The following interview covers the entire second season of Orange Is the New Black. Unless you want to ruin Lorna’s incredible backstory for yourself, come back after you’ve watched the whole thing. Spoilers to follow for anyone who hasn’t watched through the finale.
In the now-immortal words of Lorna Morello, the character played by Yael Stone on Orange Is the New Black, “You don’t go Jessica Simpson when you’ve got Rihanna.” Unless, of course, Rihanna is a dangerous stalker who once tried to blow up your girlfriend’s car, which happens to be the unfortunate, true story of Litchfield’s most hopeless romantic. In the fourth episode of Orange Is the New Black’s second season, we learn via flashback that the reason Lorna’s often-mentioned fiancé, Christopher, has never visited is that (1) Christopher isn’t actually her fiancé; and (2) he legitimately despises her for having terrorized him following a meet-cute that never went past the first date. Later in the season, when Christopher finally does turn up for a visit, after she’d used the Litchfield van to go on a joyride to sneak inside the house he now shared with his actual fiancée, it’s only to tell her very loudly that he will kill her with his bare hands if he ever catches her stalking him again, a wake-up call that’s all sorts of awful. Vulture caught up with recent profile subject Stone, who was just promoted to a series regular for season three, to talk at last about Lorna’s surprising history and potential for recovery.
When did you learn about Lorna’s backstory?
I found about it when I got the script for episode four. I didn’t know anything about it until then. I mean, I think that there were definitely some hints, but they were hints that the audience had been given in season one, like Nicky saying that Christopher hasn’t ever come to visit her. The things I had to go on were the same things that the audience had to go on.
The biggest clue, of course, is when we see Lorna on the phone with her sister in the episode prior to her flashback. That’s when we find out Christopher is getting married, but not to Lorna.
That phone call was intense. I actually gave myself the most amazing bruise right in the center of my chest that day.
We did two takes of that phone call, and after one of them, I slammed the phone into my chest at the end of it. You could hear it slam! So I had this amazing earpiece-shaped bruise. I’m trying to remember if I knew what Lorna’s deal was then, but I don’t think I did.
Even if you didn’t know, that scene is when Lorna first became scary to me. It was the first time I thought, Oh yeah, there’s a reason she’s in prison.
I was definitely playing this idea that if Lorna got too angry with her sister, she would not get any more information. So somehow I knew there was a secret in the bottled-up violence of the scene. She’s experiencing the devastation of learning this news, but she also has to cover up how violently angry she is. I think I ad-libbed something like, “I’ll be a good girl!”
What part of her history was most surprising?
I mean, I was shocked. But mostly, I was immediately like, “Wow, Sian Heder did a really good job writing the episode.” The fourth episode as a whole — funny I should say “as a whole,” because it’s all about holes and vaginas — but it’s like there’s this hole in Lorna within this conversation about holes and vaginas and what we do know and don’t know about them. They’re learning things, and Lorna [is] learning things about this thing she has to face, this thing she can’t ignore. I thought it all fit altogether beautifully. The other thing I really liked about her flashback is that a lot of the backstories illuminate things from the past. What we had with Lorna were things being illuminated about the past driving her current action, which is different for the show. While we’re learning she had only gone on one date with this guy, in the next breath, there she is breaking out of prison to go and just be in his home.
You have to break out of his house, too, which I found very stressful to watch because I thought she was going to get caught.
Let it be known I really jumped out that window. I want you to know that. I got a stunt-woman T-shirt for doing it, and it was probably the proudest moment of my entire life. There were times I forgot it was me and I was like [in Lorna’s accent], “Jesus, just get out of there. This is crazy. What are you doing?”
How did you handle Lorna being alone during most of the episode?
It was a wonderful challenge for me. Prison is such a public experience. You never get to sleep with the lights turned out, you’re always being watched, counted, you’re shitting in front of people, bathing in front of people. When she escapes, there’s a lot of private time. She’s arguing with herself in the van, breaking into Christopher’s house, soaking in the tub. I’d never had so much alone time with her before, and it was a challenge. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re very different in public than we are in private, and for Lorna, more so, because she’s keeping up so many appearances. What is she like when she’s not telling anyone, “It’s all good! It’s fine!”? How painful is it? Turns out pretty painful. She’s going through some really rough stuff.
Going back to the flashback, there’s a delightful shot when Lorna walks into her family’s house and a baby with a pack of cigarettes leaning up against the wall just falls over — splat — on to the floor.
Oh, my goodness, yes. That baby had a packet of cigarettes it was chewing on. That was crazy.
Clearly that wasn’t scripted.
No. No, and I hope the mother was okay with that, but she probably isn’t. From what I remember, that was a total accident that wound up being used. But yeah, it was perfect.
Baby looked fine. Right after that, we find out that Lorna’s ordering but not paying for designer merchandise. Red-herring crime!
I know the lipstick was your idea, but did you get to help construct any of her pre-prison looks?
Our costume designer Jenn Rogien is really open to talking through ideas, but it’s really all her vision. I thought her vision for Lorna was really complete and transformative, from prison Lorna back to her old life and that tiny little Dolce & Gabbana dress.
I love that she got dolled up for the trial.
I would like to point out my favorite thing about that outfit is that it’s covered in chains. It’s a chain print. Lorna’s like [again, in that accent], “I’m going to my trial, so I’m going to wear my chain dress, because you know, I’m in chains.” She doesn’t realize how serious it is.
You didn’t know what she’d done, but have you always been playing her as someone living in a dream?
Well, it’s been there from the beginning. Who is in prison for more than two years, and has been planning this wedding like it’s about to happen for that long? No sane person. Once I found out, I did a bit of research, and there’s a kind of stalker called the erotomaniac stalker, where they’re living under a complete delusion. The victim in the stalker’s mind is totally in love with them. I looked into stories about this, and it’s really scary.
But also tragic.
Completely. And not to excuse her behavior — she’s a potentially violent criminal — but Lorna’s the victim of an illness and needs help. A lot of people who are mentally imbalanced do end up in prison because they don’t have the kind of support they need. The great beauty of Orange is that it illuminates these very sad lives that probably shouldn’t have ended up in prison. You see Lorna’s family, and there’s nothing wrong with them, but they’re not the kind of people who are going to be super-sensitive to the fact that she needs help and has gone off the deep end.
It’s so heartbreaking when she says to Nicky, “I’m a crazy person.”
For the first time, she’s being honest. Even though it’s very sad, her saying, “I’m crazy. I’m a crazy person,” is that first step to healing herself and acknowledging that things aren’t the way she says they’ve been. I’ve definitely had those moments where you feel in too deep and don’t know how to get out. She’s forced to tell the truth, and it turns out to be a really good decision. I really enjoyed being real with Nicky after Christopher’s visit. We do lots of really fun stuff, like, “Yay! Look at my vagina! Yay!” so it was really nice to have this thing where Lorna was really needing help and really reaching out to a friend.
Nicky is everyone’s life coach/cheerleader this season.
I find that to be the case with Natasha Lyonne, in fact. She actually is the most amazing advice-giver.