Laura Prepon: "I absolutely love playing Alex - she’s a badass"
The Orange Is The New Black star talks exclusively to DIVA about playing Alex Vause, embracing diversity and making meaningful work
Orange Is The New Black
To celebrate the launch of the brand new Sony Crime Channel, we caught up with the amazing Laura Prepon, aka Alex Vause from Orange Is The New Black.
DIVA: Season Two of Orange Is The New Black recently premiered on Sony Channel in the UK. What do you remember from that time on the show?
LAURA PREPON: How exciting to be able to see Season Two with fresh eyes. That’s really great. I love the feeling that people have got so many cool storylines to come. I’m excited for them. What do I remember about Season Two? I remember reading those scripts and loving the storyline. There were a lot of courtroom scenes and there was a lot of confusion about whether or not Alex was going to tell the truth or not. It was a great season.
What was life like on set back then?
Back then, I feel like audiences were slowly starting to find out about Orange Is The New Black. The first season had come out and people were talking about it. It was something new and different, and a little dangerous. It was bold. I was a recurring character in Season Two because there was a scheduling issue, but I loved being on set. I always love being on set. However, I remember the show really taking off after Season Three. At that point, literally everybody was talking about it. You couldn’t walk down the street without someone stopping you to talk about it.
Are you grateful for the fan reaction to the show?
Absolutely. When you are shooting a show, you can only hope that people are going to love it as much as you do. When the fan response to Orange Is The New Black came through and it was overwhelmingly amazing, it was lovely to know that people knew how special we thought it was. That feeling was awesome.
Why is Orange Is The New Black so popular?
I think people love the show because it touches on so many different topics and so many different types of women. It covers people of different race, colour, creed, shape and size… Everything, and it’s all celebrated. I feel like we really push the envelope and a lot of other shows are jumping on the ship now, but there was nothing like us on television when we first came out.
How different was the television landscape when the show first started?
There was nothing like Orange Is The New Black on television. [The show’s creator] Jenji Kohan is a wonderful writer and she really pushed the envelope. She put together
an amazing group of actors and writers. We went to work and people responded very well to it. It’s been amazing.
How much do you enjoy the role of Alex Vause?
I absolutely love playing Alex. She’s a badass. She’s a very cool character. I’m very blessed to have this job on this show. When you’ve been playing a character for a long time, it’s great because the character starts to become a glove that you fit into perfectly. I couldn’t be happier.
The storylines of Orange Is The New Black often reflect current social issues, such as Black Lives Matter and social injustice. What does that add to the show?
Because the show is so popular, and because we take up issues that are relevant and are things happening now, I think we manage to raise awareness in these areas. I don’t think that was Jenji’s goal when she started the show. She didn’t want to write an exposé of the prison system or anything like that, but I think that’s a side effect of having a show like this.
How much has the world changed since Orange Is The New Black first premiered?
It’s changed a lot, but I think it’s great that we raise issues on the show and we highlight what’s going on in the world. The same-sex marriage law [in the USA] was passed while we were shooting the show. Some people say, “Oh, is that because you guys brought so much attention to same-sex orientation?” I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s interesting to be on a job where we touch on so many culturally currently issues. It’s amazing to be part of that. You’re not just an actor for hire doing her job; you feel like you’re speaking to something more than that.
Do you enjoy portraying the real world in the show?
Absolutely. The reason I do what I do is to communicate. This is an art form. You’re communicating your ideas and portraying different characters, and it’s nice when it can affect people in this way. It’s great to speak about things that are going on in the world.
Audiences have praised the fact that there isn’t a hard line between good and bad at Litchfield Penitentiary; these characters live in the grey of the world. What do you feel about that?
One year, one of our taglines was, “Every sentence has a story”. That referred to the fact that every inmate has their sentence, but they are not all the same. They are not all just terrible people. People are in prison for many different reasons. Alex ran an international drug ring and got caught – but a character like Taystee [played by Danielle Brooks] is someone who got out and couldn’t really function in the real world. Taystee wanted to get back into prison where her friends were; where she knew the rules and she knew how to survive. A character like Yoga Jones [played by Constance Shulman] made a terrible, horrible mistake. She ended up hurting a child, which she thought was a deer in her backyard. Then there are women in there who should be in prison, because they shouldn’t be walking around in society.
It’s a very varied world behind the prison walls…
Exactly. But you can’t say that all people who are incarcerated are terrible, because there are many different reasons behind a prison sentence. Not everything is black and white. There are shades of grey, and we tell those stories. I think it’s really great that we do that because nobody is perfect. I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect. Nobody is perfect. That’s what’s so great about watching characters that are flawed, because it’s something we can all relate to. It’s fascinating and it’s very true to life. I love it.
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