Pret-a-Reporter

In Her Shoes: A Chat With 'Orange is the New Black's' Lorraine Toussaint

Lorraine Toussaint

"I no longer want to sacrifice comfort for fashion, but I am always in search of both," says the actress.

Lorraine Toussaint has the kind of career most actors only dream of. A Juilliard-trained actress with a background in theater, she kicked off her career with Shakespearean plays and has gone on to conquer every other medium as well.

From playing the legendary Amelia Boynton Robinson in Ava Duvernay's Selma, to the villainous Vee in Orange is the New Black, Toussaint’s decades-long career showcases her immense talents. Her recent casting in Rosewood as the titular character’s mother has been received with accolades, and she's currently appearing in Seth Rogen’s The Night Before. Look for her in 2016 alongside Julianne Nicholson and Diane Ladd in Sophie and the Rising Sun. But first, we chat with Toussaint about shoes, from her red-carpet must-haves to her everyday footwear.

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Pret-a-Reporter: What is your all-time favorite pair of shoes and why?

Maybe my all-time favorite designer shoe is an odd one, because it’s a French company called Arche. I love their shoes because I have a pair of black flat, sort of odd lace-up the ankle, peep-toe, cool, sexy, walking shoes that usually — wherever I go — people go, "My God those are so great." I go, "Yeah, because they are really comfortable!" I no longer want to sacrifice comfort for fashion, but I am always in search of both. Arche is one of the places that I find it, because they have such a huge selection of very fashion-forward French funky shoes, and yet still the purpose of the shoe is incredible support for walking.

When you are in Manhattan, it’s all about the hunt for cute, and enough support to pummel the pavement. My favorite high heels are leopard high heels. I just think leopard is such a great neutral. And these days, I’m really in love with a pair of white leather Birks that I just can’t seem to get out of, and of course because I am in L.A. — the Havaianas. I have a million pairs of those flip flops.

What are your favorite red-carpet shoes?

I’m obviously a comfort girl but if I'm going to rock the carpet I go with Stuart Weitzman because he’s figured out how to keep it fabulous, and on the scale of one to 10, it comes as around as six in terms of pain. I can’t do an eight to nine pain anymore — I can’t think. I can’t even get from one end of the carpet to the other! I have left events for too many years with my shoes in my hand. I also like Tory Burch because Tory will give me a killer fashion-forward heel, but God bless her, she'll wedge them!

What do shoes do for you when you’re preparing for a character?

They’re everything, really. When I was doing Orange is the New Black, the moment I put on those boots, I was in character. The weight of them, the way they forced you to lumber. The efforts of moving from one spot to another, the fact that they were so heavy, they could actually be weapons. That’s everything to me. I swear to God that it’s maybe a bit of a cliche. A third of my character is anchored in the shoes because like the character I'm doing on Rosewood now, I’m wearing shoes I’ve never worn before.

This woman, from episode zero to five, she’s stuck in a groove. It's right around episode six maybe, she's going to file for divorce, she's going to try to find out who she is now. She’s probably going to move into some kind of internal, external makeover. In these first episodes, she’s in these church lady shoes — they’re not flat, they’re not heels. But I put those on, and I’m a particular kind of mom. I’m a particular kind of woman that is maybe lost sight of. It’s attractive, but doesn’t move anything or anyone really. Its functional, it has enough style. When she is walking around the hallway, she’s the principal of the school, she can sneak up on people. She can run after a kid and still jump in the car, and go to a school board meeting at the mayor’s office. Her shoes can do all of those things, but a shoe shouldn’t be able to do all of those things frankly.

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Do you have a lot of shoes?

I love shoes. I have hundreds of them. I’ve really toned it down the last 10 years but, oh my God, I have shoes that are in plastic boxes with a photograph attached to the boxes. But, so much of that is for fashion, for dress up, to play dress up. But in my real life, like right now, I'm wearing flip flops and I just got out of my Birks.

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