Stephanie Andujar – Orange is the New Black

November 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Although she didn’t land a role in the first season of the critically acclaimed show “Orange is the New Black,” auditioning for the Netflix series paid off for actress Stephanie Andujar (“Precious”) when the casting director called her in to read for another role a few months later. In Season 2, Andujar gets significant screen time during a series of flashback scenes in two episodes as a young Rosa Cisneros. During these scenes, viewers are given a look into the shady past of Miss Rosa (Barbara Rosenblat) and learn how she ends up in prison.

During our interview, Andujar, 28, talked to me about how she felt after her initial audition for Season 1 and what she did to help her capture the essence of Miss Rosa through a younger version of the character.

Season 2 of “Orange is the New Black” can currently be seen on Netflix. The show has been renewed for a third season.

“Orange is the New Black” is such a popular show on Netflix. How did you land this gig on Season 2?

Well, I was actually called in by the casting director to read for the role of Young Rosa because I had auditioned for “Orange” before. I auditioned for the [Lorna] Morello character, which is now played by [actress] Yael Stone, who is brilliant. Finally, the Young Rosa part came along. So, it ended up working out.

Were you disappointed that you didn’t get the Morello part when you initially auditioned?

No, I don’t think I was disappointed really. I was happy that I got the opportunity to get in front of these great casting directors. I thought, “You know, if this part doesn’t happen, maybe there will be another part.” I had this feeling after I auditioned that maybe they would call me for something else. Thank god Young Rosa came along!

Did you watch Season 1 before getting the role on Season 2?

Yes, I was already becoming a fan! I was already into the show and then the audition came about. I really hoped it would work out. Then, boom, I ended up booking the part.

How important do you think it is for a show like “Orange” to be able to dramatize the backstories of some of these characters?

I was happy that everyone could see the origin story of how Miss Rosa ended up in prison. It’s interesting that she is this strong Latina woman that everyone was underestimating. Backstories are everything. It makes everything so cohesive. It allows viewers to feel closer to the characters.

In Season 1, Miss Rosa had a small role, so I was surprised her character was explored as much as she was in Season 2. I felt in Season 1, she was very hard to read. Did you feel the same way?

I definitely thought there was some mystery to her. I thought she must have had this crazy thrilling life prior to prison. (Laughs) She is this strong Latina woman who had a husband and then had another husband and went through a lot of heartache trying to be this leader. I was glad she had that mystery, so when Season 2 came around, you could really be introduced to Miss Rosa. I think it was a brilliant introduction.

Do you think Rosa could’ve done something with her life if she had made different decisions or if she hadn’t been caught?

Possibly. I think she could’ve owned her own enterprise. (Laughs) I think it would’ve been something major. You know, I’m not sure. I was just really focused on Young Rosa. I wanted to make sure people knew what kind of person she was. It worked out.

When you got the part of Young Rosa, did you revisit actress Barbara Rosenblat’s performance as Miss Rosa to try and mimic anything she did for the character?

Yes, I was able to go on set when they were filming and see her perform one of her scenes. I wanted to capture her mannerisms and facial expressions and voice. I listened to her voice over and over for about two or three weeks before filming. I listened to that accent and made sure it was embedded in my mind. (Laughs) It was fun research. I really just dove in there to make sure I gave this character life.

Did you get to have any conversations with Barbara about the character?

Not really, but she did come up to me one day when I was filming one of the backstory scenes. She was like, “I had to come and see who my Mini-Me is!” I was like, “Oh my god. It’s great to meet you Barbara! Oh my god!” (Laughs) It was a great moment.

Without giving too much away, what do you think happens to Miss Rosa after her final episode in Season 2?

You know, there are so many fans who were touched by that ending. So many fans cried. You just want her to live out the rest of her life. She went out with a bang.

Do you think you would make a good bank robber in real life? Did they teach you any of the basics to rob a bank on the set?

(Laughs) Well, they did tell me how to hold the gun at one point. I don’t think I would have the same guts as Rosa. I don’t know if I could do something that outrageous. It was a lot of fun to do it on a set though.

Selenis Leyva – Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

September 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

In the newest Netflix-exclusive series “Orange is the New Black,” actress Selenis Leyva plays Gloria Mendoza, one of the many inmates in a women’s federal prison in Litchfield, NY. The show centers on Piper Chapman (Taylor Shilling), a Connecticut woman serving 15 months for transporting drug money for her drug-dealer girlfriend (Laura Prepon). During our interview, Leyva, 41, talked about working with a cast that is predominantly female and how much she knows about Season 2, which she is currently shooting.

