“I have learned to just say ‘f**k it’”Laura Prepon talks about returning to play Alex Vause on the hit Netflix show Orange is the New Black, and how getting naked stills feels kind of weird.
Laura Prepon plays Taylor Schilling’s on-again, off-again girlfriend Alex Vause in Orange is the New Black. After missing most of season 2, the fan favorite will be mixing things up again behind bars at Litchfield. The Red Bulletin sat down with the former That ’70s Show star to talk about why her character is so loved, and how getting naked in front of camera still feels weird.
You only featured in a couple of episodes of season 2, but you will feature in every episode of season 3 – how excited are you about being back in prison?
I love being back in prison! I really wanted to do more in season 2 but I had scheduling conflicts which Jenji [Kohan, OITNB creator] knew about way before it was announced, so we agreed to just do as much as we could. I told her right then and there that I wanted to make it right and be in as many episodes as possible in season 3, and season 4 as well, which we are actually going to start shooting next week!
What did you miss most about not being on the set as much for season 2?
I love my character and I love stepping into her shoes everyday. But the girls make it the most fun, this cast is so incredible. They would text me and send me pictures from the set saying, “Why are you not here?” It really sucked being away from them. I missed the day-to-day life as well. There were days at the start of season 3 where we shot a lot of intense scenes, and I would be driving home at the end of the night with black eye make-up on my face, and my eyes were all blood shot from crying all day on set, and I felt so good, you know? As an actress, when you can feel fulfilled like that then there is nothing better, it is why I do what I do. I really missed that.
We see Alex and Piper getting quite close again in season 3 – how is their relationship going to develop now that Larry is not in the way?
Quite close? Yeah I would say that (laughs.) But look, I know everyone hates Larry but I love Jason Briggs and I am really bummed that he is not going to be in season 3. It is fair to say though that Piper and Alex have moved on from the Larry thing now. There is a whole new situation which they are going to be dealing with in season 3, so Alex is very happy that Larry is out of the picture. Personally though I really miss Jason.
How has life on the outside affected Alex in season 3?
When she gets back into prison in season 3 she really didn’t know how she got there. I think when you’re in love then you can be blinded to certain things that people can do, and she really doesn’t think that Piper could have anything to do with it. So she really feels like an idiot when she goes back to prison. Alex is very smart and she doesn’t end up in situations that she is usually not in control of. When we started season 3 Jenji told me that the beginning of Alex’s arc would see her as a wounded bird, she’s broken. She’s back in prison with no more freedom and we see how she deals with that.
Is she still as badass as in season 1?
You can’t take the badass out of somebody, you really just can’t, but we do see a different side of her that is really interesting. The thing that makes Alex so cool is that she is a badass, but she is also very vulnerable and in love. She’s a human being after all! It was great for me as an actress because we get to see her really vulnerable at the start of the season. There were times when it was really hard for me in a great way.
Would you say that there are similarities between yourself and Alex? Are you as much of a badass as she is?
Am I a badass? I don’t know, but in the industry that I work in you have to have thick skin and you can’t take things personally, so I think in that way we’re quite similar. Alex works in an industry where she needs to be in control, in power and not let people see her sweat, and that is the same for me. But I have never smuggled drugs over borders so that’s where we’re different!
What have your learned the most about yourself from playing the character?
There are definitely a lot of moments throughout the seasons that are so raw when you’re like “f**k it”. As an actress you have to worry about things like hair, make-up and wardrobe and it’s part of what we do which is cool, but it is so liberating to play a character that’s in prison like this, especially when she is stripped of everything. You can just say “screw it” and you don’t have to be worried about what you look like. It’s just about the scene, the moment with my co-star and the realness and rawness of that moment. I have really learned just to say “f**k it” and go with it, and that is incredible.
People really seem to relate to the realness of the show.
Definitely, and you can feel that. It is not contrived. When Taylor and I are doing these scenes together it feels so real, and we have amazing chemistry. I have worked with people where you don’t have that chemistry and you are just like, “What am I going to do? This sucks,” and you have to try to do anything you can to get that x-factor or whatever that thing is.
What do you think would scare you most if you knew you were going to prison?
Honestly, the lack of freedom. I grew up in a household where we were free to do whatever we wanted. I have never been grounded or told what to do. It’s funny because having that freedom as a kid made me very responsible, because I had nothing to rebel against. I wasn’t going out and doing these crazy things because my mum was such a free spirit. So I think having that lack of freedom and being confined to such a small space would drive me crazy, I would lose my mind.
It seems as if nudity and sex is becoming a normality in television today, what’s the strangest part of doing nude scenes on OITNB?
Well look, let’s be realistic. If I told you to take off your clothes right now and go and do a scene with someone while 40 people watch you, then it would be a little awkward right? Anytime you get naked in front of a camera crew it feels a little weird, but thank god Taylor and I feel so comfortable with each other, and as long as you can feel as comfortable as possible with that person then it is good.
But it feels like OITNB needs these nude scenes.
Yes totally. When we first started Jenji and I had a conversation and she told me that the nudity would not be gratuitous, but you’re going to be in prison with a bunch of women living together, and if you’re constantly hiding behind a towel in a bathroom scene or a love scene then it is not authentic. This is why we have naked women walking by in the bathroom because that’s what you do in prison with a bunch of women, and it would look weird if we never showed that.
You also auditioned for Piper, if you didn’t get the role of Alex who would you have liked to play?
Alex is my girl. But when I read the script they weren’t casting Alex yet and I read the script with Piper in mind, even though I had black hair and the whole thing. I knew I was totally wrong for Piper but I didn’t care, I just wanted to go in and show them what I can do. I did the audition and I got a call later on and Jenji was just like, “I can’t get you out of my head for Alex Vause,” and I was like, “the manipulating drug-smuggling lesbian Alex Vause?” So I read it again with Alex in mind rather than Piper and I realized how cool she was and I knew what I could do with her.
How do you watch Netflix? Are you a binger?
Yes I am actually. Our schedules are so up in the air all the time, that when I do have time to watch a show I tend to do a marathon.
This wasn’t a Netflix session but I was shadowing a director on True Blood and I had to watch seven seasons in a week, I think I watched about 8 hours straight of True Blood in one day!
How and where will you be watching season 3?
I’m going to watch it after everyone else has seen it. I’ll probably watch it a month or so after everyone else. I’ll wait until we’re into filming season 4 and I’m in a different mindset and then I’ll go back. I like to have a bit of time. I might even wait a little bit longer so I can look at it objectively.