It’s about that time again, where we cancel all of our plans with actual human beings and bury ourselves in our beds with a weekend supply of donuts and a case of vodka. Oh, and you can’t forget that Netflix subscription– because, what’s an Orange is the New Black binge-watch without Orange is the New Black. Those long agonizing months have finally come to an end and it’s time to say hello again to the ladies of Litchfield County Jail. I know what you’re thinking… “savor the season,” “don’t watch it all at once.” Hmmm, have you met me? Of course I’m going to stay up until my eyes are burning and I have no recollection of the time, or day, or if I remembered to feed my dog (sorry Khody). But hardcore binge-watching aside, this show never fails to keep people hooked and coming back for more. More comedy, more drama, and more of the Litchfield ladies’ (and Pornstaches) all around craziness.
Speaking of crazy (nice segway, huh?), everyone remember Blanca Flores… The slightly mental and disheveled woman we frequently saw in the bathroom stall shouting to herself. Some thought she had a nervous breakdown, some thought she was talking to the devil. Well, QUICK RECAP, turns out she wasn’t that psychotic after all, and she was actually shouting at someone on the other line of get this, her cell phone! A cell phone that I might add she cleverly kept hidden in the wall. You say crazy, I say cunning. The show may be centered around the boisterous blonde Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) and her journey doing time at the penitentiary but the real stars are often the ones hidden in the walls… or stalls in this case.
Laura Gómez who plays Blanca, an interesting and dynamic character on the Netflix original series may play a seemingly distraught incarcerated woman, but she’s far from her fictional counterpart. Gomez really shines in this role, and was kind enough to chat with me about the upcoming season of Orange is the New Black. In addition to dishing about SPOILER ALERT a snazzy new cell phone for Blanca, she told me about her new movie with Keanu Reeves AND even touched upon her multiple roles as actor, writer, producer and director.
So, let’s get to the good stuff.
MCKENZIE MORRELL: Let’s get started! Orange Is The New Black kind of took the entertainment world by storm- everyone loves it. What initially drew you to this project?
Laura Gómez: Well, the truth is that when I first auditioned for this, it was just an actor auditioning for a part. I knew that it was a project that was created by Jenji Kohan, so that was one of the things that attracted me to audition for it. I didn’t know much about it, but nobody did. I don’t even think that they knew… (laughs) That was all. And I knew Jenji Kohan and her reputation of an amazing writer, but at that point I really didn’t know any more. I do remember the part was for a crazy Dominican woman with a cellphone, and I said- I can do that! (laughs)
MM: Obviously you play Blanca Flores, who initially we think is off her rocker. How much backstory did you know about this character once you actually got into everything?
LG: Not much… not much at all, actually. It’s funny because one of the challenges and the beauties of Orange is the New Black and this project is that we discover with the audience, what the characters are all about. So I really didn’t even know that she wasn’t that crazy, or I wasn’t that crazy. (laughs) I did have a hint from our director the first episode that we shot when I joined the project, and he said, “You’re not as crazy as you think.” That was about it. That wasn’t much of a clue either. So, the truth is, I’ve been growing with the character and discovering along with the audience, and it’s been really a lot of fun.
MM: That’s so great, and we have to know… will Blanca get a snazzy new cell phone in season three? I mean, she’s got people she needs to talk to, and I’m sure she could barter it with the inmates!
LG: (laughs) Yes! That’s so funny because people keep talking about it on social media. Like how does she charge the phone?! I think it’s one of those things that might remain mysterious or might be answered at some point. At the end of the day, it’s really more about what it reveals about this character. It reveals so much about temperament, about… what I see is this person is pretending to be crazy just to get by- it’s almost a defense mechanism. But also, it’s so wise and her views of the world and her ways of getting around. I find it so insightful.
MM: Right. She’s definitely resourceful, being locked up.
LG: Those little details torture the audience are what’s so amazing about our writers.
MM: I totally agree! Now, let’s pretend you’re locked up. What do you think would be the one thing you’d like to take with you if the rules allowed such a thing?
LG: My character?
MM: No, you.
LG: (laughs) Oh! I keep saying I would probably copy Blanca, because that is such a resourceful way to stay connected and bring a little bit of sanity with you into this already dysfunctional situation that the prison system is. So, I would copy my character.
MM: Now with new technologies you could probably sneak in an apple watch or something like that.
LG: I know! Someone told me, you know what’s funny is that she has that old cell phone and those batteries lasted longer so maybe that’s why! If they wouldn’t give pen and paper, I’m the type of person who needs to write, so aside from that I would say I need pen and paper at all times.
MM: If you were locked up are there any foods or luxuries that you would really miss?
LG: Yes! (laughs) I would miss watching shows on the internet and films because I’m a food junkie. I would miss that for sure, and I would miss a good meal. Probably my mom’s kitchen I would miss a lot.
MM: Yeah, don’t take her with you- that’s not very nice! (laughs) So, if you had to share a cell with one other character from Orange is the New Black for the rest of your life, who do you think you would choose?
LG: Oh my god. For the rest of my life? Those characters are quite special you know. (laughs) I’m going to choose Yoga Jones (Constance Shulman). I feel like she would keep me grounded and peaceful.
