Women » Features

Nobody's Prison Bitch: A Spoiler-Filled Conversation with Lea DeLaria

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Thursday Jul 24, 2014

Season Two of the hit Netflix series "Orange is the New Black" was offered in its glorious entirety on June 6, and by now, most fans have devoured all 13 episodes. "Weeds" creator Jenji Kohan has outdone herself again, with the addictive tale of fresh-faced blonde Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) -- sent to prison for a crime she committed a decade ago -- and the ladies she's in lockup with.

Broadway's favorite lesbian, Lea DeLaria, is winning in the role of Carrie "Big Boo" Black. DeLaria is also notable for being the first comedian to come out as gay on network television, in 1993 on "The Arsenio Hall Show," as well as for her hilarious role in "The First Wives Club" and as the host of Comedy Central's"Out There," the first all-gay stand-up special. She has put her comedy tours, jazz albums and Broadway belting on hold as the show continues.

EDGE chatted with DeLaria while she was filming Season Three of OITNB about this season's bad seeds, bad blood and a new cast member who is a real badass.

EDGE: Season Two of OITNB is bad to the bone. How does it feel to be a part of such a successful new series in this new all-at-once format started by Netflix?

DeLaria: I think you are hitting the nail on the head when you talk about them airing all 13 episodes at the same time, because that's one of the main reasons the show is as successful as it is. It's as important as how great the show is, how Jenji and the actors are so amazing -- all this adds up to a huge success of a show. It's fucking awesome.

EDGE: Season Two finds a new bad element coming into Litchfield Prison. Tell us a little about the dynamic that Vee Parker creates.

DeLaria: Vee is one of the reasons that Season 2 is a little darker -- OK, the main reason. I'm not in the mind of Jenji Kohan, I simply say the words I'm given to say, but honestly that's what gave this season a darker tone. I can't tell you that this makes it better than last season, but by now, that's a standard - even critics are saying it. And I didn't think anything could be better than last season.

EDGE: Boo gets wrapped up with Vee and betrays her prison family by selling Red out. What would make Boo be so bad?

DeLaria: Do you really not see how Red treats Boo, like a poor stepchild? From their first interaction in Season One, Boo sees Red giving away yogurts to her girls and asks, "Aren't you going to give me a yogurt; why do I not get one?" Red is always giving Boo shit, and once it hits her, that's the end of it for Boo. When you say it's out of character, I find that interesting, because we talk a lot about the bad, dark side of Boo, but you never see it. This surfaces in the second season, but she has redeemed herself by the end.

EDGE: Which character do you think is bad to the bone?

DeLaria: biggest badass is Miss Rosa. That backstory and the girl who played her was so hot -- fuck! She was robbing banks; she was the shit. And with Vee, Rosa just goes, "I hate her, she's so rude," and -- bam! -- kills her with a van. She's dying of cancer and she's still a total badass.

EDGE: Who's your favorite new character?

DeLaria: My favorite new character is Jimmy, whom we see leave this season. She's one of the old crazy girls, and whenever she opened her mouth she was saying something hilarious. Then she got you with her leaving at the end. I actually wept when we were shooting the scene where they took her away. I knew it was coming, and I still wept. You get emotionally invested in that character. Of all the new characters, Jimmy's my favorite.

EDGE: Who do you think is the baddest bitch in Season Two?

DeLaria: Obviously Vee, but I really would like to see Boo and Crazy Eyes in a match-up. We sort of got that with Season One, when Crazy Eyes was so crazy even Boo was afraid of her. But if it came down to a fight, I would like to see who would win.

EDGE: Boo and Nicky hold a contest to see how much prison ass they can tap. Is that bad or just funny? In our last interview you told us a bit about some of the hijinks you had with co-star Natasha Lyonne. Can you share a story of something that happened while taping Season Two?

DeLaria: It's really hard to pick even one story between the two of us, because, honestly, whenever we are working together there is a lot of comedy. During the bang-off, all we did was try and make each other laugh by ad-libbing, saying horrible shit with the camera running, to see if you could make the other guy break. We're both hard as stone, and we won't break. There are quite a few things said between the two of us that weren't in the script. That's basically how it is with me and Lyonne. Oh, the stories I could tell about what happens every time we do a scene together!

EDGE: What was your favorite scene to shoot?

