Exclusive Interview : Lea DeLaria AKA Big Boo from OITNB
It’s been eight months since Netflix released 13 episodes of “Orange is The New Black,” and “the screwdriver” has been one of the most talked about things in the series. In OITNB, a screwdriver goes missing and it ends up in the hands of Carrie “Big Boo” Black who famously used it for her pleasure. These days the actress Lea DeLaria enjoys getting screwdrivers sent to her from fans, bartenders, and complete strangers wherever she goes.
I met with Lea at a diner in Brooklyn where she currently resides due largely in part to the success of the show.
LD: I called myself a NYLON. A New York – Londoner. Get it? N-Y-L-O-N. This is funny.
KR: It is! [Laughs] You’re so fancy.
LD: I always flew American Air between London-NY, so I called it my taxi — AA142 was the flight there and 131 was the flight back. I always said “Oh, that’s my taxi home.”
KR: [Laughs] Nice. How long had you lived in London?
LD: I’d lived there for 10 years. I don’t live there anymore. Since the show hit, I only live here in New York. I went back and forth for about 10 years. I had a really good singing career in Europe. I am signed with WARNER JAZZ AND CLASSICS UK.
KR: Wow! I wish I could see you perform live! I’ve only watched many of your shows on YouTube. You are so good that I wish you could sing me to sleep. [Laughs]
LD: I’m appearing at Smoke Jazz And Super Club on June 4th shows at 7, 9:30 and 11 PM.
KR: Cool! I asked people if they had any questions for you and I got a funny one. This person asked if she could marry you. I swear I did not make this up. [Laughs] I’m sorry, I know you have a girlfriend.
LD: Even if I didn’t have a girlfriend. I don’t believe in marriage. Not for gay or straight. I think it’s heinous and no one should do it, but God bless you if you want to. I’m on your side but you will never see me get married. I’m just way too old school, too feminist for that crap. But, you can certainly tell her I’ll totally have sex with her, certainly.
KR: Oh boy. Good luck to this girl. [Laughs]
LD: [Laughs hysterically]
KR: You are seriously killing me here. My cheeks hurt from laughing! You reminded me of my interview with Emma Myles. I know you guys are close.
LD: Emma is my good friend. She is hilarious. I think they really found that out in season one about Emma. I think that every little thing they had her do, she did really well.
KR: When she made the dolphin noises!
LD: Oh the dolphins killed us! That episode, we were all sitting in the audience when each person went on stage. You know? When they filmed, they filmed from different angles; they call that point of view, right. They had to film from performers’ point of view. The camera would be behind who ever was on stage. So you could see everybody in the audience. We would all be there but we weren’t allowed to laugh because it was filming! It was the most hilarious day. Every time the director yelled, “Cut,” the entire cast and crew just screamed with laughter from whatever the person just did. Everybody was just so funny and on it that day.
KR: I got to watch that episode at Adrienne [C. Moore]’s birthday party. Emma was there and everyone just laughed so hard watching that episode.
LD: Oh man. I missed that party. I was out of town.
KR: You and I would have met and I would have completely freaked out then.
LD: Yeah. [Laughs] I wanted to be there so badly. I was like “Goddamn it. Adrienne. I missed your party!”
KR: Vicky was supposed to be there, too.
LD: Vicky Jeudy? The girl with 2 names? [Laughs]
KR: Yeah, that one. [Laughs]
LD: She needs to get a last name.
KR: I was very good I didn’t go fangirl on Emma.
LD: Go ahead, fangirl away. We are so used to it now.
KR: Do you have any funny fan-encounter stories?
LD: Well, besides the screwdrivers I’ve signed? I mean, what do these people do with the screwdrivers? Do they just carry them around with sharpies and hoped they run into me? [Laughs]
KR: Was it even easy to sign on a screwdriver?
LD: Generally, what they do is they have an orange screwdriver. Most of the time …Philips with kind of like a rubber grip. Almost every time it’s always been that. But, the new thing which I really like — started about 2 months ago. A bartender sent me a screwdriver [drink]. I liked that much better! Mostly, every bar I go into now, people send me screwdrivers! The first time it was sent to me, I actually tweeted about it. It was right before Christmas. At that place on14th and 3rd called “5 NAPKIN BURGER.” It was 1 AM in the morning! So I had to tweet about it and Instagramed it, too.
