interesting, let’s try that.’ There’s an enormous freedom in that. Often times I didn’t know what I was going to do. Most of it happened in the moment. I would prepare as little as possible and go in and play as much as possible. And that is fun as an actor. Often times I’d get out of my seat and go, ‘Oh, that was interesting, I didn’t see that coming. I liked that! Let’s do more of that!’
What she does is actually notices and intrudes upon that relationship between Poussey and Taystee, and completely turns it to her advantage and completely decimates everything that was built up in the first season and any kind of tenderness. It was interesting that she had that kind of instinct that she would disrupt somebody’s friendship and possible relationship that way.
LT: I don’t think she was looking at it from that point of view. One, this character is a survivor and meets her needs, first and foremost. And my needs for Taystee overrode everything else. And I think to the capacity that this character can love, and I do think it speaks to capacity. I certainly have a great affection for Red, believe it or not. And as much as she can love, she loves Taystee. I think it’s interesting that she doesn’t actually destroy the last and only thing that she does relatively love. She leaves instead, which is something. But no, she’s jealous. She’s jealous among other things. It’s not that complicated with that relationship. She’s jealous. And I have the power to destroy. And so what do we do when were afraid of loss and have the power to eliminate it and are wired that way? I eliminate it.
You guys have two major conflicts in this. What was it like the day you go in this shoot? You know you’re going to be getting really physical with each other. What was that day like before the scene starts? What goes through your mind before you get ready to do a scene like that?
KM: Excitement. It’s fun.
KM: I’m prepared. I’m ready. I want to do it. I know that I am in good hands with her.
LT: And technically we went through it a great deal. I wanted every moment choreographed. I wanted nothing left to chance. Kate walked away and I gruelingly drilled it with the fight because my comfort zone was in making sure that I could act it knowing that we would both be safe. No matter what! So I need the form to facilitate the freedom in it.
Do you feel that the show then plays with our preconceptions of old women, essentially?
KM: No, I don’t think it plays. These women are in prison. So you have to know that they are capable of doing bad stuff. But they are also capable of survival on many different levels. In Red’s case, I like to think it’s on a high level. A level of excellence. I’m strategic. And I get them together, and I figure it out about the greenhouse. So it’s full of surprises: the allegiance, the passion behind the allegiance, the madness, the loneliness, the loss of Jimmy. I mean Jenji (Kohan, the creator) doesn’t take just one thing, she says, ‘We’re gonna make this one mad, so you’re gonna love her. And then she’s gonna wander away and we’re gonna find out how bad the prison is.’ As far as Red is concerned, it’s about absolute survival with my integrity and tact. My idea of my integrity and tact. And that’s what Season 2 was for me.
Has Vee’s fate been decided?
I don’t know. That’s an interesting question that I actually meant to ask before we did this interview. It’s to be decided. She’s dead!
Is she, though? Because I just feel that this season was heavy on Vee and I loved it. And I literally hated Vee come the end of it, which is great, and I want more.
LT: I think she burns so hot and so fast. I wouldn’t know where to go with this character, but then again, I’m not Jenji Kohan, I don’t know. But certainly a lot of the fans are not wanting her dead. It’s interesting. Love her, hate her, hate that you love her.
KM: It’s all a tribute to the way you played her, Lorraine. It’s a powerful performance. I mean, psychopathy is fascinating. There’s a lot of it in prison, but I think it’s exemplified in this character, and there is nothing more charismatic than a psychopath on the loose. Especially pared against somebody who’s very strong and then young girls, who are so vulnerable. It’s captivating and frightening.
Did you research your character, Kate?
KM: No, I didn’t. First of all, they gave me one page. People have forgotten that the audition was just a tiny page, and at the top of the page it read, ‘Just a hint of Russian accent, she’s been in America since she was two.’ And that’s not at all what came into my imagination. A world peasant came into my mind. This peasant had been through it, and that’s what I gave it. And she liked it. But I knew they wanted a real Russian actress to play it, and it’s hard to find somebody who can go. So Jenji, she just said OK, because she could see that it was a good fit. Sometimes you just have to take that leap. It doesn’t look like a normal fit, does it? But it was a good one. Love is an odd thing, but it happens in acting.
Can you talk about your love for Red?
KM: I’d be happy to talk about it, because it’s genuine and it’s the great joy of my life. I’m 59 years old and to find a part like this is an incredible thing. You just don’t think you’re going to get it again. I’ve had it four times in my career. But at this point to find it so richly drawn, don’t ever forget it springs from the pen of Jenji Kohan. It’s nothing if it’s not on the page. And it’s so gorgeously on the page. She just understands, and I get it. I go back to romance – you get the chemistry. I get it, I know how to kiss you. I know how to get her. I know how to take her in and Jenji then can work it! And it’s a marvelous thing of luck, chemistry, skill sets coming together at a time in life, and a feuding of liberation.
What is it like being on the Netflix model? The Netflix model of television is so groundbreaking.
KM: It’s exciting! Very exciting. We’re riding the wave, aren’t we? Everybody says it’s the Wild West of television. That’s what it feels like too. They’re making up the rules as they go along.
LT: But they’ve done something amazing. They’ve tapped into a sort of primal drive in the human spirit: Obsession. They’ve tapped and hooked you into it and that’s powerful. As human beings that’s how we learn, that’s how we love, that’s how we survive. That element of obsession.
KM: So Netflix was right on the money. They understand the psychology of the viewer.
PHOTO CREDIT: Netflix