I have no shame in admitting I binge-watched the entire first season of Orange is the New Black in a day and a half a few weeks ago. It was everything I wanted it to be and more, and I highly recommend giving it a try if you haven’t yet. It started off strong and the show only grew deeper and more wonderful with each episode.
I’ve got a soft spot for mostly all of the characters, with the exception of Pornstache and the scary-looking Assistant to the Warden. Watching the background stories of the incarcerated characters is always my favorite part of the show, because it humanizes them so much. Red, the feisty Litchfield cook and HBIC, has a very compelling story. The actress who plays her, Kate Mulgrew, is incredibly passionate about doing her best with Red, and I think she does a fantastic job as the former Russian mobstress. (That’s a new word, by the way. Live it, learn it, love it.) In a recent podcast with TV critic Maureen Ryan, Mulgrew gave a lot of insight into the show and Red in particular. Here are six reasons why Red might be my favorite character on the show, based on Mulgrew’s interview.
1.) She’s tough as balls, yet has a deeply touching and mothering approach to fellow prisoners.
“These young girls especially [struggle]. Some of them are torn from their families, some of them torn from their own babies, certainly from their husbands. To see how they grapple with loss of self to me is just fascinating. Red, more than any of them, except for the older women who are introduced later on, understands that part of the game.”
2.) That ain’t no wig, honey!
Sophia isn’t responsible for the choppy red hair on the show, Mulgrew is! “The red is crucial. It went from red to deep red to magenta to eggplant, and then it was just this spiked thing on top of my head. I walked into a restaurant that night and I thought my boyfriend was going to have a bit of a massive coronary. But I love it.”
3.) Red is a master in the art of manipulation and survival.
“Your vulnerability could easily take you down if you’re not very, very careful. So Red has found a way to not only shape all of these emotions but to contain them in way that works for her and allows her to put one foot in front of the other.”
4.) Mulgrew is incredibly devoted to her character.
“I hope I don’t sound too silly by saying that that despondency that Red felt upon being shunned and having her kitchen withdrawn was a despondency that I really felt.”
5.) For Red, it’s about so much more than just cooking.
“She’s been in minimum security for a long, long, long, long time. Much longer than the others. And how has she survived? Well, she’s survived because she’s found a way to make herself useful. That, to Red, is almost more important than goodness.”
6.) In general, female camaraderie totally rules.
One of the great things about OITNB is that it’s not about beauty or idyllic Hollywood standards. Hearing that all of the women on this show are so supportive of one another, and so dedicated to the show makes me unnaturally ecstatic: ”Suddenly you walk into these walls [of the prison] and you’re surrounded by creatures you not only understand, but who reside within you as well. And there’s a deep release. It’s almost existential. You’re finally with people you get, people who could be you within two seconds, people who are you. There’s something for every woman to relate to on a visceral level in this series. And that I don’t think has been done ever before, do you?”