When actress Alysia Reiner auditioned for a small stage production I produced last year, I knew instantly I was standing before someone with an interesting career in behind and in front of her. She read with such ease and vigor and clearly possessed the ability to become someone else at the drop of a hat. It was a show about motherhood, a subject she knew very well, as a new mother with a toddler at home.
Alysia’s resume is so impressive. She’s had recurring and guest starring roles on hit shows like “30 Rock,” all the “Law & Order” shows, “The Sopranos,” “White Collar,” “The Exes,” “The Starter Wife,”and many more. In film, she is still recognized as Christine, Thomas Hayden Church’s fiancee and then bride in the Oscar-winning cult film favorite “Sideways,” for which she won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble Cast. Alysia has been in blockbusters like “For Love of the Game,” but also shoe-string budget Sundance faves like “The Vicious Kind,” which was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards. And that’s just a fraction of the work she’s done.
Little did I know back then that she was about to start filming the role as Fig in what would become my favorite TV show, Orange is the New Black, which debuted on Netflix two weeks ago. I finished all 13 episodes in just a few days, a feat for me, as my kids often control the remote control. It has become my new obsession and I still can’t believe how good the show is. And how good she is. I basically binge watched the whole show and devoured every scene. It’s a show about story-telling, about the women in the stories and the show gets inside them in a very different way than anything I’ve ever seen before.
It’s fairly obvious by watching the show that filming OITNB must be an INTENSE experience, so I asked Alysia a few questions:
How did you get involved with the show?
It was an offer – but i had auditioned for another role – readers – tweet me to guess which one!
What is it like working in a women-led, all women cast show?
incredible. we have such a spectacular group of talent – starting of course with our incredible Jenji (Kohan), the writers and producers, and the cast is AMAZEBALLS.
How do you like playing Fig? Are you like her at all?
LOVE IT and NO she is so the opposite of me!( as you know)! I am the girl who wants to change the world and have GEDs and meditation classes. I actually started volunteering in a prison with an amazing organization called Council for Unity.
What was it like shooting in a real prison? Did you do any research to get into the mindset of these women?
We actually shot at an abandoned kids psych ward = CREEPY!
What was it like working with Jenji Kohan?
She is so warm and delightful, so incredibly humble, so incredibly loyal, you can’t believe the genius that comes out of her.
How involved was the real-life Piper? Did she come to the set regularly?
Yes which is great – and ironically her husband Larry is a dear friend of someone I was best friend’s with in HIGH SCHOOL!
You have an interesting relationship with the warden and guards. They all seem to listen to you. How were you directed to play this part?
Honestly they gave us a lot of freedom. I made some big choices about Fig from the beginning and I think the team liked them (I sure hope so!) because I was never directed to pull back or change. Its also so in the amazing writing. Our writers so give us so many clues in the writing about how to play things.
How does the show make you feel about how women are treated in prison? What have you learned about the system that you can share?
Its scary to me. The more I read the more upsetting it is, hence the volunteering. Piper is super active too and I plan to get more involved with some of her organizations. I so hope our show is a catalyst for change in the system. If it takes FIG’s evil ways to help that happen, I will be as evil as I can be.
What’s next for you? Can you tell us anything about next season?
As for next season, I wish I knew! We start in a couple weeks. As for me, I just shot 2 films – THE GIRL IN THE BOOK, and REVENGE OF THE GREEN DRAGONS and I am about to voice a dear friend’s book SOME NERVE – so excited.
In addition to being a great actress, Alysia is also a producer, writer, humanitarian, outspoken environmentalist, mother and model. She’s a champion of all things eco-friendly, green, light green, or even that lime green that most people hate. Head over to her site to check out all the causes she is passionate about.