Exclusive Interview : Catherine Curtin from Orange is The New Black
I met Catherine Curtin in the West Village, and we both agreed to be good today by having a super-healthy lunch. Organic Avenue is our destination: Cathy had a Kale salad while I had a beet and squash salad, with a healthy dose of green juice! This is the third time I have met with Cathy and she never fails to impress and inspire me despite her mischievous and mean character “CO Wanda Bell” in Orange is The New Black.
The veteran actress has been in this industry for a long time. She has been
working in many an Off-Broadway production, playing a part in Extremely Loud Incredibly Close, joining Orange is The New Black and starring in the show Cloven Tongue in the East Village, and even being a part of Scorsese’ s Wolf of The Wall Street.
“You just have to keep your dream, meet people, and you have to keep telling people who you are and then eventually, you’ll get somewhere.” – Catherine Curtin
KR: It was so nice to see you at Alysia (Reiner) ‘s event for WPA ! Such a huge event, right? I wish I could do something like that for a good cause.
CC: Yes, it really was a huge event and in this case, it’s getting the word out
because you and I know about WPA, but not everyone does. You know, what they are doing is so awesome. We want more people to know about their programs.
KR: I tweeted Joel [Garland] this morning that I was seeing his Orange lover and he was really hilarious — he tweeted me something like does it start with C and rhyme with C or something? [Laughs]
CC: [Laughs] Oh, Joel.
KR: Did you get any feedbacks from fans from playing a mean character like CO Wanda?
CC: [Laughs] I was just playing the character! It’s not real. I’m absolutely not
KR: Yes, you have been nothing but sweet! The whole cast is amazing. I interviewed Michael [Harney] awhile back and he was wonderfully sweet.
CC: Really? Oh, Michael. Oh my god! What a really great actor! He’s very
KR: Hey, let’s talk about The Wolf of Wall Street. I actually just saw it! I caught a glimpse of you playing one of the FBI agents!
CC: You know? I auditioned for a bigger part, but I didn’t get it. It was very
sweet of them to hand this role to me. They were like ” We like you.” I’m just
grateful, you know and the fact that I didn’t get the part that I wanted. They
acknowledged me and wanted me to come on set for a day and that was wonderful. It was lovely. I have to say that Martin Scorsese — he is an icon. He’s a legend.
KR: Absolutely! I first heard of his name since I was very young!
CC: I got on set and he was charming, funny and cracking jokes. He’s very sweet. He comes after you and says ” Ok, we are going to discuss this scene. ” Oh my god. He’s beyond a gentleman and totally in control. He was never bossy on set, always said something like “Let’s do it this way.” Or ” I think this would be better.” Or ” How’s that going for you?” I was absolutely charmed by him and the lighting on that set — it was like being in an adult Disneyland! They filmed it in a New York restaurant but it was supposed to be Miami? So it looked very tropical. It was an unforgettable day to be around such evolutionary highly together people.
KR: You are such a sweet person in real life and more importantly humble. I saw Extremely Loud Incredibly Close and once again you delivered that one scene so amazingly well that I even got scared!
CC: I’m really sure what I do. I have played quite a few of these characters.
I’m channelling something. I guess my rage at the injustice in the world and I get to take them out on these characters.
KR: The first time we met I was really scared. I was hoping I wouldn’t get yelled at. [laughs]
CC: Oh, I’m going to yell at you now.
KR: I’m really not going to squat, and cough like you had Piper do! [Laughs] By the way, they wrote this part just for you, right? To play Wanda Bell?
CC: Yeah, I was supposed to be on the pilot. That’s all I had, but they liked
what I did, so they brought me back. However, I think it was because I have a strong point of view about the prison culture in the American society and we as a first world nation incarcerate more people than any first world nation and what is that saying? And that’s what I love about Orange that I think it really opening up that communication and dialogue and saying these are souls that are being warehoused. These are human beings that have made mistakes, but some of these mistakes would be better suited to some sort of community service or some sort of action of, “You messed up so you have to do this,” rather than putting these people away. It’s not that black and white. So, we’re ending up with these overcrowded prisons. I really feel that there are places that are encrypting bad information in the human soul, and I wanted to play a character who was “not nice.” I wanted to play a character who was jealous, intimidating, bitchy, and angry. And I feel that the character I portray is really in charge in her little tiny place in the world. It’s like those officials who are virtually Demi-gods in their own little universes where they rule, and they shouldn’t rule anything or anyone at any time. I really modeled my character after that idea, the idea of the wrong person in charge.
KR: What was it like working with Michael Trim? ( One of the directors of Orange is The New Black )
CC: I love Michael Trim. I think he’s a genius. I’m grateful to him because he’s
so relaxed and so mellow. He would be like ” Looks good! Try that!” [Laughs] And make you be like ” I will. I’m comfortable doing that!” Because I have mainly done off Broadway theater and off off broadway… But didn’t really know much about taping for TV so this has been a big part of my journey. I love him for this. I genuinely love everyone from that show. They are a great group of talented people!
KR: How does it work? Do you meet with the writers and do table reading?
CC: No, they email the scripts and they you show up and you shoot the scenes. There are a little rehearsals though.
KR: Your first scene on set was with Taylor Schilling?
CC: Yes, Taylor is so good. She totally knows what’s she’s doing. There’s no troubles or problems. She’s one of the nicest, kindest, easiest stars that I’ve ever worked with. She’s very professional. She’s one of my most favorite people I’ve worked with on that show. She’s very relaxed.
KR: You play a correctional officer so you seemed to be involved with a lot of inmates in the show.
CC: Yes, but not all of them. I seemed to be involved more with the guards. Like Joel Garland ( CO O’Neill ), he’s such a sweetheart. I hope that there would be season 3.
KR: I’m sure you, me and the rest of the fans are praying for season 3 and many more!
CC: I got asked a lot about when season was coming out.
KR: Yes! Me, too! A lot of fans are dying to know! I have my own logic though. [Laughs]
CC: What is your logic? [Laughs]
KR: That it will probably be released after House of Cards (February 14th) and Game of Thrones (April 6th)
CC: By the way, think about it. We are sitting in a nice place in the West
Village eating Kale Salad and green juice while people could be going through tragic right now. There are so many people on the planet with different stories. It’s so mind blowing.
KR: Before watching Orange is The New Black, I honestly knew absolutely nothing about WPA. I’m glad that Piper Kerman and the cast mentioned about it a lot on Twitter. We need to get the word out. You and I knew about this but I’m sure great amount of people were just like me before this, absolutely clueless. We should be helping out if we can.
CC: I so agreed with you! I don’t care if it would take 20 years from now. You
can do what you can do. That’s the only way society goes forward.
KR: Yeah. I remember talking to Piper and apologizing to her for just learning about WPA now and she said I had nothing to apologize for. I can start as a beginner, and become a volunteer. Getting the word out is also great.
CC: I love the WPA. I love the fact that It’s the organization that’s basically
saying before the prison system gets you, we are going to try to catch you and give you a good program where you don’t end up with the criminal record. You can end up in an apartment or getting your kids back. That’s amazing!
KR: Right? Just like Taystee, she got out then went right back to prison because you didn’t get the support she needed.
CC: I agree. There’s a group up in Harlem where is running a house you can go and put your life back after prison. We have to put something in place. It’s not about a hand out, but a hand up.
KR: What would you like to tell your fans?
CC: [Laughs] I don’t know. Do I have fans? [Laughs] Fight for what feels right
and just in your heart.
KR: That’s really nice. Thank you so much for hanging out with me. This was really fun!