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Laverne Cox almost quit acting before landing historic Orange Is the New Black role

Lily Wakefield June 3, 2021
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Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox speaks onstage during the ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Awards, 2021. (Getty for ESSENCE/ Randy Shropshire)

Laverne Cox has revealed she was in debt and close to quitting acting for good before landing her historic Orange Is the New Black role.

Speaking on a panel for the Paley Center for Media on LGBT+  achievements in television, Cox described her life before she was cast as trans inmate Sophia Bursest in Orange Is the New Black.

She said: “I was in rent arrears on my apartment, I had rolled back rent and I was in all kinds of debt and I was going to give up acting actually, a few months before I booked Orange.”

At the time she was “studying for the GRE” and hoping to go to grad school but the role, she said, changed her life.

Cox continued: “Then the audition for Orange happened and I didn’t go to grad school – Orange turned out to be my grad school. It changed everything.”

Up until she was cast on the show, Cox had been cast in multiple minor roles but was starting to believe her career as a trans actor was never going to take off.

She said: “When you’re in acting school and you’re training, and you get, you know, five lines on Law & Order or you’re playing ‘sex worker No 6’ on an HBO show – I played a sex worker seven different times – finally I had this storyline that was multidimensional with this character that was complicated and beautifully flawed and it was just exciting to be doing the work.”

Laverne Cox was the first-ever trans person to be nominated for a primetime Emmy award

Laverne Cox was thrust into the spotlight after appearing on Orange is the New Black, and became the first-ever trans person to be nominated for a primetime Emmy award, and even the first trans person to be featured on the cover of TIME magazine.

“I have the career now that I’ve always dreamed of,” she said.

Her platform has allowed her raise awareness of trans rights and discrimination across the world, and last year she executive produced the multi-award-winning documentary Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen. 

Related topics: laverne cox, orange is the new black

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