Laverne Cox was about to quit acting before she got the job on OITNB

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The world has been better since Laverne Cox made her debut on Orange is the New Black. It was recently announced that Laverne will be the host of E!’s Red Carpet. She’ll be taking over for Giuliana Rancic. In honor of Pride Month and in a conversation for the Paley Center’s Pride Month programing, Laverne recounted her struggles as an actress before landing her role on OITNB. Laverne said, at that time in 2012, she had just turned forty and was broke with her rent several months in arrears. Laverne was about to quit acting and go to graduate school when she got the call for the job of her dreams. She went on to say that she was tired of playing sex worker number six and that her role on OITNB was the role of a lifetime for a transgender woman. Below are a few more highlights via People:

“In the fall of 2012 we started shooting this show and I was just so happy to have a job; 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,” Cox, 48, recalls when asked about her experience on OITNB. “I had turned 40 that year and had a breakout moment and I was in debt and things weren’t going the way I hoped they would.”

Instead of acting, she says, Cox was planning on heading back to graduate school.

“I was just devastated by turning 40 and my life was kind of in shambles, like, financially, and I had worked and trained a lot and my dream of being a working actress had not come to fruition,” she says. “I was just like, ‘I’ve got to do something else. Who do I think I am? I’m a Black trans woman — no one’s ever done this before, let me go and do something, have a real job or something.’”

Cox continues, “So I was going to go to grad school. I was studying for the GRE and then the audition for Orange happened and I didn’t go to grad school — Orange turned out to be my grad school.”

Her role on OITNB made Cox the first trans woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted series and the first openly trans actress to be nominated for a primetime acting Emmy.

“It changed everything,” she says. “I have a career now that I always dreamed about because of that show, and what’s really beautiful about Orange is, I had writing and storylines that I had dreamed about.”

“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,” she adds.

[From People]

I only watched one season of OITNB because the lead character really annoyed me but I absolutely loved Laverne and Uzo Aduba’s characters. It is the reason I still follow their careers to this day. I mean Crazy Eyes was the damn show. I can’t believe Laverne basically got her big break at forty. This is so inspiring and lets me know it is never too late. I am so glad Laverne didn’t give up because the world would not have been blessed with the awesomeness that she is. Laverne, along with Janet Mock, also elevated the conversation around transgender rights. When Laverne said she had to play a sex worker seven different times, it reminded me of the Black actresses from the 80s and 90s, like Halle Berry, lamenting having to cut their teeth on “drug addict number two” roles. It seems not much has changed for Black actresses, trans or not. Breaking into acting is a very daunting task, especially if you are a Black woman and even more so if you are a transgender Black woman. I am happy that Laverne and other actresses can smash through the barriers. Hopefully this is just the beginning and Laverne will get even more opportunities. Especially since there is a demand for representation within the LBGTQIA community, specifically the trans community.

You can watch the entire interview here.

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photos credit: Getty, Jessica Miglio/Netflix and via Instagram

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10 Responses to “Laverne Cox was about to quit acting before she got the job on OITNB”

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  1. Lemons says:

    When you look 20-something, I guess you can have your big break at 40! Seriously, I would have NEVER guessed her age correctly, and she glows. I’m really inspired by her breakout moment and need to keep her in mind when I’m feeling down.

  2. manda says:

    FWIW, Piper really fades into the background in later seasons. I watched all but the last season. I still tear up thinking about the penultimate season’s finale

  3. Amy T says:

    I love that her twin brother played her character on OINTB before she (the character, not the actress) transitioned.

    • Jess says:

      I didn’t know that! Very cool! I only made it through the first two seasons but she and Uzo were my favorites (along with Natasha). Can’t believe she’s my age – she is breathtaking!

      • BothSidesNow says:

        She was always a standout on OITNB. But they supporting cast did break through with their own stories which I appreciated. I haven’t watched the show in quite awhile, though I did watch the first few seasons, as I thought it was groundbreaking. An all star cast with all female leads, with a rainbow of ethnicity to boot!! I must admit I am stunned that she was turning 40!! She looks to be in her 20’s, but not her forties. I am glad that OITNB became her breakout role. The world needs actors like her and many more.

  4. Jane Doe says:

    I’m a big fan of hers.

  5. detritus says:

    Why she gotta be so damn beautiful?

  6. jferber says:

    She looks frigging amazing and I love her.

  7. PixiePaperdoll says:

    1 – I read OITNB and while it was interesting, I was too irritated by the author to watch the show.
    2 – How the F does she look like that at almost 50? I want whatever potatoes she’s eating.

  8. Persephone says:

    I love her. She’s a great actress and beautiful to boot.