Q&A with Yael Stone from Orange is the New Black


Jean Kemshal-Bell

The cast of Netflix hit, <i>Orange is the New Black</i>.

The cast of Netflix hit, Orange is the New Black.

Netflix’s smart new drama-comedy Orange is the New Black has received near universal critical acclaim for its sharp, serious, and at times laugh-out-loud funny commentary on race, gender, sexuality and belonging. Based on Piper Kerman’s best-selling memoir of the same name, the series follows Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) – a WASP-y, organic-loving, blond who goes to prison for trafficking drug money.

Written and directed by Weeds creator Jenji Kohan, the show has an almost all-female cast, who deliver standout performances as inmates at the minimum-security prison. Sydney’s Yael Stone is terrific as the West Side Story-obsessed, Brooklyn-Italian Lorna Morello. Having previously appeared in local dramas Spirited and All Saints, the 28-year-old is now on track to enjoying a promising career in the States. Stone, who is filming season two in New York, chats about landing the game-changing role.


Yael Stone as Lorna Morello in OITNB.

Yael Stone as Lorna Morello in OITNB.

Q: Are you surprised at the response to Orange is the New Black?


YS: I think I felt like I knew it was pretty special from the get go but sometimes special things don’t take off. The fact that everyone has taken to it so strongly is wonderful and something that you can’t ever predict.


Yael Stone performing with Geoffrey Rush in Diaries of a Mad Man.

Yael Stone performing with Geoffrey Rush in Diaries of a Mad Man.

Q: How did you go about honing the Brooklyn/Boston accent for the part?

YS: I had one session with a coach and that was all I could afford. I just listened to that one session over and over again – I had it recorded. I also recorded people who had qualities of the accent that I really liked. Over time it became less academic, changing this vowel to that vowel, and now it comes a little bit more naturally. I’m never going to feel like I’ve 100 per cent nailed it because I think probably that’s a bit of a naïve idea. There are some really amazing intricacies to the dialect over here. I’m just doing my best and hopefully I can just go by unnoticed.


Q: Do you keep in character outside of work?

YS: On set I tend to stay in [character] just because it’s sort of easier to make that transition…But no, not at home. I think that would really freak my husband [Dan Spielman, Offspring] out and I might be accused of being a bit of a wanker.


Q: You have a bit of a funny story about when you auditioned for the role. It was your wedding the day before.

YS: Yeah, we got married and we were out pretty late. The next day I headed in for my first round of auditions. It was kind of unusual.


Q: What research did you do for the role? Did you visit any prisons?

YS: I did a lot of reading, a lot of first-hand accounts of women in prison. It’s actually quite hard to get into prison. It’s not like you can be straight of the bat – ‘hi I’m a young Australian actor doing a prison TV show, can I come and visit?’. But maybe now that the show is out that’s something I need to explore again. I would really love to go but it’s also—you have to be really sensitive. I don’t want to be a vampire with people who may or may not enjoy that intrusion into their lives. I also spoke to a community of lawyers and judges in Boston. I had a really great time talking with them about clients and talking about struggles that they’ve had as defenders of women involved with what they would describe as blue-collar crime.


Q: The characters are so diverse. These are women that are rarely seen on TV.  

YS: Exactly. These are shapes and sizes and colours that need to be on television, ages that need to be on television. We need to represent women in a realistic way, with all their complexities. I think that’s what the show does and I’m so proud to be part of a show that has a really strong female voice – in front of the camera and behind the camera. It’s extraordinary.


Q: The cast seem very close. Lena Dunham (Girls) tweeted that you vacation together.

YS: We do—I didn’t know that she knew that [laughs]. We definitely go out and do fun things together and sometimes get out of town. It’s pretty cosy. I’m all for the ladies organising fun things to do together – especially as someone from out of town.


Q: Jodie Foster directed the third episode in season one – how was that?

YS: I had one line and the line was “one of us, one of us, google, goggle, google, goggle.” I believe my cheeks were also being squeezed at the time. It was fairly demoralising and hilarious and I thought that was a great way to work with Jodie Foster [laughs].


Q: Are there any other projects you’re working on?

YS: I don’t want to jinx myself and say things that are in the works that aren’t confirmed yet. So I think for the moment just concentrating on season two is enough. It’s just wonderful to be here and have a job – to have come from Australia and be blessed quickly with a job like this – it’s more than enough for me. I’m over the moon.