First Lady among transgender actor’s many fans
Thanks to her turn as transgender hairdresser Sophia Burset in prison drama Orange Is The New Black, Laverne Cox knew she’d garnered quite a following, but one particular fan left her gobsmacked. •
“I met Michelle Obama and she was like, ‘Oh my God, don’t tell me what happens, I’m on the last few episodes’,” laughs Cox, during a break on the show’s New York set. “That was pretty freaky and pretty awesome, thinking of the First Lady watching Orange Is The New Black at the White House.”
Cox has become a global phenomenon since first appearing in the show’s debut 2013 season. Her character, Sophia, is a transgender woman in jail for credit card fraud committed to fund her gender reassignment surgery.
She’s an Emmy nominee (“I have the program with my name printed in it to prove it happened”), a Time magazine cover girl (“my mother and I both have huge posters of the cover”), and she, along with Caitlyn Jenner, have increased trans visibility worldwide. “Inspiration is a word I hear a lot, but I say, it’s just little old me,” smiles Cox, who describes herself as a “possibility model rather than a role model”.
“I think it’s all about authenticity. It’s wonderful folks are connecting to my story and struggles and triumphs — and Sophia’s as well — and finding inspiration.”
Cox says season three, which has seen Sophia go through some particularly emotional and brutal scenes, has been the most “emotionally taxing”.
“Sophia has been in these intense emotional places and so staying in that all day — I don’t always come out of it,” she says.
•Cox says the show’s global appeal comes down to the diversity of the cast.
“We have these wonderfully human characters who are complicated and not what you expect,” she says.
As for her own acclaimed performance, Cox feels validated as an actor.
“I’m very pleased so far that I’ve been able to take what was a smallish part and I’ve been able to make a nice little moment for myself,” she says, smiling. “And for someone who has carried a lot of shame over the years, I’m feeling very proud.”
“For someone who has carried a lot of shame, I’m feeling very proud”
LAVERNE COX ON HER SUCCESS
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, SHOWCASE, SUNDAY, 7.30PM