When it comes to memorable characters, there is no shortage of options on Orange is the New Black. Each season seems to add even more unforgettable characters to the growing cast of lovable, perplexing, and love-to-hate women in the prison drama. What is really shocking is just how much different the actresses who perform on the show are from their on-screen counterparts. Here are what some of the most notable actresses on this hit show look like in real life.
Danielle Brooks As Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson
Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson’s story is one of the more interesting ones in the show. She immediately seems a little off, even wearing a lock of Piper’s hair in the first season of the show, but turns out to be a quite smart woman who is one of the more relatable characters of the show. Sadly, when she earns her release, she violates her probation on purpose to come back to the comfortable confines of the prison.
Danielle Brooks In Real Life
Tasha is played by Danielle Brooks, a 28-year-old actress with a number of successful jobs on her acting resume. Most notably, she won a Tony Award, multiple Screen Actors Guild awards, and a Grammy Award for her performance in the Broadway version of The Color Purple. On the small screen, she has appeared in such shows as Master of None, Girls, and I Dream Too Much.
Dascha Polanco As Dayanara Diaz
In the early episodes of the show, one of the more compelling storylines is that of Dayanara Diaz, who becomes pregnant with the child of a security guard at Litchfield Penitentiary in the first season. One of the saddest moments of the show occurs when her baby is taken into child protective services. She also works with Piper on the staff of “The Big House Bugle” as a cartoonist.
Dascha Polanco In Real Life
Dascha Polanco plays the role of Daya, and the show represented her first real big break in the acting business, although she did previously appear on the TV series Unforgettable back in 2011. She has also been seen on the series The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. Originally from the Dominican Republic, Dascha has a nursing degree earned from Hunter College in New York.
Taylor Schilling As Piper Chapman
Piper Chapman is the lead character of Orange Is The New Black and the person through whom the viewers experience the ups and downs of prison life. In the beginning of the show, she’s in her early 30s and engaged to fiance Larry, but that quickly changes as Piper’s time in prison changes her in surprising ways. She also has a history with Alex Vause, who winds up in the same jail with her.
Taylor Schilling In Real Life
The role of Piper is perfect for Taylor Schilling, who acts with the kind of vulnerability and naivety that makes her character more authentic as the show kicks off. Taylor has been acting since her middle school days and done many television shows, including the series Mercy. On the big screen, she’s been in movies like Dark Matter, Argo, and The Lucky One.
Laura Prepon As Alex Vause
The character of Alex Vause is easy to dislike…at least at first. Alex is set up as a villain of sorts and Piper certainly doesn’t like her to start off the show. Alex’s rather aloof manner definitely doesn’t help things, either. However, as Piper warms up to Alex, she becomes a much more likeable character. By later in the show, the two are once again romantically involved together.
Laura Prepon In Real Life
Longtime TV fans will of course remember Laura Prepon as Donna Pinciotti on That 70s Show. Of course, her role on Orange is the New Black was a huge departure from the character of Donna. She has also stretched out her acting muscles on movies such as The Girl on the Train, The Hero, and The Kitchen. She also played the lead role in Are You There, Chelsea?
Yael Stone As Lorna Morello
Orange is the New Black has no shortage of tragic characters, and this is certainly the case with the highly disturbed, dishonest character of Lorna Morello. When we’re first introduced to her, we know she’s a pretty girl who’s resourceful, but her true background is much more troubling. Later on, the full extent of her mental illness is revealed.
Yael Stone In Real Life
Originally from Australia, Yael is like many of her costars in that she began in the world of theater before moving on to television. She was cast in Orange is the New Black after spending four months in New York trying to kickstart her acting career. She received praise not only for her acting performance, but her ability to change her accent to suit the role. She recently expanded her family with partner Jack Manning Bancroft.
Laura Gomez As Blanca Flores
At Litchfield Penitentiary, Blanca Flores had a mixed reputation. She’s definitely a rebellious character, but she has also done a lot of good in the prison, even leading a protest against the racism shown by the correctional officers at the facility. Unfortunately, she uses her power in the prison to force others to do what she says later on in the show.
Laura Gomez In Real Life
Not only is Laura Gomez a talented actress, but she is also a noted writer, speaker, and director. Before she went into show business, she worked as a voice actress and also did work as a reporter. She has produced and directed a pair of short films, earning the New York University Fall Technisphere Award for Outstanding Achievement as a result.
Vicky Jeudy As Janae Watson
On Orange is the New Black, Janae Watson is yet another character who has a sad backstory. In Janae’s case, she was a college student who ended up with a troublemaking boyfriend and made some bad choices. Eventually, her experiences with racism also led her to discriminate on others in prison. However, we witnessed her growth through her unlikely friendship with Yoga Jones.
Vicky Jeudy In Real Life
Originally from Haiti, Vicky Jeudy got her first big break on Orange is the New Black after previously appearing in small roles on shows such as Bottom Feeder and Living Peterson. She also appeared in short films such as Addiction. SHe also competed in the Miss New York competition while attending State University of New York.
Uzo Aduba As Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren
In Litchfield Penitentiary, Suzanne Warren is referred to by the unfortunate nickname of “Crazy Eyes.” Her eyes aren’t the only crazy thing about her, as she is known for taking things way too far and displaying very erratic behavior. At one point in the show, she showed a romantic interest in Piper, who had to be careful about turning down Suzanne’s advances.
