Lea DeLaria’s experience with the Netflix hit “Orange is the New Black” has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster, to put it mildly. In fact, she started her relationship with the series by auditioning and not getting the gig.
“Big Boo wasn’t even really a character. I auditioned for them twice, and they said, ‘There isn’t a part for you,'” says DeLaria, who took that news rather hard. “I mean, I literally quit show business at that point. I screamed at my manager and I moved to my house in London, England, where I have a really good singing career. But by the time I go there, there were a thousand messages on the machine saying, ‘You have to come back because they’ve created a role for you.’ And they really did.”
Before long, Big Boo was in fact very much a character, and the show was a breakout hit. “They just kept writing these amazing things for her, and I was having the time of my life with this great group of people,” she says. “And the next thing we know, we’re picked up for season four and there’s a SAG Award sitting on my mantle. It’s crazy.”
The pinnacle of that climb, though, has come in the recently released third season, for which DeLaria was made a series regular, a distinction she’s waited a long time to enjoy. “I’ve been doing this a long time, and this is the first time I’ve been a series regular,” DeLaria says. “I’ve recurred on many, many, many, many, many things, and it just feels so cool to have it happen — and to have it happen this late in my life is amazing.”
And it was also worth the wait, as DeLaria feels a special connection to the tone and tenor of “Orange is the New Black” that she didn’t always experience with other work. “I started as the first openly gay comic to perform on television in America, so I have always been out. My entertainment was always closely tied to my politics, So I feel like I’ve died and gone to lezzie feminist heaven,” she says.
“You’re thumbing your nose at the accepted norm that we are basically spoon-fed from the moment we are raised as little girls that there’s a certain way you have to look and a certain way you have to be in order to be a girl. I think this show addresses that really, really strongly. It basically says, ‘It’s OK to be you.'”
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter:@nedrick