What attracted you to the role of Gloria Mendoza?

Well, initially I didn’t even know there was a Gloria Mendoza in the script to be honest with you. I had auditioned for another role and didn’t get that one. A couple weeks later I was called and they told me through my manger that I was offered the role of Gloria. Of course, I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew I had to be on board. I hadn’t even read the entire pilot, but I knew it was going to be really good. So, I took the role without knowing too much about the character.

Is there anything specific about the women in this prison you can identify with?

Well, I grew up in New York where there is such a different variety of people. That’s the beauty of this show. There is no cookie-cutter [characters]. There’s a story for everyone. I thought it was wonderful to come into this world. It’s relatable.

What is the dynamic like on the set with a cast that is mostly women?

(Laughs) Well, it’s interesting because I always thought a cast full of women could get a little nuts, but it’s a wonderful, sisterly environment. It’s like we’re in a college dorm or some kind of sorority house. We laugh and share stories. It’s a wonderful place of support. I’ve never experienced that. I’ve never been on a show that has been predominantly women. It’s great to show the industry it works. Women do sell. We do have power.

Something I really found refreshing about the series is that it shows the women in a raw light. No one is wearing makeup. You can see everyone’s flaws. Do you think that’s important for audiences to see?

(Laughs) I have to laugh because it’s really hard for us to come in with any lipstick or mascara on and then have to wipe it off. We come in with a blemish and they’re like, “We’re going to highlight that blemish!” I think there is something very vulnerable about that. But it’s the real world. We’re not trying to make it pretty. If we’re going to do a show about women who are incarcerated, we’re not going to sugarcoat it. As actors, it’s a very vulnerable place to go. But for the audience, these imperfections are welcoming and refreshing.

Netflix has had some success with its exclusive shows like “House of Cards” and “Arrested Development” and now “Orange is the New Black.” Do you think releasing TV series in this format has staying power?

I think so. I think back to what HBO did a few years ago when they shook it up for mainstream television. I think Netflix is introducing a new way of showcasing talent and putting out programs. [“Orange is the New Black”] is always going to be part of that. People will look back at this time and think, “Netflix changed television.” I think it’s brilliant what they’ve done. It works for people. It works for the busy mother or someone who works all the time that doesn’t have time to go home and worry about setting the DVR. You can watch this show at your leisure. You have control. That’s what it’s about nowadays.

Are you the kind of Netflix viewer that is going to watch a show like this in one sitting or will you watch an entire season little by little?

Well, I watched “House of Cards” in three days – and only in three days because I had other responsibilities like my daughter. I couldn’t just sit there and watch the entire season in just one sitting. It took me two days with “Orange is the New Black.” But having more control now is great. It gets people more involved.

How do you think you would fare in the prison system yourself? Would you go in with your head down and keep to yourself or do you think you’d want to make sure everyone knew who you were by fighting the toughest woman on the cell block?

(Laughs) If I had to go in [to prison], I’d have to go in as the baddest woman in the system. I would have to let [the other prisoners] known not to mess with me. I would put a show on. It would be my Oscar performance. I think the toughest survive. You have to link up to the strongest and make sure you’re friends with them. I would have to play the game if I wanted to survive.

What would you miss the most about the outside world?

I couldn’t even imagine not being able to take long, hot showers or wear makeup whenever I wanted or shave my underarms. There are certain things people take for granted. I appreciate freedom now even more.

How far are you into shooting the second season?

We are just wrapping up the third episode of the season. We don’t know much. Like the first season, they’re keeping everything very hush-hush. It’s kind of like Christmas when we get a new script every other weekend. The writers are doing a great job of keeping everything fresh. It’s absolutely amazing. I’ve never been in such awe of writers before. I don’t want to know what’s going to happen to be honest with you. I like Christmas! Give me a gift every other weekend and I’m good.

In the first season we saw some flashbacks that give the audience a backstory for certain characters. Do you hope we get to see that for Gloria in Season 2?

I think it would be great for every actor on the show. Who doesn’t want more screen time? But just being a part of this groundbreaking show is so amazing. If I get a backstory, wonderful. If I don’t, that’s OK, too. Whatever they give me, I will take happily because my life has been changed in the best way by this show.

Do you have a backstory in your head you’ve been using on your own to get into your character?

You know, when I came into this I had to be like, “OK, I’m going to be a clean slate.” As an actress, there are thinks you have to create in your mind, but even recently the writers told me something they were thinking and I was like, “How interesting because I was thinking the exact opposite.” So, we’re really creating as we go. But our writers really listen to us. They want our input. They ask us questions. They’re open to our suggestions and creating as a team.