“Yeah, you’re gonna talk about Orange Is The New Black, and my response is gonna be: I can’t tell you anything about Orange Is The New Black,” says Lea DeLaria, gesticulating her arms in frustration and giving me her best eye contact through tinted Ray-Bans.
“It’s really annoying but that’s where I’m at, guys.”
The star—best known for playing unapologetically butch Carrie, aka Big Boo, on the hit Netflix show since 2013—is reclining on a sofa next to me at a production house in Old Street, London.
DeLaria is looking dapper with spiked hair that almost looks electrified, and she dons a white-spotted navy shirt—with matching painted nails.
“It’s ridiculous that Orange Is The New Black is ending.”
An established jazz musician and stand-up comic in her own right, she’s in the English capital to play a one-off show at the EFG London Jazz Festival 2018.
But, of course, she’s ended up fending off questions she’s not allowed to answer about the seventh and final season of Orange Is The New Black. And she’s doing a good job at keeping tight-lipped.
Is she involved in Season 7? “I can’t tell you anything about Orange Is The New Black,” is DeLaria’s response again. “I am so sorry!”
Lea DeLaria: It’s “ludicrous and extreme” that OITNB is over
Still, there are some things it appears she can talk about. When probed about the possibility of a sequel, she is quick to quash rumours in the press. “I don’t know anything about that,” she retorts. ” I’m not involved and I can’t imagine what that sequel would be.”
DeLaria also has strong views about Netflix’s decision to stop making the show—in fact, she thinks it’s a terrible idea. “I think it’s ridiculous that Orange Is The New Black is ending,” DeLaria’ replies when I ask if she thinks it’s the right time for the show to end.
“I don’t understand it and I’m with all the other people out there going: ‘What?’ It seems ludicrous and extreme to just walk away from something that has had such a huge social impact and is also still making money.
“I mean usually in show business if it’s making money…” DeLaria continues, before stopping her sentence in its tracks.
“I don’t know what the reasoning was behind it,” she adds. “I’m merely an actor, I’m the lowest rung on this ladder. I know nothing.”
“Straight people should stop writing about lesbians, and straight men should stop directing them, and straight women should stop portraying them.”
Despite her clear frustration, DeLaria has plenty of kind words for the Netflix show—and would be ready to reprise her role as Boo should it return.
“Of course I’d be up – I love Orange,” she explains. “I love the writers that we had. I love everything about it. It changed my life. It was a gift from the universe to me that I run with and haven’t looked back. So, of course I would be there for it.”
Lea DeLaria on playing butch
DeLaria praises those involved with the show, saying her character “really was the first time a butch woman had been accurately portrayed in mainstream.”
She highlights the show as a prime example of how accurate portrayals of the LGBT+ community can only happen when queer people are actually involved.
“It’s not an accident that it was written by a lesbian, that it was directed and produced by people who were queer…and then it just popped into the mainstream in a huge way,” she says.
She adds: “Straight people should stop writing about lesbians and straight men should stop directing them and straight women should stop portraying them.”
We discuss how, throughout her career, DeLaria has always been true to herself—in her words, a butch dyke. Did she miss out on opportunities because of discrimination? No, she says. And she’s incredibly proud.
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“I don’t feel like I missed out on anything because I feel like I did what I wanted to do,” she says. “I don’t think a lot of people can say that.”
The star continues: “I didn’t get the talk show or the ultra fame that a lot of my peers [did]…because they remained in the closet.
“You know, I’m fine… that’s a big deal. You know what I mean? That comes with its own reward. If I was interested in all that other stuff, I wouldn’t have been out. I was interested in something else. I was trying to change the world.”
Outside of acting, DeLaria, 60, has been performing as a successful stand-up comic since the 1980s. She’s also an established jazz musician with five albums under her belt.
Lea DeLaria: I might have killed David Bowie
DeLaria’s last EP, House of David, was released in July 2015. It’s a jazz tribute to DeLaria’s favourite David Bowie tracks. The musical legend died six months later in January 2016.
The album was endorsed by none other than Bowie himself, who urged his fans to buy it.
“It was kind of amazing,” says DeLaria. “I put the record [out], six months later he died. So, I feel like I killed him, it might have been me.”
DeLaria isn’t sure what her next jazz album will be, but promises she will be “recording this year.”
Lea DeLaria plays at Bridge Theatre for the EFG London Jazz Festival 2018 on Sunday November 18.