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Of the many delicious new characters and back stories revealed in season two of Orange Is the New Black (vile Vee, clueless Christopher, bank robber Rosa), one particular stand-out was that of Jimmy, the cantankerous Golden Girl whose dementia spurned her to take a deep dive off an auditorium stage and earn a so-called compassionate release from Litchfield Prison. Jimmy was a constant source of amusement and heartbreak for both her fellow inmates and Orange viewers alike. The Hollywood Reporter tracked down Patricia Squire, the actress behind that indelible toothless frown, to find out how this career-defining role came about.
Did you specifically audition for the role of Jimmy?
I actually auditioned for Frida [another Golden Girl]. I’m so glad I didn’t get it. I like doing kooky, out-of-the-ballpark kinds of roles.
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Who do you think “Roberta” was, which is the name Jimmy kept calling Piper?
Roberta was, I think, my daughter at one time, like a hundred years ago. I may have even killed her, who knows.
Where might we have seen you before Orange?
I was in season one of House of Cards, directed by David Fincher. He was a doll. I played an old lady who screams at Robin Wright for running through a cemetery. I was really worried that I was going to fuck up my lines, and then when I got to the shoot, David Fincher changed all my lines.
The last thing I did was The Blacklist. I didn’t use my teeth in that one either. Once I thought it was very embarrassing and shameful not to have any teeth, and now I think it’s a gift, because I get all this work, because I’m willing to remove my dentures.
Did you audition for Orange without your teeth?
Yes. She [series creator Jenji Kohan] didn’t even realize I didn’t have my teeth in. I said to her afterward, “You know, I really didn’t have teeth.” And she said, “We didn’t even realize that you weren’t wearing them.” I go on a lot of auditions where I do take my teeth out. Where I think it’s good for the role, I’ll take my teeth out.
Have you been recognized on the street yet?
A lady came up to me in the dog park and said, “Was that you? Was that you? Was that you?” And I said, “Yes. Thank you. It was me.” At some point I’m going to start being insulted that they recognize me.
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As Jimmy, how did you keep your face in that permanent frown?
I don’t know. I just really did believe that I was her. My most favorite scene was where I’m siting with Piper and I’m gnawing on a pork chop. And she says, “Can I help you?” and I say, “Thank you so much. I saw my husband last night. He plays the bass now.” That was my most favorite part of the work that I did.
What do you know about the real life application of compassionate release?
Compassionate release happened in the ’60s, when the government decided to close down all the mental institutions and threw everybody out on the street. That’s when we found all these homeless people committing crimes because they had closed down the hospitals, and there was no one to help them, so they went back to jail. That’s what I’m hoping will happen — that they released me on compassionate release so that they can write me back in.
Are you waiting to find out if you’ve been written back in?
Nobody told me, but my acting coach watched the last four episodes, and he said, “No way do I believe you’re not going to be written back into this.” But if I’m not, I’m not. I had a great character. I had a great time, and onto the next.
What do you guess was Jimmy’s crime?
I was a lifer, so that meant I had to do something really terrible. The director came up to us at the end of the first episode and said, “You know, you must have really done something terrible to be here.”
Did you have a chance to bond with any of your fellow castmates?
They were all so loving to me and supportive. The most fun to watch was Red, Kate Mulgrew. Oh, and Piper! I can’t forget about Piper. Taylor Schilling was very open and talented. And actually she had only graduated from Tisch at NYU five years ago, and I said to her, “Do you know what an extraordinary thing this is to happen to you, that after five years you’re a major star? Do you know that?” And she said, “Yes. I know.”
Have you ever done anything in your life where, looking back, you think, “Wow, I’m glad I wasn’t arrested for that!”
Yes, drunk driving. I wrapped a car around a tree in East Hampton a million years ago. I had to call a dentist in the middle of the night — I lost my bridges. It was on Montauk Highway, and someone picked me up in a hippie van. The next day, it said in the East Hampton paper that I had been drinking vodkas and 7UPs, and I was very embarrassed because I was not drinking vodka and 7UPs. I thought that was an embarrassing thing for a woman to be drinking.
Where will we see you next?
On September 19 I’m in the movie The Drop. I play opposite Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini — his last movie. It’s a great part. I play a homeless, alcoholic, toothless, smoking barfly.
After sharing a scene with them, are you now a big fan of Side Boob, Caputo’s band?
Of course I’m a big fan of them! That’s my lover! If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have had that scene in the bar when I escape from prison and sit there with a goofy grin on my face because I finally found him.
It would be great to see Jimmy come back as a Side Boob groupie.
I have no idea how they could get me in there, but it would have to be something weird. It would be funny if I decided to crawl under the gate to get back in because they were taking care of me in prison.
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