KR: Speaking of that, I’ll have to snap a picture of you for your fans. Something to remember you by since we don’t know when they are releasing season 2 yet. [The interview was a week before Netflix released the date for season 2]
LD: Oh, honey, we don’t know when, either! The truth is even IF we knew, we couldn’t tell you, but in reality we just don’t know. [Laughs]
KR: Out of your versatile career, which project did you enjoy the most? I know that you can do it all!
LD: I like to be able to do it all. It’s important to me. I’m renaissance that way, but the reality is it’s just old school show business. In old school show business, you have to be able to do everything — act, dance, sing and so on. When I say old school, I mean like Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Dean Martin… those guys. That’s me. I just grew up with that and that’s just who I am. I was raised on July Garland.
KR: What would you do forever of all these things?
LD: I hope I can do all of it forever. I hope I could do “Orange is The New Black” until the day I die. [Laughs]
(We both imitated Pennsatucky and laughed.)
KR: People from the show that I’ve interviewed kept asking me about my favorite character and I couldn’t tell them.
LD: Yeah, who’s your favorite? [Laughs]
KR: I really can’t tell you because I can’t pick just one. I love them all. It depends on the episode I watch. Like, I watch the Janae episode then I would be all about Vicky Jeudy. Some days I might love Piper, but then the next day I hate her. [Laughs]
LD: Isn’t Piper character great like that? You go back and forth loving or hating her. You have these moment that you just wanted to hit her. [Laughs] The thing is she, Piper, just does the best she can, you know, in really crazy circumstance.
KR: Yeah, I think it’s more realistic that way because no one is perfect.
LD. She’s every man in the show. She’s the fish out of water and every man. You are meant to take the whole journey with her. That’s the whole idea, right? So, you are going to empathize with her or want to kill her — just like with yourself. I’ll tell you who breaks my heart. It’s Uzo (Crazy Eye) — Breaks. My. Heart.
KR: I actually cried for her when she found out what Piper actually thought of her through the radio.
LD: Oh my god, that radio thing. By the way, this is the 3rd time I’ve done something with Uzo.
KR: Really? What was the first?
LD: Uzo and I did a musical at THE American Repertory Theater called “Prometheus Bound” and that’s when we first met — about 2 and a half years ago, I think.
KR: Oh, so she did that before Godspell?
LD: That was before Godspell. In fact, right after we closed, we both went right into another musical called “AMANDINE”
I don’t know what it is but Uzo and I kept getting cast together. I’m way too old for Godspell. You would not have seen me in that. [Laughs]
KR: I was kicking myself for missing that show.
LD: Oh, that show is great. Hunter [Parrish] was in it. He was great in Weeds.
KR: I know. I love that show! Anyway, I wanted to hear your stories of how you met your cast mate, let’s start with Emma!
LD: She was adorable. I met her when she was waiting to get her makeup. She was very excited because she was a huge fan of mine.
KR: She mentioned to me that her friends told her to become friends with you. [Laughs]
LD: That’s hilarious! I had no idea that that was going on. I thought ,”Hey, you’re funny. Let’s hang out!” I literally videotaped her getting her makeup done. You wouldn’t believe how gorgeous she was and they made her look super hideous in 20 minutes!
KR:I know right? Emma has such a beautiful blond hair!
LD: She’s what they call a, “Californian beauty.” You know, beautiful country girl look, blond hair and blue eyes. And look what they turn her into! All the girls had to go through that, but Samira and me basically look exactly the way we look! You know, as humans. [Laughs] We will be walking as a group and people stop us. Uzo would walk by. Vicky would walk by. Fans would stop us and talk to us because we look like our characters and they don’t. It’s adorable. It’s incredible. For me I’ve been doing standup for 30 years and what’s happening to me right now is awesome!
KR: Wow. 30 years!
LD: I know I’m older than I look. [Laughs]
KR: You don’t look it!
LD: You know I’m 55. IMDB me and you will see my age.
