Life in lockup is about to test the faith of many of your favorite inmates on the Netflix original series "Orange Is the New Black." That goes double for the increasingly less self-defeating Taystee (Danielle Brooks) and the allegiance-shifting Big Boo (Lea DeLaria).
The actresses behind those two fan favorite characters admit they've been sworn to secrecy about how the third season of the Netflix sensation will shake down when it premieres Friday, June 12, but they risked a stint in showbiz solitary to offer some clues about what's in store for Taystee and Boo, along with revealing their own off-screen experiences with prison life and prison-themed entertainment.
On what's ahead for their characters:
Danielle Brooks: I feel like Season Three for a Taystee is another whirlwind of change. She keeps growing every season, and she dealt a lot with Vee last season. And this season, we're figuring out how she's dealing with Vee being there -- or not being there -- and you're definitely going to see her going through a transformation, without a doubt. And one that really threw me off! and I kept going to the writers over and over, like, "Is this really what we're doing?" And they're like, "Yeah." I'm like, "Are you sure this is the choice you want?" So it's going to be exciting to see the evolution of her, because she is a child of the system so she is constantly growing in prison. She's becoming a woman in prison. So we get to see what that's going to be.
Lea DeLaria: God, that's such an actor answer. You're such an actor, and I'm a standup comic. I don't even think of any of that. Whoa... I'm like, "Big Boo, Season Three -- she'll be funny."
Brooks: Your Season Three is actually pretty dope. There's so many times that I've watched you and another actor -- I'm not going to talk about that -- who worked closely together, and I'm just like, sneaking behind the chair like watching them work.
DeLaria: I do think that they've really, really gotten into an interesting place with Boo, and even more so. I have to say, like Dani, what I was having to do in Season Two, I was like, "Really? You want me to turn on Red? Really? You want Boo to do that? And is this right?" And it's really interesting how that helped me explore who she was and the kind of loner existence that she had lived. So yeah, I think that they're continuing to push that character and push the boundaries, really explore who she is as an individual in Season Three, def.
On what they feel sets Season Three apart:
DeLaria: What I liked particularly about this season is that I've always felt that there are no sacred cows on our show, that we're constantly pushing the envelope. We really go for it this season, I feel like. And I've got to give it up to Jenji [Kohan, the series' creator] on that. Jenji's always trying to say something with everything that she does. And she's definitely making a statement about women, about the disenfranchised, about the prison system. All that's going to continue and get deeper, maybe even a little darker.
Brooks: Yeah. I think you worded that perfectly. I mean, if I was to add anything to it, I would say, after speaking to Jenji in the top of Season Three and asking her like, trying to pick her brain about what this is going to be, she just kept saying "This season's about faith. It's about faith."
Brooks: Yeah. And I was like, "Really? I don't think so." But as the season started to reveal itself to me, it did start to make sense on why she chose that theme. And especially for a lot of characters when you're always in survival mode, you do sort of have to reach out to some sort of faith, and I think that's why they played on the theme this year of the candles for the promo key art. So yeah, I think that's what it's about Season Three.
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:
DeLaria: I don't think we can say anything.
Brooks: All I can say is: bombs are dropped.
DeLaria: That was so good! What she said. Please, somebody attribute it to me.
On what they hear from actual inmates:
Brooks: I love everything about it because you know with social media, it's so easy to reach out to your fans. But to actually get a handwritten letter from someone, that is so dope. But yeah, I do have a friend that is incarcerated, and I've written to him recently in hopes of receiving something back. But I'm waiting for that.
DeLaria: Although we're not getting the fan mail, I have people stop me on the street who are involved with the prison system, and say that we're getting it right -- that we're getting it absolutely right. I figured we got it right when the Women's Prison Association started following us on Twitter, right? I mean, that's when I went, we must be doing it right.
On their own experiences behind bars:
Brooks: None. Thank the Lord.
DeLaria: I've been arrested in protests, you know, the standard kind of American that's not really jail. That's not really prison. That's not really jail. You're out in minutes. There's always a group of you. You sing "Kumbaya" -- When I was younger, in summer camp took us to a DJJ -- a Detention Juvenile Justice system -- to scare us straight, the young kids straight. But mine was not as intense as the ones on TV. The girls that I was with, these 13, 14-year-old girls were so dramatic. They handcuffed a few of us, and they're passing out. It's like, "I can't breathe!" It was really dramatic. But we all turned out pretty good. But that's the only experience I've had actually walking into one... A lot of the girls have gone to prison, in terms of acting [research].
Brooks: Taylor Schilling has.
DeLaria: Kate [Mulgrew] has, I know. And my research was watching "Lockup." I'm just not that kind of actor who's going to go to a prison and find my spine. [Points thumb at Brooks] She's Miss Juilliard.
Brooks: I would have loved it. A) the process happened so quickly, that I found out maybe a week or a few days before I had actually started shooting. So I kind of just jumped right into it. There was no time to actually do that kind of research. But like Lea said, I watched so much "Lockup" and "Scared Straight." And I watched it before getting the job -- me and my dad, strangely enough, but my dad works third shift, so when I would come home from college, we would stay up really late and watch prison shows. That was our thing. So strange, but we did. I guess we're both intrigued with human nature and why we do things in this world that is so foreign to us. So I think I did my research before getting the part. It was done.
"Orange is the New Black" Season Three begins streaming June 12 on Netflix.