Five actresses from Orange Is the New Black were nominated for an Emmy this year, but it’s hard to imagine any of them being more excited about getting a nod than Laverne Cox, who plays Sophia. Vulture got her on the phone for a congratulatory chat, and she obliged us with a story about meeting Jodie Foster and her post-nomination plan to see Justin Timberlake tonight. Just don’t ask her what she’s going to wear to the Emmys ceremony …
It’s been a big year for you. You were on the cover of Time, you just topped The Guardian’s annual World Pride List …
I don’t think anybody else in the world is happier than I am right now. [Laughs.] I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to be happier.
How’d you hear the news?
A text message from my agent and publicist. Then I got a call from my agent that I had been nominated for an Emmy! [Laughs.] It doesn’t seem real! I am nominated for an Emmy? What? Oh, my goodness.
I heard Uzo Aduba found out about her nomination on the way to set. Are you there, too?
I’m still at home. Still just waking up here in New York in my tiny studio apartment. I’m not due on set today, but I’m going to go and say hey to everyone. I was planning on doing that anyway. I’m going to congratulate everyone in person. But I’m off today. I have a bunch of other stuff. I’m a very busy woman. When I’m not shooting on Orange, I keep myself very, very busy.
But you have to make time to celebrate!
I’ve run around my apartment. I’ve jumped up and down. I screamed. I cried. I called my mother and my brother and I cried with them. And laughed. And I’m going to a Justin Timberlake concert tonight.
Yeah! That will be fun. I have to be up early tomorrow, so I can’t be out too late. Honestly, the celebration is just reveling in this and being present in this moment. I’m the first trans actress to be nominated for an Emmy — out trans actress, anyway. That feels like history. Even if I don’t win … Honestly, it doesn’t even matter if I win. [Laughs.] It doesn’t! I’m nominated for an Emmy! And I have to tell you, I’ve been in New York for a very long time. I won’t tell you how long. But I’ve been trying to get up and act and perform my whole life and have a career. This is such amazing validation after years of rejection, years of being told no, years of being told I could not have a career as an actress. Here I am, nominated for an Emmy. It’s been a journey, honey, I can’t even tell you.
Jodie Foster is also nominated for having directed the episode that featured your character Sophia’s backstory. What was it like working with her?
Jodie was actually hanging out on my first day of work on episode one. I go in to craft services, like, What is the food like? [Laughs.] This woman comes up to me and goes, “Hi, I’m Jodie, I’m directing episode three.” “Um, I know who you are.” I had a total out-of-body, why-is-Jodie-Foster-talking-to-me experience. She commenced to give me a tour of the set. I didn’t even know episode three was going to be my backstory, so the whole time I was thinking, Why is she even talking to me? She was asking all these questions about me and I totally freaked out. When I got back to my dressing room to get ready, I was shaking and in complete and utter panic. I called my brother and said, “I just met Jodie Foster. I’m freaking out. I don’t know if I can work today. I don’t know if I can say lines.” Luckily, I had a few meetings with her before we shot and I got to interact with her as a human being, which is hard anyway. I saw her at the wrap party this year and I was like [hyperventilates] …
Sophia’s flashback is so unique. What were the things that you and Jodie felt were most important to get right?
Jodie came with very specific notes. We had discussions for weeks. We spent two episodes getting to know Sophia, but we hadn’t fully established her yet. I had a lot of ideas of who Sophia was based on the scripts. We analyzed the script, talked about who she is, how educated she is or isn’t, and what her relationship was like. We talked a lot about her relationship with her wife, Crystal, and then it kind of flowed. There was actually a moment that changed things for me with Jodie. We were talking about the scene that I refer to as the dressing scene [where Crystal is helping Sophia with an outfit], and she was like, “Can we try this?” So she read Crystal’s part and she was like, “Can I touch you?” and I said, “Yeah!” We were just actors doing the scene. Okay, she’s just a human being. We’re artists working together. That got me in my body to be able to work with this Oscar-award-winning legend. The writing is also just so good. This season, the scene where Sophia’s son comes to visit, it’s so subtle. It’s not happily ever after. It’s complicated and intense and delicate.
Have you thought about how you want to look on Emmy night?
No. [Laughs.] I know I want to go to the gym and get my body tighter. I don’t know if I actually want to lose weight, but I know I’m going to get my body as tight as humanly possible! That’s all I can think right now. I want to look good. Oh my God — OH MY GOD. I forgot: Emmys! Oh my God, the pressure of the dress. Oh my God! I can’t go there yet! I can’t!