KR: Oh your IMDB page is very busy! Some of your work I haven’t gotten a chance to see.
LD: For me, I’ve been putting my time in, as a stand-up, singer, doing my stuff and now suddenly it’s just all paid off!
KR: You know who said the exact same thing to me? Michael Harney! I didn’t like his character in Weeds. [Laughs] but he’s super sweet in real life. I feel like it takes the nicest man to play such a bad guy.
LD: Hmm… they are the most fun roles. I love playing the bad guy. They are always my favorite.
KR: How did you feel to be associated with the screwdriver? [Laughs]
LD: [Laughs] I felt quite honored and also loved getting those free screwdriverS from bartenders. One thing I liked about portraying Boo is that she feels really organic, really honest, so I don’t really memorize my lines until I get on set. I’ll have scripts In my hand as we rehearse. We usually rehearse 2 or 3 times. First for director and then once you got that down then the director brings out the crew and I’ll do the scene again and while the crew is working before filming, you got time,15 to 20 minutes before you do the scene and that’s when I memorize my lines. Most of my lines are the jokes which I usually memorize from reading it the first time.
KR: You got a lot of hilarious and cool lines!
LD: The jokes are so good!
KR: Did you come up with your own jokes? The Kate Winslet one?
LD: No, that one was there. Everyone loves that line, but it’s not my favorite.
KR: It’s not? I liked that one!
LD: No, the Tory Amos line is. “This is more depressing then a Tori Amos cover band.” That’s the funniest line anybody has ever written. That and ” Then you must be dumber than you look which is pretty fucking dumb because you look like your people have been fucking each other for generations”
KR. [Laughs] I paused and tried to mouth what Big Boo’d just said to Tricia.
LD: It was really fun doing that scene and I also got to work with [Laura] Prepon in that scene. I would do something. I would walk up and Prepon would just be grinning and I’d be like ” What are you grinning at?” And she would be like ” You are funny!” And I’d be like “Score!” She became like this little angel for me. If I look at her and see a little grin in her face. I knew I was in the right direction because Prepon don’t play. She knows funny. She grew up on television.
KR: So you called her by Prepon?
LD: I don’t know why? Sometimes I call her LP. Laura’s the shit! I Love her. Honestly, there are no bad people on set. I’m sure everyone has told you that.
KR: This is one thing I love about you guys. You always rave about each other, and support one another.
LD: How can you not love them? Look at Kate Mugrew, she completely disappears in her character! She becomes Red! It’s frightening.
KR: I’m kind of scared of her. [Laughs]
LD: [Laughs] You and me both! She’s become one of my good friends from the show. We do things together. We specially like to go see shows and plays together. We both are into theater.
KR: Yes, I saw some pictures of you and her at this show with Zachary Quinto.
LD: Oh yeah, The Glass Margarie… Because Zach was in the show and Captain Janeway… And you know Mr. Spock.
KR: I have a question for you, who’s the funniest?
LD: Honestly, it’s me… I want to say me but I can’t. I have to give it to Lyonne. It’s infuriating
KR: Every time you guys tweet each other, I always laugh out loud!
LD: One thing we both like to do is make each other laugh and when the director said cut! We would just make everyone in the room laugh.
KR: That one time, like really early in the morning, you and Natasha just tweeted each other asking what time to be on set. [Laughs]
LD: Oh yeah, we both were like we had to be on set at 4:30 in the morning! I love our show because it’s very democratic and they are only so many dressing rooms. This is very classic television show etiquette and it’s first comes first served — that’s the way they do it. They built dressing rooms upstairs. There are cubicles and they are fine. You have a chair, a lamp and an outlet that you can plug your phone in. You have a door. That’s all you got. [Laughs] You have to use the public bathrooms, stuff like that. So, they all got there before me and Lyonne being one of them. I walked in, she saw me and said ” I’ve been here for half an hour. Where have you been?” [Lea imitates Natasha Lyonne]
KR: [Laughs] Best. Natasha. Lyonne. Ever!
LD: I imitate all of them. And she went on” What were you doing, slacker? You just walk in now? [Laughs] Natasha is like enter screaming. That should be the name of her biography. She just walks in. Door closes behind her. I mean come on. It has to be at least 6 AM until I make the entire room laugh. So, yeah, she wins!
KR: I’m sorry I can’t stop laughing! Today reminds me of the day I interviewed Emma and I was so worried we would get kicked out of the macaroon place we went to.
LD: We are fine here. We are sitting all the way in the back. Speaking of my cast mate, Emma [Myles] and Taryn [Manning] have been real gifts to me. I didn’t know I was gonna end up being so friendly with both of them, hanging out with them, indeed Emma introduced me to my girlfriend. It’s crazy. And even after I said that, I’ve also become good friends with Kate, Tash [ Natasha Lyonne] You know? And oh my god… Samira [Wiley], Danielle [Brooks] , we all hang out. We all love each other. I did a Christmas show this year at Joe’s pub and practically the entire cast and crew were there.
KR: I tried to get tickets to that show.
LD: Yeah, I was sold out and there was no room to add another show. I’m sorry. Honestly, the cast and crew took up quarter of the house! So, good luck to everybody else. [Laughs]
KR: I was sad I didn’t make the cut.
LD: They had to turn people away. I’ve been in show business for years and not one cast ever came to a gig to see me. Our cast and crew, we go to everybody’s everything! We support each other.
KR: Anyway, you worked with Little Boo. What’s the dog’s real name?
LD: It’s Avery. It’s a weird name for DOG I think. [Laughs] She’s an English Lab. They look like puppy forever which is why we used her
KR: She’s so cute!
LD: She’s the best dog , however, she has the worst breathe! We would be like she’s so cute then she opened her mouth and we were like ughhhhhh. My god, somebody brush this dog’s teeth! [Laughs] One time I told the trainer ” Take the dog upstairs and give her parsley or something”
KR: [Laughs] I can’t stop laughing! Poor Avery. By the way, are you a cat or dog person?
LD: I’m an animal person. So, I like both dogs and cats.
KR: Aww. Oh, I read somewhere that you auditioned for a different role. Was it a CO [Correctional Officer]?
LD: Oh yeah. A CO.
KR: Which one?
LD: The one that’s having an affair with O’Neill.
KR: Cathy’s role! I just recently interviewed her!
LD: Yeah, I originally auditioned for that. They got back to me and said they were interested in me for a different part. So, I was like ” It’s okay with me.” Then I went for a part that Lin Tucci [ DeMarco in OITNB) has. And they said that I was too young, which is hilarious because I’m actually older than Lin Tucci, but I don’t look it. So I was told that they would find something for me. ” We love you. We are going to find something for you” and that came right from Jenji [Kohan]. Jenji loved me but they had nothing for me at the time. They literally told my manager they had nothing for me. That had been happening to me a lot. I would have great auditions and just being eked out. At that point, I was so over it! I was so angry at television about the way they portray women and the way they look at fat people, lesbian… completely marginalized. I thought it was all bullshit. I’ve been doing this for so many years and I literally screamed at my manager. ” If they are making a television show and about women in prison and there isn’t a part for me, I fucking quit!” “I’m going to back to England” because I made a really good living there singing. I packed everything up and flew to London. I got off the plane. I got to my house and the phone machine had like 12 messages telling me I need to come back because they got a part for me. You know, in this business. They say they are going to write something for you all the time but they never do. I’m still waiting for that part in Law & Order that they were gonna write for me, but they never did and that show isn’t even on fucking television anymore! [Laughs]
KR: So you came back to New York.
LD: Yeah and they actually created a part for me as Big Boo. Big Boo was only supposed to be in a couple episodes. And Jenji, as she said on NPR, just created the part for me — fantastic. I think that is the reason Big Boo comes off so organic because they write in my voice so this is awesome.
KR: The definition of Big Boo is womanizer, right? [Laughs]
LD: Oh yeah. I got that on day one!
KR: I was trying to do the math. That scene Red said 3 Mrs. Boos ago and added those with Mercy. So Big Boo had 4 wives? Unless, what the audience didn’t know about. [Laughs]
LD: Oh, there must be a lot more than that — way more. That’s why they call her Big Boo because she’s everybody’s boo. That was explained to me as I started season one.
KR: You are a comedian so would you be interested in working behind the scene for Orange? What would you want to do?
LD: Oh hell yes! I would write for them in second! I write my own show. I’m currently working on my show. I started working out of town. I will be in Buffalo this weekend. I would love to work with those writers!
KR: Any upcoming projects?
LD: Yes. I’ve got “THE LAST BUTCH STANDING ” and of course, hopefully season 3.
KR: Common. It should be renewed already!
LD: I’m currently in A movie on The Hallmark Channel called “Dear Dumb Diary” in which I play the lunch lady wearing hairnets and all. You won’t recognize me. I have a wig on. Also, I’m recording my next record soon. It’s called “House of David Delaria+bowie=jazz.”
I got a lot of stuff going on. Due to who I am, I always do a lot of things in order to pay rent. The show has just made me way more busy. Thank god I’m not Lavern. I would kill myself. [Laughs] she has this new life as a speaker. So she works all the time. Lavern is the shit! She’s brilliant.
KR: What’s the best part of being on the show? Name one.
LD: Just one? This is hard.
KR: Fine, I’ll give you two. [Laughs]
LD: [Laughs] Hot babes. What can I say? It’s got to be hot babes. This show is filled with hot babes. I get to hang out with them all the time. And then the hot babes who watch the show and want their pictures taken with me and put their arms around me. Awesome! Score!
KR: What shows do you watch every week?
LD: I watch SVU non-stop. It’s always my background noise. All the Netflix shows, House Of Cards, LILLYHAMMER, which is hilarious. I also watch Broadwalk Empire. I also watched Breaking Bad.
KR: I’m still bummed out about that one. I missed it.
LD: I know and of course, Modern Family. I also watch The daily show and Colbert report.
KR: I love those too! Which one is your favorite though?
LD: I love both. I can’t choose. They are both so funny. I was actually in the audience last week of Colbert Report and they basically mobbed me after the show. They were so excited! They had to have their security to get me out. My life is so weird these days. My good friend Scott Thomson was just sent to Russia for Colbert Report as their corespondent and the first one aired last night and it was hilarious! That’s why I was there.
KR: Oh, I almost forgot to ask you this. What was your reaction to the twist of Big Boo and the screwdriver?
LD: I jumped up and down like a little girl. I was so excited. As an actor, when you are asked to do something like that, you go YES!
KR: I was like ” Piper, you are in danger, girl!”
LD:Everybody thought that. That’s the beauty of Jenji Kohan, man! She gets it and knows how to make a twist like that. I’m fond of telling this story. I used to live in Manhattan. My roommate is the musical director for Alan Cumming. When I got this script, I was reading it in my room and they heard me screaming with laughter and they asked me “Lea, are you okay?” Alan sat and listened to what I was supposed to do and then he went “I’m so jealous.” What actor wouldn’t like being asked to masterbate to orgasm for comedic effect on TV?
KR: My feelings were so built up! I thought” That’s it. Piper is dead “and then that happened [Laughs] One thing I liked about the story line towards the end of the show is that these characters kind of sat together and liked each other, and didn’t even worry about their ethnicity or point of views. Oh well, except for Piper and Pennsatucky. I heard something really sweet about you from Emma. She said you are the kind of friend who will come to your rescue if you need help moving. [Laughs] It’s not easy to find good friends who would help you move these days. Especially, we live in New York.
LD: I Agree. I’m old school and I’m Italian. I’m loyal. It’s a part of friendship. If you need my help, I’m there to help out when I can.
KR: You know I’m moving next year. So, I’ll tweet you then?
LD: [Laughs] Yeah. Let me know.
KR: My friends told me. There’s something called ” Movers”
LD: Yeah, I do that, too, if I need something moved quickly, but I’m old school, I’ll help out. And honestly, I would use friends.
KR: I love that you guys from Orange always talk about each other. Emma talked a lot about you and Taryn and others and you do the same. It’s great.
LD: I know. For me, I’ve been around for so long and this show is a big hit and everyone is excited. I’m just happy to talk about all of us. I can’t even tell you that the funniest person is me because I picked Lyonne. These people have become my good friends.
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