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Uzo Aduba shares the secrets to being Crazy Eyes on 'Orange Is the New Black'

"Crazy Eyes," or Suzanne (Uzo Aduba), as she prefers to be known, had some big changes in Season 2 of "Orange is the New Black."

Uzo Aduba on "Orange is the New Black." Credit: K.C. Bailey for Netflix Uzo Aduba on "Orange is the New Black." Credit: K.C. Bailey for Netflix

After a first season where she awkwardly pursued main character Piper, Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba), or Suzanne, as she prefers to be called, took a much darker turn in the second season of “Orange is the New Black.” Pulled into the villainous Vee’s (Lorraine Toussaint) gang of contraband dealers, she showed a menacing side that was far distant from the lovelorn Crazy Eyes of Season 1.

Asked if she thinks Suzanne went too far this season, Aduba says “I don’t know if you can go too far. Jenji [Kohan, the series creator] had said it felt like summer camp a little bit. She wanted to really bring the reality of the world, and the darker side of prison” into the second season.

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“I think it just made me realize how far people will go for love,” she adds.

Suzanne occupies an unusual place in the hierarchy of Lichfield, the fictional prison at the center of the show. While many of the inmates are suffering from some form of mental illness, it’s Suzanne who most clearly shows this side at first glance. But Suzanne never starts to act like a caricature of mental illness.

“I was less interested in the playing of the crazy. It’s never interesting to me when someone plays at something,” says Aduba. “It’s just be it and whatever comes out of it, comes out of it.”

One tactic? Doing everything just “a hair off,” as Aduba says. Whenever Suzanne tries to do something playful like wink, “it just never lands the way it’s supposed to, and so people are like, ‘What is going on over there?’”

Aduba decided one of Suzanne’s characteristics would be a hyper focus on the person she was talking to, with very little break in eye contact. Alex Vause (Laura Prepon), as an obstacle to Suzanne’s love for Piper in the first season, was the recipient of some of that slightly off behavior. Laughing, Aduba says, “That felt weird to do. I’m sure it felt weird for Laura to receive.”

One thing you can’t get an answer on: what’s going to happen with Suzanne’s hair. Her famously distinctive hairstyle changed in the second season, but as to whether it’ll change in the third season, Aduba invokes the threat of the show’s awful solitary confinement units in regard to spilling: “I’m not going to SHU over that.”

An aspect of the show that has received a lot of praise has been its commitment to telling the stories of minorities. It’s something the cast is quite proud of, but that they know places a certain amount of responsibility on them. “As an Afro-Latina woman, I feel even more responsibility. I’m in this show that’s entertaining, but at the same time, it’s starting all these wonderful conversations about different types of people and different situations,” says Selenis Leyva, who portrays level-headed kitchen boss Gloria.

Laverne Cox, who made the cover of Time magazine for her advocacy work for trans people, adds, “I’m feeling the responsibility piece too, in a really intense way.”

“There’s so many amazing trans folks out there doing amazing work, and they need attention too,” says Cox. On the other hand, “Let’s keep it real. I chose to speak out, and I continue to choose to speak out about things that are important to me and where I see injustice. So I’ve chosen that, but I’m an actor first.”

 
 
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