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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the sixth episode of Orange Is the New Black’s third season.]
Ruby Rose makes her first appearance in episode six of Orange Is the New Black‘s third season, her character Stella joshing with and casting flirty glances at Piper (Taylor Schilling) as they toil in Litchfield’s newly opened garment sweatshop.
The setting, and the fact that Stella is in the same khaki uniform as the other inmates, suggest she’s been there a while — a fact that was as surprising to Rose as it may be to fans of the Netflix series. (Season three was released Thursday evening, a few hours ahead of schedule.)
“It’s interesting, isn’t it? When I first got a copy of the script, I assumed of course that I would be in orange,” Rose tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Then when they gave me the beige prison garb I was like, ‘Huh. That’s interesting — I’m not a newbie.’ … It seems to me based on the idea that Stella has kept her head pretty much down for the time she’s been incarcerated. Which I imagine would be quite a tricky thing to do, but she’s obviously been there and people just haven’t noticed her.”
Wherever she’s been hiding in the halls of Litchfield, Stella isn’t anonymous anymore. She catches the eye of both Piper and Piper’s girlfriend, Alex (Laura Prepon) — not necessarily in a positive way for the latter.
“At the very beginning, she’s not really that threatened,” says Rose of Alex. “But as the episodes progress and as the storyline kind of thickens … we start to not be the best of friends, so to speak. There’s some very fun dialogue between us.”
In Piper, Rose thinks Stella sees someone who is “almost the opposite of her,” and that’s intriguing enough for the character to come out into the open.
“She doesn’t take herself too seriously. … I think she’s very Australian in the way she goes about things and in her sense of humor,” says the Melbourne-born actress. “Whereas Piper is a little bit more rigid and controlled, maybe even uptight compared to Stella. That is what makes Stella wonder what’s really beneath this character. Is she fun? Is she actually like a real hoot and just waiting for the right person to come and drag it out of her? It’s a conquest, you know? It’s a challenge.”
Rose was a “huge fan” of OITNB before joining the cast. She recalls watching season two with her fiancée and her family while on vacation and someone saying she’d be perfect for the show.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, that would be the most amazing show in the world to be on.’ But as far as my career in the States, up until that point it had been quite dismal.” Says Rose. “I was like, yeah, that would be really lovely that my first job would be on Orange Is the New Black, but it’s very unlikely.”
Not long after that, however, she got a call to audition for the role. Though she hasn’t asked series creator Jenji Kohan about it, Rose believes a short film she made called Break Free — about her experience with gender fluidity — may have put her on the radar.
“My gut tells me maybe someone sent her the video,” says Rose. “There are a lot of similarities between the character I’m playing in that film, which is an autobiographical piece, and the character of Stella, who’s this androgynous, genderfluid character.”
Rose also feels honored to be playing a character whose identity reflects her own. “Obviously you want to be able to be very diverse as an actor, and you want to be able to play straight characters, you want to play gay characters,” she says. “You don’t want to be pigeonholed, but at the same time there’s something very special and unique in being able to be gay in real life [and] play a gay character and know that [people] watching … will then do the research that this is an actor playing a gay character and then maybe find out they’re married to a man with three kids and be a little disheartened: ‘Oh, maybe it is just a TV show. Maybe there isn’t someone I can relate to.’ I feel like this show is great because you have all of that. There’s a transgender woman playing a transgender character. It shouldn’t be any other way for this particular show.”
Orange Is the New Black‘s entire third season is available now on Netflix.
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