Based on a memoir written by Piper Kerman, Orange is the New Black recently premiered on Netflix and immediately outperformed high profile stablemates House of Cards and Arrested Development. The show focuses on Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), an upper-middle-class woman sent to a women’s prison for 15 months after transporting drug money. Matt McGorry plays one of the prison guards who develops a relationship with one of the inmates. In this Matt McGorry interview, the actor talks about the new series and its surprising success.
Q: How did you get involved with Orange is the New Black?
McGorry: The audition came through a random route. It came up for a Sunday, which is strange. In the world of auditioning, it’s weird that something would come up on a Sunday. The breakdown said possible partial nudity, which, in combination with it being a Sunday, made me wonder exactly what it was. The audition was just a couple of lines. I went in and got the call a couple of days later that I booked the role without having to go back in for a callback, which was awesome and almost seemed too easy. I think, having been in this business for a while, I have learned to kind of prepare and if I happen to get lucky then I consider myself fortunate and accept it with grace. I ended up booking it and then there really wasn’t any information on how many episodes I would be around for beyond the first two, so I was really taking it day by day, episode to episode. There was a little bit of fear about getting my hopes up about being around for the whole season. Because it’s prison, I think there are so many things that can happen that can make the character disappear. Then slowly but surely by the end of the season I realized I was in most of the episodes and had essentially one of the best creative experiences of my life.
Q: I wanted to ask you about your character, but tell me about Orange is the New Black first?
McGorry: Orange is the New Black is a new Netflix original show that is based on a memoir written by Piper Kerman. Piper is played by Taylor Schilling and it details her year in prison for being a drug mule about 10 years prior, just inside the statute of limitations for what allows you to be arrested. So, essentially she goes into prison and the show is about her living in prison and understanding that culture, and also dealing with life on the outside with her boyfriend, played by Jason Biggs. A lot of the show is also character driven and explores the various backgrounds of the inmates. It’s a really complex and layered piece.
Q: What drew you to the character of John Bennett?
McGorry: There is some part of me that really identifies with Bennett, in terms of his naivete and his completely unjaded demeanor. I feel like Bennett represents a part of me probably in my early teenage years before having my heart broken a few times. I think he is always positive and likes to give people the benefit of the doubt. It’s a side of me that the people who are closest to me, who I am intimate with, get to see very clearly, but it’s not something I necessarily lead with. Particularly with my professional life. I would like to think I am nice and friendly, but I think it has always been easier to be cast as a guy who is a jerk. To get to play someone who is more like who I really am, it was such an amazing opportunity. There was no way I could really pass it up.
Q: Netflix airs all the episodes at once. As an actor, did you prepare a certain way for that?
McGorry: It’s really important for me to take it all as it comes. I love that I get to kind of discover the character as the writers are discovering the character and writing for me, which is just the greatest experience. Having a team of brilliant writers who can aim towards your strengths is probably one of the best things I could aim for as an actor. I think the preparation between what might be episodic isn’t really any different. Although, I will say, the response that people have [to the show] and how different that is [to weekly episodic TV]. Two days after the first episode aired, there were people on my Twitter account who had seen all the episodes, which I just thought was amazing and baffling.
Listen to more of our Matt McGorry interview below and log in to Netflix to begin streaming episodes of Orange is the New Black.
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