TV

Yael Stone On Saying Goodbye To Lorna On ‘Orange is The New Black,’ And Her Hopes For #MeToo

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The seventh and final season of Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black is nearly upon us. For the ladies of this fictionalized rendition (loosely based upon Piper Kerman’s best-selling memoir) of Litchfield Penitentiary, their stories end in both bittersweet and tragic ways. In the case of adorable sociopath Lorna Morello Muccio — embodied by Aussie actress Yael Stone with an impeccably executed Brooklyn-Boston accent — her carefully constructed facade does continue to deteriorate. Of course, this process has been ongoing for multiple seasons, but viewers will be captivated by how Stone adds more layers to her character, all the way through the series finale.

Stone was happy to chat with us about Lorna’s inner workings, along with how Orange led to her work with Liberation Prison Yoga, an NYC-based organization that trains instructors in trauma-based instruction, so they can bring yoga and meditation to inmates. We also discussed Stone’s connection to the #MeToo movement and her cautious optimism for more progress in that realm.

How often do people tell you that they love Lorna, even though she’s done some really awful things?

That’s a good point! Yeah, there is a kind of interesting disconnect between the love of Lorna and the awful things she does and the terrible things she says, but people do tend to have an affection for her despite all those terrible things.

Is it difficult to play her sympathetically?

I don’t think about if I’m playing a character sympathetically or not? I guess I’m always trying to get inside their heads, so when you’re always working from inside, there’s a bias going on already, so I don’t have any intention there, I’ve always just wanted to be really human with her. I guess our humanity includes some horrible things and some beautiful things, and it’s always a balancing act with humanity.

Quite a balancing act, I imagine, because crawling inside Lorna’s head seems like a difficult process.

It is, and it isn’t. I understand her fantasy mind. I understand her strong feelings that kind of take over, and the manner in which she can’t gain control. I’ve seen it in people before, and I think that’s why people have affection for her because there’s something about her … even though she’s quite larger than life in some ways she seems familiar.

So if Season 7 Lorna was capable of offering advice to Season 1 Lorna, what would she say?

Ahhh, let me think …. I guess it would be that if Lorna had clarity when she was offering this advice, I think she would say not to run away with fantasy. Not to trust too much in her instinct but to trust the people that are close to her. Her fantasy life turns on her in Season 7, even more profoundly than we’ve seen it before. And it’s very painful, and there’s no chance for healing or to get better. So I think Lorna would try to tell her past self, “Don’t dive into the fantasy.”

We see more of her backstory in this season, and I was shocked to see that there was more! Did the additional information surprise you at all?

I wanted to know more, and it’s always wonderful to find out more about your character. It’s like reading the next chapter in a book, and the richness and the depth feels really satisfying, but it’s also very sad. It was a lot of heartbreak, for Lorna and for me in shooting this season. I had an amazing time working on that story, particularly because Natasha Lyonne was directing the episode where we learned so much more, but where an adventure of acting can be satisfying and rigorous, it often can be very painful, too. So it was sad and bittersweet.

Netflix/Lionsgate

When the cast moved to maximum security in Season 6, Lorna lost her beloved makeup. Did that affect your portrayal of her?

I guess my face looked different! But you know, it has been a slow but definite unraveling in Lorna. I see images from really early on, and she was so put together and so clean and tight in her appearance. And I think there’s been something quite beautiful in how we’ve stripped things further away with that character. Almost to the point of disintegration, and that’s not fun to feel that, to portray that, but suddenly, there’s this really strong sense of truth and humanity in it, and a lot of people don’t do well in very tightly controlled situations like prison. It’s not a healthy environment, it’s not good, there’s no access to a real chance for healing at the moment. That alone as a factor makes sense in her unraveling, and then there’s all these other factors involved — her mental health — and it kind of slips by people until it’s too late.

Now, when she got married a few seasons ago, did you find that realistic for the character? She hunted out a husband as a full-on process.

Well, she was obsessed with being married and the romance of that. I do know that people carry out all sorts of relationships in prison. It’s definitely possible because there are programs where people do write to inmates. I wouldn’t put anything past her. And I do know people, very unlikely people who have been married in prison to very unlikely people, so yeah, I buy it. For a lot of people, love has been sold as the answer, and love is genuinely the answer, and for Lorna, she was always hoping and dreaming of that. That’s what’s been keeping her going in a lot of ways.

You’re Australian, so are you going to miss slipping into Lorna’s Brooklyn/Boston accent?

There’s a lot I’m gonna miss. Maybe the accent isn’t necessarily one of those things? It’s more about her world, and yes, I guess the accent is a key to getting in there. And I will miss her. For so many years of my life, I have known that, at a certain point in the year, I’ll be going back in. I’d watch a season knowing when we’d be going back in to shoot, and this is the first time that we’re not going to be doing that. And I’m not going to be with my dear friends in the same way, and it’s like leaving high school. It’s really sad because you form really deep bonds of people in that amount of time, and it’s just a reality of my life that I’m Australian, and I don’t know how often I’m going to see those guys. I went to New York, and that was the first job I got, and I didn’t know a lot of people, and they really become my family. My life has changed a lot, and we’ve gone through a lot of things together. I’ll miss that fictional world, but I’ll also miss the world around it, which was so, so special to me.

You’ve become active with Liberation Prison Yoga over the years, and I’m a yogi, so I’d like to fist bump over this. Are you going to be able to stay active with them after moving?

Well, I left New York after we finished shooting for a number of reasons, including how I have a 1-year-old child, who was 8 months old at the time, and it’s not a really great place for tiny babies, let me tell you, but I will always be connected with Liberation Prison Yoga. I served on the board, and I feel very invested in their work. Being part of Orange opened unexpected things, like teaching at Rikers and having genuine experiences with incarcerated people that were profound experiences for me, and I learned a lot about the true feelings of any system that imprisons people without really attending to their healing. I will always be grateful to Anneke [Lucas], who did this incredible job of starting that organization, and I hope to keep teaching in different ways, basically bringing this notion of non-judgment and real comparison and sharing of the practice. I’ve been away from it for a while because having a baby is a bit of an interruption to a practice, at least in my case, and one day when I get a full night’s sleep, I can’t wait to return to working with people as a practitioner and also as a teacher one day, too.

My practice was also interrupted, mostly for the same reason, and it took some years to get back.

Yeah, definitely being a mother is a different practice of yoga, it’s the same thing but a different part of it, a different limb of the eight-fold path of yoga. Definitely the service part of the yoga! I feel like I haven’t stopped, just doing a different style. Oh, and I just looked up on the internet that Charles Manson did get married to a 26-year-old, and that’s what’s been going through my mind, so there you go! So I don’t know if Lorna’s marriage is so unlikely.

Oh yes, I think she was using Manson for fame, but still, it’s possible.

Yes, it’s possible!

Let’s end on a serious note. You called for change in Australia as part of the #MeToo movement when you made allegations against Geoffrey Rush. Do you feel that progress is truly being made?

I have to hold out hope that we’re moving toward a more positive place. I can’t deny that sometimes I feel a sense of despair around the conversation. I would have hoped for more nuance and more coming together, and often it feels like the polarized ends of the debate get further and further apart, but I try to have hope that we’ll find a more positive connotation.

I feel like it’s gonna take more time, but I’m right there with you.

Thank you. It’s sometimes I guess I have to tell myself that there’s a whiplash kind of effect when change happens. The response can feel like a disaster, but perhaps it’s just that whiplash before real change, so I’m trying to stay positive.

The seventh and final season of Netflix’s ‘Orange Is The New Black’ streams on July 26.

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