WOMAN

Sashay­ing into the in­cred­i­bly fancy Man­darin Ori­en­tal Ho­tel in Paris, Laverne Cox rat­tles off some pleas­antries in what sounds like flu­ent French then says: “That’s all I got.” That ain’t all Laverne’s got. The Or­ange Is the New Black star has got the lot

GT (UK) - - TELEVISION - WORDS SI­MON BUT­TON IM­AGE LUKE FON­TANA

Add in the fact that she’s Hol­ly­wood’s most high-pro­file trans­gen­der ac­tress who cam­paigns for LGBT causes, and it’s no won­der she’s been hailed as a role model. Not that Laverne, 31, likes be­ing called that. “In fact I hate the term ‘role model’. I think it’s pre­sump­tu­ous to think any­one should model their life af­ter me, but I do like the term ‘pos­si­bil­ity model’ and think­ing about what’s pos­si­ble.”

She cites Can­dis Cayne, who played Carmelita on Dirty Sexy Money in 2007, as an in­spi­ra­tion. “She was the first trans­gen­der ac­tress to have a role on a prime­time TV show,” Laverne mar­vels, “and that mo­ment made me be­lieve it was pos­si­ble for me to be an out trans woman and have a ca­reer as an ac­tress. That changed my life. It cre­ated a pos­si­bil­ity for me, so I like the idea of pos­si­bil­ity.”

All eyes are now on Laverne, as they were on Can­dis, thanks to her won­der­ful turn as Sophia Burset on the crit­i­cal and com­mer­cial suc­cess that is Or­ange Is the New Black – the Net­flix-stream­ing, eye­brow-rais­ing, en­ve­lope-push­ing, al­to­geth­er­bril­liant com­edy drama set in a women’s prison. “So yes, there’s a tremen­dous amount of pres­sure,” the ac­tress ad­mits of how her pro­file has been upped since the first se­ries aired in 2013. “I feel that pres­sure and it’s chal­leng­ing and dif­fi­cult and scary and all that stuff.”

She needn’t worry. Her por­trayal of Sophia is bril­liant, with plenty of sass and hu­mour along­side all the is­sue-rais­ing about trans­gen­der health care and a heart-wrench­ing sto­ry­line about her try­ing to be a mum to son Michael from in­side Litch­field Pen­i­ten­tiary. Laverne’s in Paris on a pro­mo­tional jaunt for the third se­ries, which is on Net­flix now, and she says we can ex­pect lots more Sophia as show cre­ator Jenji Ko­han con­tin­ues to ex­pertly jug­gle a huge ensem­ble cast.

“Sophia’s sto­ry­line def­i­nitely heats up in the third se­ries,” the ac­tress smiles. “This go-round, Jenji was in­ter­ested in the themes of faith and moth­er­hood. Those are the themes that per­me­ate the se­ries, so in the first episode, you see a glimpse of Sophia ne­go­ti­at­ing moth­er­hood from be­hind bars. She’s ne­go­ti­at­ing try­ing to be there for Michael in the best way she can. Her de­sire to pro­tect her son be­gins to threaten

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