Orange is the New Black may center on Piper Chapman's time in the Litchfield Penitentiary, but the real stars of the show are undoubtedly her supporting cast of fellow inmates, each one a gem in her own right. Crazy Eyes and Red may be two of the most recognizable based on appearance alone, but if I say the word "Diablo," you immediately know which lady of Litchfield I'm talking about.
When we first met Blanca in Season 1 of OITNB, it seemed like the inmate had gone a little cuckoo during her time at Litchfield. Seeming to feverishly talk to herself in the restroom stall, a wild mane of black hair atop her head, the other inmates, particularly Piper, kept their distance for fear of what Blanca was capable of.
Later, we found out that Blanca is a lot savvier than she initially appeared. She somehow managed to smuggle in a cell phone to prison, which she hid in the restroom stall when she wasn't talking to or sexting her boyfriend, "Diablo."
However, that revelation made Blanca more enigmatic than ever before, opening up a whole can of worms of questions. How did she end up at Litchfield? Who is "Diablo"? How did she manage to keep her cell phone charged that whole time?
Well, Laura Gómez, the actress who portrays Blanca on OITNB, isn't telling. That's probably because she's dying to know a lot about Blanca's backstory too. However, she did spill a little bit on what we can expect from Blanca in Season 3 of OITNB when T-Lounge caught up with her in an interview over the phone. Here's what Gómez had to say about transforming into Blanca, her relationship with the other inmates in Season 3 and why she didn't binge-watch the first two seasons of OITNB.
How much did you know about Blanca going into the show? Were you aware that we would find out she's not as crazy as she seems?
No, I had no idea. I only had a hint from our director Michael Trim. Actually from the pilot when I kind of go crazy and go out on Piper and scare her, the only hint that I had was you may not be as crazy as you think, which is not exactly telling me you’re not crazy. At the beginning, I was going with the preconception that I was a little mental, and then I was as surprised as Piper or the characters or the audience itself that Blanca is not even half as crazy as she pretends to be. And then I realized, I discovered as an actor, like oh my God, Blanca is using this as a defense mechanism. She’s just trying to survive, trying to get by and not be bothered. And then again, God knows what she’s been through in life and what she’s been through in jail. That’s kind of my approach now, but I’m always surprised by what the writers bring to the table, so I’m discovering along with the audience with this character.
As you mentioned, there is so much that we don’t know about Blanca, and I think a lot of fans would love it if we saw her backstory play out in the upcoming season. What can you tell us about your character in Season 3?
We’re going to know soon, June 12, we’re all going to know. All I can say right now is Blanca is there, and she’s as odd as usual, which is so much fun. I mean, honestly. Blanca brings this comic relief without even trying, you know?
At the end of Season 2, Blanca demanded another cell phone with a camera to keep quiet about Officer John Bennett's relationship with inmate Daya. It seems like Blanca could wield some serious power with that over the other ladies of Litchfield, as Red did with the prison's kitchen.
We obviously see her in Season 2 fitting in a little bit more. I always joke, my own personal approach is that Gloria must have talked to her and tell her you have to put your hair in a net or something, try to act normal. That’s what I figure must have happened because it’s almost like she has been accepted by the Latinas but not necessarily included. You know, we accept you, it’s fine, you can talk to us, but that doesn’t mean that you’re a part of us. And it just feels like this odd individual doesn’t quite belong. But she’s at least getting by, you know? And I think she even fits in a little more. She’s even cooking in the kitchen, and she’s good!
Blanca's appearance is so drastically different from the way you look in real life. What do you have to do to get into that character? What is the process with your hair and makeup to become Blanca?
It seems much more complex than it is. The hair and makeup department, I always give them so much credit because they’re fantastic, and I just come in. The moment I have hair and makeup, it’s like everything changes. It’s like I’m Blanca right here. It just helps me so much to get into this character and to stay in character because the wardrobe is so peculiar. I just go with it, and I let it color my physicality a lot.
Do people recognize you on the street since your real appearance is so different from what we see on screen?
