By Lorna Soonhee Umphrey | July 19, 2016 | People
We chatted with Orange is the New Black star Vicky Jeudy about the loss of a major character this season, why the show is an actor’s dream, and what surprises people when they meet her in real life.
Vicky Jeudy is mean, angry, and has a major attitude problem as prison inmate Janae Watson on the hit Netflix show, Orange is the New Black. But in real life, this Queens native is the complete opposite of her character—to the point that when her fans meet her, they’re often surprised at how nice she is. Now, in Season 4, her character and fellow inmates must deal with taking down a prison guard bully and losing a member of the prison “family.”
Let’s talk about Season 4 of Orange is the New Black and the death of a major character on the show. What did you think when it happened?
VICKY JEUDY: I mean, it’s still a shock. The other day we were filming and I think it was Black Cindy who said—‘Ghetto Dorm.’ And then she said, ‘All right, partially ghetto dorm.’ Then we had that moment like, yeah, Samira [Wiley, who plays Poussey Washington]’s not here. We definitely miss her. At the end of the day, it was for the greater good in terms of the writing and for the story, which is how all of us see it. I actually really liked the storyline because I felt like it gave the audience an opportunity to fall in love with Poussey. In terms of everything that’s been happening [in the world], even the headline news that we saw in the past couple of months with racism, injustice, the black lives movement, I think it was just very timely.
What do you love about playing this type of character?
VJ: I think my favorite scene for Janae was when the whole thing happened to Poussey because I feel like she really stepped it up. I felt like, no matter what anyone says about Watson, I think at that particular moment, you could appreciate her. She’s standing up for her best friend and she wants justice to be served. She wants Poussey’s parents to be contacted, like, solve this, fix this.
This season was very divided in terms of races and cliques. How do you think the show handled this?
VJ: I think they did a great job, but what I love about it is that you have this whole melting pot that’s happening at the beginning of the season. I might not like you, you don't like me, but we need to work together and we need to join teams to take down the prison guard. In terms of the writing, I felt like that was brilliant because at the end of the day, we’re all humans. Despite our beliefs, we all need each other.
Was it intimidating to know that you were going to be working on one of the most non-glamorous shows?
VJ: No, because it gave me a great opportunity to dive into my acting. Especially now as people get to know me, they see [I’m] really soft-spoken. I kind of feel like whoever I’m dating, well, you’ve seen me at my worst. [Laughs] And it’s televised to millions so I’m like, hey, you know what you’re working with from the get-go. Even when I go to commercial auditions, they never know who I am. I’ll usually go in, audition, and then right before I leave, I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, I hope you guys are done watching Orange.’ They look at me and they’re like, ‘Why would you say something to me like that? Are you on the show?’ And I say, ‘Yeah, I’m the track star.’ And they’re like, ‘Ooooh, yeah.’
What’s next for you?
VJ: We just started shooting Season 5. I’m looking to get into the best shape that I can and I’m doing a 5k run in early fall with J/P HRO, which is Sean Penn’s organization.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JULIA MARGARET WILLIAMSON; BY TAYLOR HILL/FILMMAGIC (OITNB PREMIERE)