Are the most devious characters of ‘Orange Is The New Black’ capable of redemption? That’s what HollywoodLife.com asked Alysia Reiner, who plays Natalie ‘Fig’ Figueroa — assistant warden, embezzler, and Louboutin-wearer extraordinaire. Read on for our exclusive interview!
Arguably one of the most dastardly characters in Orange Is The New Black, even Natalie “Fig” Figueroa can be redeemed, according to the actress who plays her, Alysia Reiner. Potentially the actor most opposite from her character, Alysia revealed in an exclusive interview with HollywoodLife.com her highest hopes for Fig — from actually affecting at Litchfield to becoming an inmate herself — as well as some behind-the-scenes scoop on her character and the most positive outcome of one of the most diverse and complex shows on television. (And if you haven’t yet caught up on Season 2, the below contains mild spoilers, so proceed with caution!)
Alysia Reiner on ‘Orange Is The New Black’: Fig ‘Forgets About The Day-To-Day Life Of People’
HollywoodLife.com: You mentioned at the Orange Is The New Black red carpet premiere in NYC that people would “get called on their sh**” in Season 2 — you were not wrong!
Alysia Reiner: I tell it like it is!
Fig seems to get the worst of it, but we discover a more sympathetic side to her. Do you think she deserves that sympathy?
“Does she deserve sympathy? Of course! You know, we all deserve sympathy. I think we all are doing the best we can and I am a total Pollyanna in real life and I do believe we all are doing the best we can and we just totally get off track. But I do feel like she has these visions of grandeur of running for Congress herself one day. […]
“I just think she forgets about the day-to-day life of people – and I think that’s a really important thing to talk about. Like, when we are going for these over-arching changes, we can forget about the day-to-day experiences. I think that is her biggest problem.”
So, she genuinely believes that by embezzling money into her husband’s campaign that she’ll be able to make the larger changes down the road.
“That’s my fantasy, at least!” [Laughs]
Alysia Reiner Interview: Is Caputo Really A Better Option, And, In Which ‘OITNB’ Fans Should Campaign To Have Fig Return As An Inmate
By the end of the season, Caputo [Nick Sandow] is painted as some kind of savior for the prison compared to Fig. It’s hard to forget that he is really sleazy!
“So sleazy! It’s disgusting; she’s so much cooler. He’s a weasel.”
Do you think that Caputo will be ready to step up to the plate? Do you think he has the ability to be a leader, or is he just into his promotion for the sake of a promotion?
“The way I see him, I think he is a pencil pusher and I don’t think he’ll make any impact for change. I think he wants a better paycheck and I think he wants to do less. I think he’ll get a better paycheck, but I don’t think he realizes what he got himself into.”
Is it the end of her husband and the campaign, or will she continue to try and have an effect on Litchfield?
“I think the honest answer is no one really knows yet! We just got our third season pick-up, and I think i’ts being created in the imagination as we speak — and I think there’s so much fun that could happen with Fig! She could come back as a prisoner…”
I was hoping for that!
“I think there should be a campaign — maybe HollywoodLife.com can lead it – to bring Fig back as a prisoner! I think it would be hilariously awesome! There’s a certain level of comeuppance with that that I think would be absolutely delicious!”
Alysia Reiner: Even Pornstache Is Redeemable — ‘We Are All Doing The Best We Can By The Light We Have To See’
The incredibly human element of Orange is the New Black is in the fact that most of these women, criminals or not, seem redeemable. Are there any characters you can think of that are not redeemable or does everyone have it in them?
“My personal feelings are that no one on the planet is not redeemable. I think that even with Pornstache [Pablo Schreiber], you see he has a heart and he really loves [Daya, played by Dascha Polanco] in his sick, sick vision of what love is. I believe that we all are doing the best we can by the light we have to see – and there are a lot of people who don’t have a lot of light. I mean, that’s one of my personal favorite things about this show, is that we see these really complex layered people who are horrible and redeemable, all at the same time.”
Speaking of redeemable character situations, what do you think about Daya and Bennett [Matt McGorry]’s relationship, given how messed up the power dynamics are?
“It’s so messed up! And it’s so complex because when it started, as a viewer, the energy in it is beautiful. They are just two people who happen to be in this situation, and they’re falling for each other because there is no one else around. But then you take a step back and you’re like, ‘Oh my god, this is so wrong. He has so much power over her, it’s so inappropriate” – and that is so true to so many relationships, that both I have had and friends have had, in that you fall for someone and it feels right, but you realize how absolutely wrong it is.”
Alysia Reiner Interview: Behind-The-Scenes Of Fig And ‘Orange Is The New Black’
So, the writers of Orange is The New Black are obviously amazing, but can you name anything that you’ve personally contributed to the writing of Fig’s character?
“One thing I play with that I hope you pick up on is she has a little bit of an accent change depending on who she’s talking to. So, when she’s talking to Caputo or a plumber, for example, she goes a little bit more Brooklyn street. Then, when she’s talking to upper class people or when she’s in the presentational mode, she changes her accent, which has been a fun thing to play with as an actor.”
Would you say she came from a lower-class background?
“I think so, yeah! Absolutely. I actually read something interesting about a woman who was the head of a correctional facility and then was a congresswoman, and than was trying to make her way up the government even higher. Then it came out that her father was in organized crime, and I was like, ‘Ugh, that’s so Fig!’ So, she is someone I think about.
“There have been a couple of one-liners that I have thrown in that have made it in that I’m thrilled by because when you do work with such incredible writers and they like what you add, it’s always delightful! One that comes to mind is [in Episode 2, “Looks Blue, Tastes Red”], which Jenji [Kohan] wrote – so whenever you can throw something into a Jenji episode, it’s like, ‘Ah, she liked it! I’m so happy!’
“At the end of the scene with [Andrew, the City Post reporter played by Richard Gallagher], I can’t remember the exact line now, but I say something along the line of ‘I don’t have all day, I’m trying to run a prison here,’ and that was my little add.”**
**The line, from “Looks Blue, Tastes Red,” was, “I have to get back to work; the prison doesn’t run itself.”
Alysia Reiner On The Most Positive Outcomes Of ‘Orange Is The New Black’
Big question, but what do you think has been the most positive outcome of the show?
“One is the diversity of women on television, like the absolute diversity of everything — from an incredibly talented transgender woman [Laverne Cox] to all different shapes, colors, sizes, […] that you don’t usually see on TV, and that’s just the truth of it.
“And I think the second thing is really making people more aware of women in prison in that situation. For me, I’ve been called to action to get involved with the Women’s Prison Association and help them in any way that I can. It’s one of those things where it’s something I have always been aware of but I have never been called to take action on because it didn’t have anything to do with my story.
“I’m always looking at how I can help the world as much as I can, but if it’s not personal, it’s sometimes hard to find a way into something – if that makes sense. But now I have this way in and once made aware in a deeper way to explain what being a woman in prison is, I could not help but take more action. I think those two things are huge, both that power helping to change the face of television and the faces of television.
“Also, there’s of course the whole Netflix thing and changing the face of television that way, which is so exciting to be part of. But then also, hopefully we are making people more aware of prison and hopefully it helps change women’s lives in prison and we can reform around it.”
So, HollywoodLifers, do you agree with Alysia, that every character is redeemable? How will Caputo perform as assistant warden? Will you join us in campaigning to have Fig return to Litchfield as an inmate? (And does anybody have any clever hashtags?) Let us know!
— Amanda Michelle Steiner