The only thing that could land the stars of women-in-prison sensation "Orange Is the New Black" in jail with their bosses is to spill the hotly guarded secrets of its third season, now streaming on Netflix.
But just like the ladies inside Litchfield Penitentiary, actresses Laverne Cox (transgender inmate Sophia Burset) and Selenis Leyva (head cook and Santeria practitioner Gloria Mendoz) are willing to bend the rules a bit, as they joined the press to offer a peek behind the bars of season three.
On what little they can say about their characters' interaction:
Selenis Leyva: Conflict! Sophia and Gloria are going to have an interesting journey in season three. I’m really excited about it -- and a little scared because I think that we really go to a dark place.
Laverne Cox: I’m scared too! I think there’s going to be people that take sides. Will they hate us? Yeah. I wonder that too.
Leyva: I think so. But I’m really excited about where we went acting-wise and the stories and all that stuff. It was really great.
Cox: We had a really great time. And it was a pleasure.
On the new season's overall theme of faith:
Leyva: I love that they focus on that this season with all of us in a different way. We touched on it with Gloria in season two: you got to see her coming into the Santeria and showing her faith. I think we all hold on to something -- we all have to hold onto something, and if you’re behind bars, then you really do. And I love the exploration of that.
Cox: What’s interesting to me too, is you can hold onto faith, but you can also hold onto resentments. You can hold onto anger. You can hold onto revenge plots. There’s so many things that one can hold onto. If that’s all you have, then you’re going to hold onto it with all you’ve got.
Leyva: For the sake of survival, I think it’s the sake of survival. I love the idea of holding onto faith. And every single woman you will see somehow dealing with it in a beautiful way.
On making bold storytelling choices:
Leyva: I think we always do -- every season, we do. The good thing about season three is that it’s doing the same thing that we started: we’re sticking true to the original plan, which is to tell compelling stories in a truthful manner and respectful way. And also, we go for it. We really do go for it. Some of the stories that we are dealing with this season I’m really excited about.
Cox: Were you scared at all? Because I was scared.
Leyva: I was. Every time I got a script, I was like, "Really? Like, you’re going to take me there?" And I love that.
Cox: I think as an artist, you want to be scared. And it constantly scares us, which is good.
On the new inmate Stella Carlin, played by Australian actress and model Ruby Rose, who stirs things up between Piper and the re-incarcerated Alex:
Cox: I can say personally that I got to hang out with her a few times, and she’s lovely and sweet and funny and beautiful. Like, stunning. She’s like a stunning girl, not to objectify her or reduce her to that. But it’s very obvious -- like, "Wow! You’re a talented actress -- but whoa, girl!"
Leyva: Literally, like "What is he doing here? What’s going on? You’re going to start bringing models into the prison?" She’s bringing some real nice caliente moments, yes.
On Sophia's evolving relationship with her son Michael:
Cox: Ah, God, it’s so complicated, their relationship. She just wants to be there for him in any way that he needs her, and if he’ll take advice from her, she’s going to give it. There’s a desperation, for me, that is really real -- a desperate need to connect with him to be there as a mother, as a father, whatever you need. And it’s really complicated. I think that conversation that she has with Michael [in the season opener] sets off the events for Sophia for the rest of the season, now thinking back on it, in a really brilliant way. Stuff goes down in like a really intense way. It’s interesting because the first season she sort of lost control a little bit with the threat of losing her hormones. I think now the threat is losing her son.
On the typical mood on set during a full day of shooting:
Cox: If there’s cafeteria scenes, we all have to kind of get loose because those are really long days. It depends on what we’re shooting, but I think we’re all like, "OK, she’s got something intense today. We’re going to leave her alone." And then if it’s a little more fun...
Leyva: In the hallway with all the dressing rooms, that famous hallway, we are always sitting on the floor outside talking. There’s a lot going on: there’s music, there’s singing, there’s dancing -- we have a really good time. Then, when we go into that sound stage, that’s when everybody knows it’s like, "OK, it’s on. Today is on." Laverne and I did a scene this past season that was so difficult, so incredibly difficult that I kept checking in with her, and we would look at each other and be like, "You good?" "Good, I’m good." And at the end of the day I'd text her, and I was like, "Are you OK?" She’s like, "Yeah." We had to check in because we were able to go there.
Cox: Every time you say that I start getting [emotional]…
Leyva: Yeah, because you go back. That was a hard day. I was exhausted...[But] It’s such a fun environment too. It really is. I don’t want to sound like I’m BS-ing, but it really is a fun place to go to. It could be 4 o’clock in the morning and I’ll step on to that stage, and I’m like "Yay!" It’s just fun.
On the unique nature of the show, given its large female-centric cast:
Cox: There are a lot of women on the crew, too.
Leyva: Yeah, but with the crew involved, I’d say we’re pretty even. There’s a lot of men. Thank goodness….It is unusual, and it is special. We’re so funny because if a guy comes to set, we’re like, oh there’s a man on set! Do you smell that? So it is very different in that sense. We get very excited. We’re like, did you see the new guest star?
Cox: We have some hot men guesting on our show!
Leyva: Yes, we do, so that’s always fun. We’re like, "So who’s going to play my boyfriend?"
Season three of "Orange is the New Black" is now available on Netflix.