Yael Stone plays Lorna Morello on “Orange Is the New Black,” a character who is deep-down a good-natured person, even if she proves why we can’t believe everything a criminal tells us. Going into season three, where we find Lorna paying the price for showing Miss Rosa (Barbara Rosenblat) some mercy, Stone talks character development, Emmy nominations and how she accidentally managed to say “Christopher” just like Drea de Matteo did on “The Sopranos.”
Last season, we found out that Lorna wasn’t all she seemed. Did the writers tip you off ahead of time to help you prep for this role?
The thing about this show is that we never get any prep for anything and that’s part of the fun of it. It’s this wild ride: never any preparation, always surprises around the corner. I never know, but I always know it’s going to be good.
That must make it hard to shape the character then.
It’s really different. It’s certainly different from my experience in theater, which is where I come from originally. Working in this way has been really different. I’ve definitely had to change my attachment to the way I work.
Did you know much about the culture your character would be coming from? You’re Australian and she’s Italian-American, so obviously you didn’t grow up in the same types of environments.
I feel like Lorna’s really specific in terms of her own — I’m tempted to use the phrase imaginary world. She does create the world around her. I feel really connected to the part. Even her fantasies about “West Side Story;” I feel like I know that dreamworld person. I don’t think I’m that person, but I do know that way. … And that doesn’t mean she’s stupid or ignorant. We all have ways of existing in this world and that happens to be her way.
In terms of her socioeconomic background, no that’s not my world. But I do feel like I’ve thoroughly imagined that world and that’s my job. In my mind, I create a research base that I work on. I’ll go and visit a town that I think is appropriate. I take photos; I do a lot of creative writing; I’ll speak to people about different elements of the life that I’m creating for the character.
Do “Orange Is the New Black” fans get thrown by your accent when they meet you in person?
Definitely. It does seem to throw people a lot and I completely understand that. It’s not just the way I sound, it’s also the way I look and the way I carry myself. In a lot of ways, she seems younger than me as well. I don’t mean in looks, I mean her energy is a lot younger.
I can be walking down the street with Uzo [Aduba] and people will be like “oh my god! it’s Crazy Eyes!” She’ll say this lady plays Lorna and then they’ll be like, “no way.” I’m mostly quite invisible in my day-to-day life and once a day, people will look at me on the train.
This season has some characters who are going away, at least for awhile. Is that hard for the cast? How do you adjust?
It’s really hard every time. It doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happen on the show for various reasons. When does this interview come out?
Before the season three premiere. But we can be vague.
It’s really funny in talking about the show. You have to be so careful with what you say because you don’t know where somebody is up to. I can even get a little shy in talking about Lorna’s backstory and about Christopher. I’m in this moment where I’m finishing “The Sopranos” and if anyone tells me what happens at the end of “The Sopranos” I will [scream].
But I do really struggle when people leave the show or when the dynamic changes. I love the people I work with very much and I love them on two different levels: I love them as an actor because I enjoy working with them, and as people. You not only lose your scene partner, but you lose your friend.
I actually do grieve. There is a process of shake it off and don’t bring it home with you. But there certainly is a sense of grief when things change. Even in season one, I think back to when Madeline Brewer’s character came to a really tragic end. That was so hard for me to watch. I still find it really upsetting.
You’re watching “The Sopranos.” Are you modeling your character’s voice off any of the characters in “The Sopranos”?
I only just started watching it now. I watched the whole thing in the last four or five months. I did joke with my husband, [actor Dan Spielman] that there’s a character called Christopher and his fiancee, Adriana, is always saying “Christopher” [the same way my character does for her Christopher]. I looked at Dan and was like how the hell did I not know? … I actually found it validating. Oh my god! I did OK!
Drea de Matteo, the actress who played Adriana, received an Emmy Award for that role. “Orange” got a ton of Emmy recognition last year. How did you all feel about that?
It was amazing. I remember the day that it was announced. I think about [guest actress in a comedy nominees] Laverne [Cox] and Natasha [Lyonne] and Uzo, of course who ended up winning … these people are huge, inspirational forces and really close friends.
But by the same token, they’re awards. In this industry, they can mean everything and they can mean nothing in the same breath. The show as a whole kind of accepts the recognition with great pride and with great joy, but if those acknowledgements didn’t happen I don’t think we’d be doing our job any differently.
This season, the TV Academy ruled that “Orange Is the New Black” must enter in the drama category. Do you have any thoughts on that?
I sort of revel in our rebel status. I kind of like it. It’s something antagonistic about me; yeah you don’t even know how to categorize us. It fits perfectly in both categories.
The fact is, it’s a dramedy. Unfortunately, there isn’t a dramedy category. We’re a strong example of a show with lots of comedic moments and lots of very intense, dramatic moments. I think the important thing is that Jenji [Kohan] has created a show that allows us to look at very dramatic, intense and serious larger social issues. And she does that by using comedy.
“Orange Is the Black” and “How to Get Away with Murder” have some casting overlaps with Matt McGorry and Alysia Reiner. Any chance you’ll show up on the ABC drama too?
I am always excited and open and thrilled.