'Orange Is the New Black' Cast Praise Episodic Flashbacks, Question Emmys Conventions

"Hybrids are a reflection of life. That’s what we want to see," said Kate Mulgrew of the dramedy's emotional balance. "I think very soon, that whole [Emmys] convention is going to be overturned."
Scott Roth/Invision/AP
Uzo Aduba, Taylor Schilling, Laverne Cox, Selenis Leyva, Kate Mulgrew, Jennifer Euston, and Laura Prepon

Orange Is the New Black is a critical favorite for many reasons, including spotlighting the first transgender actress in a major role and successfully jumping genres in the Emmy nominations. But also, simply because there are a lot of actors required to make each episode.

On Tuesday evening at New York City’s DGA Theater, casting director Jen Euston noted that the Netflix series now has 19 series regulars and 78 recurring actors, plus extra faces that rotate in for flashbacks and other scenes ‑- numbers that shocked Taylor Schilling, Uzo Aduba, Laverne Cox, Laura Prepon, Selenis Leyva and Kate Mulgrew in a FYC screening and panel moderated by The Hollywood Reporter’s award analyst Scott Feinberg.

“With our crew and our cast, it’s a very, very hard production to make, and I think that’s intimidating to a lot of people,” said Euston. “I think a lot of people want to go with what’s easy, what’s formulaic, what’s known.”

Between takes, “we’re always on top of each other,” laughed Leyva. “If we have 10 dressing rooms, everyone will be in one, sitting cramped together, under a cover. … It’s really loud, but in a good way. Lots of singing and dogs and dancing.”

And when shooting (without table reads, of course), the women are willing to get down and dirty – emotionally and physically. “You have to be mindful of the essential thing, which is the work,” said Mulgrew of wearing minimal makeup and donning jumpsuits. “It’s vanity revisited, because every time I walk on that set, I’m free. It’s not only liberating, but I just feel I’m growing in a way that suits me best. Down, instead of out. I think that’s Red’s marvelous je ne sais quoi. She wants to go down deep, and Mulgrew wants to go with her. I’m having the time of my life.”

The cast also applauded the episodes’ flashback structure not only for continually adding dimension to their characters, but for also keeping them on their toes as actors, since they can’t add their own backstories. "It was nerve-racking at first because there's usually a formula," said Leyva of their previous acting jobs.

The resulting, Emmy-nominated mix of drama and comedy had Mulgrew asking, “Don’t you guys think they’re gonna have to rethink this whole thing? Because hybrids are a reflection of life. That’s what we want to see. … I think very soon, that whole convention is going to be overturned.”

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