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Norma from ‘Orange Is the New Black’ finally speaks

Annie Golden talks new Boston play, advice she gave Uzo Aduba and more.
Annie Golden
Annie Golden is happy to be back in Boston. Photo by Nile Hawver / Nile Scott Shots

As the typically silent inmate Norma Romano, fans usually don’t get to hear Annie Golden speak on “Orange Is the New Black.” But if you find her walking the streets of Boston ahead of her new play “Ripcord,” she’s more than happy to stop for a friendly chat. The 65-year-old actress and singer opens up about her gig with the Huntington Theatre Company, what it was like touring with her band in Boston back in the day, plus some advice she gave co-star and Massachusetts native Uzo Aduba on the set of “OITNB.”

What made you want to join “Ripcord”?

 We wrap ["OITNB"] around Christmas time, and we don’t start up again until the summer. As an actor, once you’re steady gig or long-running show closes or wraps for the season, then you think you’re never going to work again. When someone offers you a job for May, you totally say, “Uh, yes please.” [Director Jessica Stone] offered it to me, and I read the play in January. I thought it was absolutely charming. I play Marilyn Dunn, and when I read Marilyn I totally said, “This is in my wheelhouse. This is Annie Golden, the flower child who will not wilt. The cheerleader who never wanes with enthusiasm.”

Have you spent a lot of time in Boston over the years?

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Before your time. I toured with my band The Shirts, and I played Brandeis University and Boston University. I played a club behind Fenway Park in Kenmore Square called The Rathskeller… I played with The Cars at The Rathskeller. I played with The Police at The Rathskeller. They came from London. We had just toured England and we came back and we had a new record out and we played The Rathskeller while The Police were playing Boston. Boston was always very fertile for working class artists.

Have any “OITNB” fans stopped you for a selfie during your Boston stay?

The kids were graduating. They were spilling out of the Berklee School of Music and it was my day off. I was walking by and this girl was with her family and she backtracked and said, “Oh my god!” Here father didn’t know what she was doing. She went, “Hi, is it you?” I said, “Hi and congratulations,” and I winked at her. Then another girl was hugging her dad and over her shoulder she said, “Is that Norma?” I winked and said, “Congratulations, you should be very proud.” They were like, “Why is Norma Romano in Boston?”

Your co-star Uzo Aduba is a Boston native. Have any fun behind-the-scenes stories with her?

We did a very gut-wrenching finale for season four. The fans will know, no spoilers, but it was very emotional. Uzo does Broadway as well and I was in the scene with her. We did many, many takes and she started to get raspy and horse. I know, because she’s my girl friend, what she had lined up. She was doing “The Wiz” live on TV. I took her aside and said, “Sweetheart, they have it in the can, you can’t keep wailing like this.” I gave her my breather’s lozenges and I said, “Keep it wet and suck on these. Next time they do it, sing it, don’t shout it.” 

Can you settle a “Cheers” controversy? Was John Ratzenberger’s Cliff the father of your character’s baby or not?

I think she knew he was fragile. Everybody knows Cliff can’t handle real life. I think she allowed the question to be there. I think they were saying, “Let’s manipulate this because the guy, he just can’t handle it. It’s too much real life.”

If you go:

May 25-June 26, Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St., Boston, $20-$63, huntingtontheatre.org

 
 
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