No, not that much. Not that much. I’ve said before, gladly, I kind of keep my privacy. I get recognized, and if I do, I wonder if I look terrible. Like, ugh I must look really bad if people are recognizing me. They kind of hesitate. Like, "Are you..."? I’ve gotten a few times, “Oh my God, you are that woman!” And sometimes, I’ve denied it. I’m like, “That ugly thing? No.” And they go, “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. She’s actually pretty in real life.” I find it hilarious when they tell me that. It’s kind of fun. I have fun with it. That’s the beauty of this show. We look so different, all of us. I particularly look very different, but it’s such a liberating thing for an actor to be that free with a character.
Hopefully this never happens to you, but if you smuggled something into prison, as Blanca did with a cell phone, what would it be?
Wow. What would it be? You know, I’m gonna copy Blanca and bring a cell phone to have communication with the outside world. Now the question is, like I’ve been asked on Twitter before, how does she charge the phone?
Yeah, how does she?
I have no idea. I need to be provided that answer by the writers.
Those flip phones, though, their battery lasts a lot longer than smartphones, so maybe that has something to do with it.
True. That is true. You know as crazy as I am, but I’m really not? I’m sure I have some connection with some C.O. [Correctional Officer] in there. Yeah, I’m sure. So there goes the answer. So let me copy Blanca and smuggle a phone. I don’t know how. I don’t know how on Earth though.
Your co-star Taylor Schilling has said that she hasn’t watched OITNB. Have you watched the show?
Yes, I have. Yes. I cannot lie.
Did you binge-watch it?
I don’t binge-watch though. I watch with a little more patience. Obviously, I know the story and where it’s going. I’ve read the script and whatnot, but I have a little bit more patience. Although I get binge-watching. I understand it. I watch two or three episodes a night... because I actually want to process the whole thing. I do appreciate it so much. I always say that what I love about this show is sometimes it is very difficult when you’re an actor to see yourself on screen. It’s very difficult not to judge yourself, not to judge things that the general public would not even notice. But what I realized is that this show, in my case, was the first time I don’t do that, and I thought it was amazing. And though I know the entire cast, I’m not even seeing either my friends or my castmates, I’m seeing the characters. And I thought that’s proof of how good the show was. I actually get to disconnect, and I really get into the show as much as the audience.
What do you think has allowed you to disconnect from the show?
Maybe the fact that we look so different. Maybe the fact that we are really embodying these characters and their truth and physically transforming ourselves. And physically, me, I really don’t see me. I’m not judging like, “Oh, what was I thinking? Or the camera…” I’m just actually the opposite. I’m like, “Oh, great. I look horrible. Even better,” because the truth of that character, Blanca’s not about being attractive or trying to look good in jail or anything. It’s actually the opposite. The crazier I look, the easier I will get by in prison, I think. That’s how I approach the character, anyway.
There’s been a lot of talk about the representation of women, racial minorities and the LGBT community on Orange is the New Black, both positive and negative. What are your thoughts on how these types of groups are represented on the show?
I love it. I think it’s honest, and I think even though, yes, it comes from a stereotypical point at the beginning, I mean, we simplify it. But then all of its layers are added, and then we come to see more of real, three-dimensional characters almost become people, real people. And some of them are based on real people. You know, the show is based on memoirs of the real Piper [Kerman]. I think it’s a beautiful thing what they have been able to create because they have been able to give humanity to these otherwise unheard voices, and people are really connecting with what the stories are. You know, when I saw Laverne Cox’s backstory [for her character Sophia], I remember, and I talked with Tonya Wright about this, [the actress that plays Sophia's] wife, how it’s going to get you whether you want to or not. And I think it’s just so beautifully written and so beautifully done. I love it. I really do.
Did you have any kinds of concerns about the way you would be portraying a Latina character on the show? Did you take that into consideration at all when you approached the character?
No, I’ll be honest with you. When I read the pilot, I thought the character was fantastic, and whatever doubt I could have had, it went away the moment I read it. I had no idea that it was going to be so big, but I had no doubt that it was going to be something special, you know?