DeLaria: My favorite to shoot was the scene between Pennsatucky and Boo about the lesbian agenda. Taryn [Manning] and I are good friends; we spend time off set, do Sunday brunch, so getting to work with her is great. The funniest scene to shoot was the scene with the peanut butter and the dog, when Boo goes, "It got weird." It's the funniest of all the lines in Season Two. The next one is "clitterference." I laughed so hard! Sometimes I think the writers sit around thinking of the most twisted things, and then give me the craziest shit to do. Just call me "anything for a laugh DeLaria."

EDGE: What's the worst crime you ever committed -- and being a triple threat doesn't count...

DeLaria: I did tons of civil disobedience and protests; it came with the territory, being heavily involved with ACT UP. In San Francisco when they reinstated the draft in early '80s, we did a huge spray painting on the 101 viaduct that read: "No draft no war, U.S. out of El Salvador." I was always involved in stuff like that: protests, rallies, arrests. Any time I've ever been arrested, it's always been because of some queer-related protest.

EDGE: Pornstache is back this season, briefly. Is he the same old bad guy, or does his love for Diaz and her baby make him less bad?

DeLaria: They showed a softer side of him. I think they're trying to play him for comedy, although I'm not sure. Whether or not it makes him a nice guy is in the eyes of the beholder. For me, I see only the meanness of him. Having said that, I have to say what an incredible actor Pablo Schreiber is. He's one of the nicest guys I've ever met, and plays some of the scariest motherfuckers I've ever seen -- serial killers and the like. God, he has some funny lines. And he's the same way I am: a real ad-libber and very fast, curious and funny. He cracks us up on the soundstage every time.

EDGE: Your co-star Laverne Cox just became the first transwoman on the cover of Time magazine after people complained she was unjustly left off of their 100 Most Influential People list. How badass is that?

DeLaria: Honey, I cannot tell you how excited every single person on our set is about this happening for Laverne. The cover of Time magazine? You should have seen my fucking face! Laverne and I are the cast queers -- she's not gay, but certainly queer and part of our community. I feel a lot of strength around that, and we feel a lot of kinship as queers on the set and on the show.

I'm very proud of her -- from her interview with Katie Couric, to the cover of Time, to her Critics' Choice nomination. I can't tell you what a fabulous year she's having, and it's so well deserved. What she's doing for the queer and trans community is phenomenal. She is standing on the shoulders of giants but is well aware of the people who came before, who helped her get where she is, and I love that modesty about her. She's a badass though!

EDGE: Is Assistant Warden Figueroa bad? Do you think Jenji Cohen is making a statement about the modern prison industrial complex with this embezzling subplot?

DeLaria: Yes. I think Jenji's doing that with the whole show. A major part of what's interesting about the show is how even the people in charge are criminals. I think she's making a very interesting statement about who's the criminal with this. I'll always remember early in the series when Fisher talked to Piper about how they knew each other in the past, how she used to pack bags at the grocery store Piper shopped at. She told Piper, "I've made bad choices too; the only difference is I wasn't caught."

EDGE: At the end of Season Two, Piper is plotting to get her ex, Alex Vause, back in the clink with her, so she doesn't lose her forever. Do you think Alex is a bad seed when it comes to Piper? Did you ever date a woman who dragged you down a bad path like this?

DeLaria: Hell yes! When it comes to Piper and Alex, those two play each other equally. They are obvious poison for each other and can't keep away. Let's be real about what Piper did, because come on, how many times does Alex need to fuck Piper over? Sure, she's the poor little rich girl, but from the very first time she and Alex had sex she was lying to Piper and had a girlfriend. Have I ever had this? I'm 56 years old, I've had a lot of girlfriends and plenty of them have gotten me in trouble. But I find it very easy to get in trouble when it comes to women.

EDGE: At the end of the Season 2, Vee is gone and it looks like Litchfield will go back to how it was. Do you think that the bad blood between the prison groups is over?

DeLaria: That, I'm not allowed to tell you because it's a spoiler for Season Three, which we are currently shooting. But I can tell you without letting the cat out of the bag that Mary Steenburgen is coming to the show. I am excited beyond belief about this; I am totally losing my mind over it. I have no idea in what capacity she's joining the cast. But I hope she's Boo's prison wife!

Seasons One and Two of Orange is the New Black are now available to stream on Netflix.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook