Emma Myles Talks OITNB and Its 12 Emmy Nominations
One of the fun characters to watch in Lichfield is Leanne Taylor, a meth head with yellow teeth who rocked this one-liner, “It’s because I called you pussy, isn’t it?” played by the hilarious actress, Emma Myles.
We met in Park Slope, Brooklyn at a Mexican restaurant for some guacamole and conversation.
KR: Hello, Emma.
KR: I want to go through some questions that your fans sent to me on Twitter so they won’t be mad at me. [Laughs]
Emma: You could just blame it all on me. You could just say, “I asked her these questions, but she wouldn’t answer.” [Laughs] I’m kidding. Let’s do it.
KR: Do you have favorite scenes from the first season? Both the scenes that you were in and ones you liked.
Emma: My favorite scene from the first season is… Man, it seemed so long ago. It’s when Crazy Eyes freaks out in the cafeteria and says, “I will cut you!”
KR: Were you in that scene though?
Emma: You said both! I’m talking about the scene I liked. Come on, Anne. Let me do my thing. [Laughs] And my favorite scene that I did…. I would say the rap battle.
KR: That was a fun scene. Did you come up with it?
Emma: No, that was scripted. It was all Lauren Morelli. She wrote it.
KR: She’s good.
Emma: She’s so good.
KR: That’s episode six, I think.
Emma: Yeah, WACPAC.
KR: Ding Ding Ding Ding!
Emma: Ding ding ding ding! I know. I remember things and stuff. Next!
KR: Who’s your favorite character?
Emma: I’ve answered this question a lot of Twitter. I have to give it to Tucky.[Taryn Manning]
KR: Actually, I asked you this on your first interview last year, remember? [Laughs]
Emma: Exactly. You can just link it to our last interview. [Laughs]
KR: And you can’t tell us about which directions Leanne Taylor is going in in season three?
Emma: That’s the thing, if it’s about season three. We can’t talk about it.
KR: Do you have any ideas of where Leanne is from?
Emma: I do. A bit.
KR: What do you like the most about Leanne in season two?
Emma: Oh my god. I like a lot. I like that she asserted herself, finally. It’s fun to play. I get to play a mean girl, but I’m still a nice person. You know how long I spent being under the rein of Tucky. [Laughs]
KR: Exactly, I think people have to remember that Leanne was basically suppressed by Tucky and she literally bossed her around. But, watching season two, I wanted you to forgive Tucky and accept her already.
Emma: I mean, I had this conversation with Lauren Morelli because we were shooting this scene when Tucky got her new teeth and she smiled and Leanne was just not giving it to her. So, I was talking to Lauren like ‘How do you see it playing out?’ Because we don’t really know what happened between them. How did they stop being friends, and Lauren explained to me: “think of being under a dictator, and then think of the kind of liberation that comes when that dictator is gone” It’s like ‘wait things are better now.’ So, she was kind of coming from that angle. I initially wanted them to stay friends because Taryn and I are friends in real life and it’s really fun to work together but they had a lot of fun splitting us up.
KR: When she came back though, after being locked up, I was hoping to see you throwing your arms around her and telling her what was going on while she was gone.
Emma: I know. I did miss her. I still personally believe that Leanne has a soft spot in her heart for Tucky. We’ll see what happens.
KR: It’s good to see your character float around and interact with other people though.
Emma: [Laughs] Yeah, Leanne was really fun this season.
KR: What’s your favorite one-liner for season two?
Emma: “It’s cause I called you a pussy, isn’t it?”
KR: I knew it!
Emma: [Laughs] Thank you Nick Jones.
KR: Oh, he wrote that?
Emma: Yeah. I love it. It was a great season.
KR: So, when you get your script, did you just look for your scenes first? Or you just read through people’s scenes as well.
Emma: I would find where my character is and what’s going on and I’ll read the scene and then I’ll go back and read the entire thing.
KR: How many times have you seen the show at this point?
Emma: It’s so funny. The first season I watched all of it and I went back because my boyfriend had only seen it up to episode 6. Then we started to watch it together so I watched episode 6 through 13 twice. And then I did the same thing this year because Darcy was catching up. But I think we did a reverse because we watched it through episode 6 together and then he finished the rest on his own. I watched it in 2 days I think?
KR: I finished it in one day.
Emma: How is that possible?
KR: I started at 3.
Emma: In the morning?
Emma: Jesus Christ, Anne.
KR: I fell asleep then I went to get my OITNB cake and went through all episodes while having the cake. [Laughs]
Emma: I know. I saw it. It was a magical cake.
KR: I wanted the whole cast on my cake and they said “No, it won’t fit; you have to take some people out.” And I was like ‘What does that even mean? I can’t do that.’ You know what; I can just draw Leanne and other people.
Emma: [Laughs] Yeah, doodling works. Or write ‘Leanne’
KR: How did you guys celebrate last night? [It was announced the day before our interview that OITNB got 12 Emmy nominations]
Emma: We were all very excited. We didn’t know anything officially. We just got the run down throughout the day, but we had a kind of ‘If that actually happens, this is our meeting spot.’ And of course, everyone was biting their nails.
KR: So, who was the first to find out on set?
Emma: I have no idea. Some people were on set, but I was not. They were streaming the Emmys at 8 in the morning. The first thing I saw was the best actress in a comedy category, which Taylor was in and I screamed. I didn’t really know where we stood until that moment. I love our show and our fans love our show, and we deserved to be recognized, but you never really know if you’re on the same page as the academy. So, I was like “We’re either going to get totally snubbed, or we’re going to smack the shit out of the nominations.” That’s where my head was at.
KR: Last year, the show came out a little later? Is that why it wasn’t nominated last year?
Emma: Yeah, that’s why this year Orange is nominated for its first season, not the second season. It’s all about scheduling and deadlines. But we got the Taylor nom and then we got the Best Comedy nom and I started crying. It’s a big deal. The rest of the categories we were eligible for weren’t broadcasted. Like supporting actress. I was like “Where are the supporting categories?!” Then I realized I had to look them up. But yeah, 12. It’s insane. And I’m really happy for Breaking Bad.
KR: And luckily, Orange is not up against Breaking Bad because you and I would have a hard time. [Laughs] Oh, besides Breaking Bad, what else do you watch?
Emma: I’m currently rewatching Friday Night Lights. It’s legitimately excellent. And it has really well developed female characters which is sadly super rare. I’m also a huge X-Files‘ fan so I’m basically just watching that all the time.
KR: Oh, that’s obvious if people follow you on Instagram, they would notice this.
Emma: Yeah, like every #WCW is Gillian Anderson. I love her. She’s my favorite.
KR: So, after you found out about the nominations what happened?
Emma: We had all planned on meeting at the stage at 1 for champagne and pictures. So we were all gathering in the first team hallway because they were still shooting, but we were all so excited that every time someone came in we just screamed and jumped on each other. Danie [Danielle Brooks] comes in screaming jump hug. Adrienne [C. Moore] comes in screaming jump hug. Dash [Polanco], Lisa [Vinnecour], Jackie [Cruz], Selenis [Leyva]…. Just tears and screaming and jumping.
KR: Too bad that some people weren’t there like Samira [Wiley], Natasha [Lyonne] and many more.
Emma: I know, some of our peeps were out of town. I mean, no one wants to be presumptuous or assume that this was coming our way. We didn’t want to jinx the whole thing by making an official schedule.
KR: Exactly, then what happened?
Emma: Well the first thing I saw when we got onto the soundstage was Lea [DeLaria] crying and talking to Laverne [Cox]. I’m sure you saw the picture.
KR: Yeah, I saw that beautiful photo.
Emma: This is so huge. Obviously, this is a big deal for us as a production, but certainly for the LGBTQ community and for women in general. Most of time, not all of the time but a lot of the time anything that has to do with women isn’t taken seriously. And I think we really have to make more of an effort to prove that we’re worth watching and that these stories matter.
KR: Totally. #YesAllWomen.
Emma: [Laughs] #YesAllWomen. And #LikeAGirl.
KR: People unfollowed me on Twitter for using that hashtag.
Emma: Oh, they always will. Anytime, I post something remotely feminist on social media, people unfollow me. But then I get other people tagging their friends in comments and their friends are like “whoa cool she’s a feminist!”
KR: Are there any parts of Lichfield prison that you want Leanne to explore? So far, you have been to the Safe Place, and the kitchen.
Emma: I haven’t gone out of the laundry room much. I would love to see Leanne go to the salon.
KR: Right? You would get to act with Laverne.
Emma: We’ve been talking about that since season two. Julie [Lake], Taryn [Manning] and I were all like “Makeovers!”, but now Tucky has her new teeth so 1 down 2 to go! I’ll file that under things that will probably never happen.
KR: She’s so cute showing off her new teeth.
Emma: That was one of my favorite moments. When she’s in the office really feeling good about herself and no one would say anything and she was like ‘Really!? Dang it!’ That’s so Taryn.
KR: Yeah, she’s become a meme. That scene when she said “You smell like a fucking turtle tank . . .”
Emma: You smell like a fucking turtle tank, take a fucking shower. I love that line. Love it!
KR: Especially, we live in New York and that made me love that line even more.
Emma: We feel it. We feel that line.
KR: Let me be clear that we are sitting in an extremely clean place.
Emma: Oh yeah, readers, we are not sitting in a turtle tank. [Laughs]
KR: Is there any other characters you would like to have a scene with?
Emma: Yes! Adrienne!
KR: You guys haven’t? I thought there were a bit like here and there?
Emma: We got a couple.
KR: And you guys are close in real life, too, right?
Emma: Yes, she’s one of my buds. Anyway, we had like a scene in the bathroom, remember? When I was flossing my teeth. The flossing was Adrienne’s idea. It was totally genius.
KR: [Slow claps]
Emma: Yeah, slow claps. That’s the smartest thing ever. They gave me a little pouch thing and said to do my morning routines, whatever Leanne would do. Leanne doesn’t really have so many products.
KR: That scene was so hilarious. Leanne just kept looking and I kept laughing.
Emma: [Laughs] I know she was so creepy. I was trying to figure out, like, maybe Leanne should tweeze? and then Adrienne was like “You should get some floss” I have to give Adrienne all the credit. It was all her.
KR: Have you ever thought of The meth heads conquering the kitchen?
Emma: Well, we conquered the nutmeg. [Laughs] That was written by Sarah Hess. I was peeing my pants while reading that episode. I was like ‘Seriously? Did people actually get high from doing that?’
KR: I had no idea you could get high from that.
Emma: Apparently, if you have a certain amount of nutmeg, it will get you high.
KR: What about your favorite scene, something you weren’t in?
Emma: I think my favorite scene is the one with Taryn and Michael on the bench when he shares his cookie. Even when I read the script, I read that scene and welled up. I knew what they were going to do with it. It broke and warmed my heart at the same time. It was really emotional.
KR: It’s amazing how many times I watched that scene, I cried right on the spot.
Emma: I know! That’s testament to the writing and also, the fantastic chemistry between the two of them. I loved it. I loved what they did to her character this season. I also loved any scenes with the Golden Girls. Any scenes with Black Cindy, I’m dying for.
KR: Whatever comes out of Adrienne’s mouth, she nails it!
Emma: Adrienne kills me every time. Ooh, and when Lea kicks the Jolly Ranchers. I have a handful of my favorites. I can’t really pick one.
KR: Honestly, the Valentine’s Day episode is my favorite.
Emma: Such a great episode. *Whispers* Stephen Falk. [Laughs]
KR: Do you have a hilarious fan encounter?
Emma: Yes! I have two. So, I was at the Governor’s ball. It started at June 6th and went through the 8th. 3 day long music festival. The show came out on the 6th so I wasn’t able to watch and see what was going on because I was at this festival rocking for 72 hours. And on my last day there, I swear it was like a pack of teenage girls, there were like 7 of them. When they turned around and saw me [Emma demonstrated how it went down] [Laughs]
KR: [Laughs] That was like Despicable Me.
Emma: [Laughs] One was like “Oh my god. I watched like 8 episodes so far of season two.” And then she told her friends “Oh my god. It’s her! It’s totally her!” Then she hugged me and started jumping. I was like “How could you watch that many episodes when you’re here all day? I haven’t seen any except for number 1.” They said they were watching all night and didn’t sleep. Oh, to be young. [Laughs]
KR: [Laughs] That was so sweet though. What’s the other encounter?
Emma: This one is a couple weeks after. Me, Darcy, Lea, (and her girlfriend who’s also my best friend), Chelsea, Taryn, and her boyfriend, Chris; they all came out to have brunch. And there were these girls who kept looking over throughout their meal. They didn’t say anything until they were paying their check and about to leave. Then finally one of them gets our attention and says “I just wanted to let you know that I blew my friend off last night to watch Orange. I was supposed to hang out with her but I wanted to watch you guys instead. So, I took her out to brunch to make up for it and here you all are.” [Laughs]
KR: That’s the best thing ever.
Emma: Isn’t that a cool story? That’s rad, man.
KR: She got her picture?
Emma: Oh yeah, she did.
KR: Good. She deserved it.
Emma: Of course, she did.
KR: What would you like to tell your fans?
Emma: All I can really think of is thank you. The night of the nominations we were out at the Cubby Hole partying….
KR: I mean, you all deserved it.
Emma: Ha, thanks. I was there with Jackie [Cruz] and Jessica [Pimentel] and there was this girl who came up to me with tears in her eyes and she said, “I just want to tell you that you guys are changing the world. You are changing the way people look at women in prison, and you are changing the way people see the LGBTQ community, and you are changing the way people see women period. Thank you for telling their stories.”
KR: Wow. I’m getting goose bumps. I so agree with this girl.
Emma: Me, too. It really hit me that people are watching this and being grabbed by it in a very real way. We’re really lucky that people are thinking about the importance of voices being heard, particularly those that have been silenced for so long, and that it’s giving people hope that things can change.
KR: Absolutely, just like an organization like WPA, I bet a lot of people never heard of and now some of us got introduced to it.
Emma: Yea, I know. And that’s the amazing thing about the whole show. Shout out to Piper Kerman because we wouldn’t have a show without her, and people wouldn’t be talking about these things like this if it weren’t for her book. The dialogue is out there now and people are a lot less afraid to jump in. Honestly, the show is important, not only good, funny and relatable, but it’s important.
KR: So relatable.
Emma: More relatable than Friends. And when does that happen?
KR: You and Friends references…
Emma: I love Friends.
KR: Me, too. High Five!
Emma: High five! Friends rocks!
KR: Okay, who’s the funniest on set?
Emma: Hands down Natasha [Lyonne]. She’s like a walking comedy show. Even Lea [DeLaria] admits it. I can barely even hold my shit together when Natasha is around.
KR: You are hilarious, too. Last year, after our first interview, my cheek hurt so much from laughing. But then there’s Lea, I couldn’t stop laughing. Adrienne is also funny!
Emma: Oh, they’re all hilarious. Taylor [Schilling] ‘s hilarious, too. I don’t know. Everyone is funny. Everyone is nice and cool. Someone tried to ask me “So, who’s the bitch?” And I said “No one, everyone is nice and happy and grateful.” Why does there have to be a bitch? It’s stupid. Yael [Stone] is super funny, Connie [Shulman] makes me pee my pants, Taryn is next level, I could listen to Lea’s commentary on anything, and Julie makes my rib cage hurt when she tells me stories about her everyday life, Samira gives incredible hugs and Kimiko is my ultimate concert buddy….. It’s just a really great group. And I think Vicky [Jeudy] wins for being the nicest.
KR: I agree. She’s very very sweet and grateful.
Emma: She’s so sweet and open. I just adore her.
KR: You know, you were supposed to say something to fans! We were so off the topic.
Emma: I think the point I was trying to make about the girl at the Cubby Hole was that our fans say the most amazing things. And they’re owning this show with this incredible attitude about wanting to talk about things that matter. So I guess what I want to say is thank you so much. We could not do it without you guys. We cannot do this without you being our champions. And that we hear you.
KR: Aww, that’s very sweet.