MM: That is great- I love Yoga Jones. Now some actors choose not to watch themselves and the work that they’re creating. That being said, have you watched the show and are you critical of your performance at all?
LG: I have watched the show. I love the fact that I love it and the first time I get to see something I’m in I don’t start nitpicking little things. That’s how I know the show is so good, because the story and the cast and everybody involved. I do get into the characters when I watch the show. I don’t binge watch, so I’m a little more patient you know with the process when it comes out. I don’t rewatch old ones a lot actually. I watch it when it comes out and I really do enjoy the show for what it is, and for the beauty of the writing and the acting. I’m not critical of it in a negative way. Actually, the opposite. I learn a lot about character, if anything.
MM: Do you believe Orange is the New Black accurately represents racial minorities or the LGBT community or women in general.
LG: I think, as accurately as fiction allows to. It takes liberties in some places and I just believe that it’s reflecting their reality. Those back stories are humanizing the characters, and giving the audience a perspective of where they come from. I love that about the show. I think that’s what everybody is loving the most. So, I would say it has, because of the place and circumstances, very specific types of characters. So, there are times where the stereotypes come from reality. I do love how they break with what could be so easy and simple, and bring it and make it so complex and layered. You know?
MM: I totally agree. You’ve been a very busy woman lately- lots of things coming up! Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming movie Daughter of God and the role you play in it?
LG: Yes. I’m excited about that project which is a film starring Keanu Reeves and Ana De Armas and Mira Sorvino. It’s coming out in the Fall and basically I have a supporting role in it and it was a great experience, even though I didn’t share any scenes with Keanu, I did meet him. It was one of those moments where you’re like, “Oh my god.” You know you’re growing if you’re working on a movie with Keanu Reeves. (laughs) Then, there’s a show called Show Me A Hero that is a miniseries for HBO created by David Simon. I’m super excited about that because now I have a date- it was announced that it was going to be premiering August 16th, and it’s the team from “The Wire” so you can’t get any better than that.
MM: That’s amazing we are definitely looking forward to both of those.
LG: I’m very excited! And Season three of Orange is the New Black is coming out in June then Show Me A Hero in the fall, and then I have a short film that I directed that stars Catherine Curtin from Orange is the New Black and that’s starting next month, I think. So I’m very busy and excited about this all.
MM: That’s amazing. And you also have a recurring role on Law & Order: SVU as Selena Cruz. How was that working on such an iconic and well-liked series, I mean- they’ve been going forever!
LG: I couldn’t believe the great energy on the set, and I mean it because it has been going for so long. Sometimes you think, they’re going to be doing their own thing. They were so welcoming and very warm. Everybody in that show was amazing to work with, and I did get to work with all the leads and they were a great team all together. My character was supposed to be a one guest star spot, and then I came out a few times throughout season 16- including the first episode and the finale. That was also another like, okay, you know you’re growing as an actor when you make it as a recurring guest star on Law & Order: SVU. So it was great, and that aired last month on May 20th. You can still watch it on NBC.com.
MM: It’s a great show and you were great on it. Now, do you find there is a big difference between movie and TV series and the pace of filming and everything? Do you prefer one over the other?
LG: I think you approach the work the same way, there’s just different mediums, and you adjust. I love each one differently and each one gives me a different experience as an actor. The theater, of course, the stage is where an actor gets to play and hone it, and then film and TV is a place where you get to discover so much of the character… there’s a whole team that has to do with that. I enjoy it either way. And I also direct and write my own projects and stuff so for me it is really a treat either way.
MM: I did hear through the grapevine that you also write scripts and stuff. How do you find the time? How long does it take you to write a script once you hammer things down?
LG: Well the last project I only directed and co-produced it as part of a collective. I was supported by other artists and we were working together to create this. In the past… I just feel that actors sometimes have such passive situations and we just have to wait for the work. We have to wait for auditions, and from my point of view it is vulnerable. Then you can get desperate for work. I started writing to be proactive with my career and it really did work. I starred in my first two shorts and from then on, I grew as a filmmaker. I discovered I loved it so much and it balances out my acting career. It’s actually helped it a lot. I make the time. When you love something, it’s not work. It’s not a job it’s a career. When you love what you do, time goes by fast. It will be 2 a.m. and I’m like, “Oh my god I have to go to sleep!” I could keep writing. I’m taking a playwriting class right now and I’m writing a play and I don’t feel like it’s work. It just makes me grow.
MM: Amazing. Getting back to Orange is the New Black, I know it’s coming back soon. How is that cast dynamic? You guys seem like you would be a fun bunch on set!
LG: Yeah, it is a privilege when you get to work with talented people, nevermind so many women- which I love by the way, about our show. We are breaking ground in that regard, we have so many shapes and colors and differences, and I think the audience loves that about our cast. Aside from that, there are friendships that have been born from this and camaraderie that comes from working together. So much good energy, and I think it shows. I love it. I love the experience that it has been and I know it’s a privilege to work with this amazingly talented group of people and I’m grateful for it every day. Not to mention the writers- because I am always in awe of writers and ours are so talented.
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