Uzo Aduba In Real Life
The role of “Crazy Eyes” has been great for Uzo Aduba, who has earned recognition in the form of a pair of Primetime Emmy Awards and two Screen Actors Guild awards, as well. Uzo, whose name is short for Uzoamaka, was born in Boston to parents of Nigerian backgrounds. Before she joined the cast of Orange Is The New Black, she was more known for her theater performances.
Ruby Rose As Stella Carlin
On arrival at Litchfield Penitentiary, Stella immediately made an impact on audiences and inmates alike. Her outspokenness and beauty certainly made an impression on Piper, who she started a relationship with. However, it was quickly discovered that she is not to be trusted when she stole money from Piper.
Ruby Rose In Real Life
Ruby Rose first gained attention as a model and presenter on MTV Australia. This led to her casting on OITNB for two seasons where she became a fan favorite. Since then she has concentrated on movie roles, making appearances in Pitch Perfect 3 and John Wick: Chapter 2.
Taryn Manning As Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett
Tiffany Doggett is easily one of the most infuriating characters that fans of Orange is the New Black love to hate at the start of the show. Her underhanded ways of dealing with Piper and hypocrisy make her a natural villain early on, but as with most of the characters on the show, she later grows as a person and even finds love in the form of a correctional officer.
Taryn Manning In Real Life
Taryn Manning couldn’t be more different than her on-screen counterpart if she tried. She’s a multi-talented performer that has not only succeeded in the world of acting, but also singing, writing, and fashion design. Her acting credits include Sons of Anarchy, Drive, and 8 Mile. She co-owns the fashion label Born Uniqorn and had a number one hit on the US Dance charts with “Send Me Your Love.”
Lea DeLaria As Big Boo
Big Boo, like so many Litchfield Penitentiary inmates, has a very hard exterior and likes to be a tough girl around the prison. While Big Boo is certainly an egotistical person that is initially hard to like, she does show that she can be nice when she returns a stolen screwdriver to Piper as a way of helping her defend herself from the crazed Pennsatucky.
Lea DeLaria In Real Life
Like so many of the performers on Orange is the New Black, Lea DeLaria is much different than the character she portrays on the hit show. In real life, she is an accomplished jazz musician and stand-up comic. She has also performed on Broadway, including the successful Broadway version of The Rocky Horror Show. She also appeared regularly on One Life to Live.
Natasha Lyonne As Nicky Nichols
Nicky is the favorite character of many fans of the show early on due to her dry wit and sarcastic sense of humor. Although like the other characters, she has a rather unfortunate past that includes addiction troubles, she also makes for a lot of funny scenes during her episodes on the show. Her low self-worth often manifests itself as she veers toward shallow affairs with the other women instead of the pursuit of actual love.
Natasha Lyonne In Real Life
If you remember the American Pie films, you undoubtedly remember Natasha Lyonne as Jessica in the series. She also appeared in Slums of Beverly Hills and Everyone Says I Love You, But I’m a Cheerleader. However, Orange is the New Black has been her most successful role, as she has earned a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for her performance.
Selenis Leyva As Gloria Mendoza
Gloria Mendoza is a character whose role expanded as the show went on. She becomes head of the kitchen after Red leaves the role and also leads the Spanish Harem as a kind of protective mother figure for the other girls. Eventually, she cedes both her leadership role in the kitchen and in the Spanish Harem, as Maria Ruiz takes over the role instead.
Selenis Leyva In Real Life
Selenis Leyva is the actress who plays Gloria. She’s from Cuba and her role in Orange is the New Black is her most prominent one yet. However, she has appeared in notable movies and TV series that include Spider-Man: Homecoming, Girls, Veep, and The Sopranos. You may also recognize her from her repeated performances on Law & Order.
Kate Mulgrew As Galina “Red” Reznikov
Galina “Red” Reznikov’s distinctive red hair matches her fiery disposition, and when the show begins she is the head chef at Litchfield Penitentiary. Of course, she uses her position to smuggle goods inside the prison, which grants her a lot of power within its walls. Also, as Piper learned, the fact that she’s in charge of the food makes her a very bad choice for someone to mess with.
Kate Mulgrew In Real Life
Star Trek fans will immediately remember Kate Mulgrew from her role as Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. At 62 years of age, she has had a long and successful acting career even if she has never been a marquee star. She has earned a lot of critical acclaim for her roles over the years, winning a Golden Globe, Primetime Emmy Award and an Obie Award.
Samira Wiley As Poussey Washington
Poussey Washington is definitely one of the easiest characters to root for in Orange is the New Black. She also has a compelling storyline to begin the show, as the owner of an unrequited crush on Taystee. As with many of her fellow inmates, her life has been sadly marred by alcoholism and depression. Even worse, she is tragically killed on accident by CO Bayley in season four of the show.
Samira Wiley In Real Life
Orange is the New Black is not the only highly regarded show that Samira Wiley has appeared on. The 30-year old actress and model has also appeared on The Handmaid’s Tale in a role that earned her a Primetime Emmy Award nomination. Her ties to Orange is the New Black are personal as well as professional; she married writer Lauren Morelli in 2017.
Diane Guerrero As Maritza Ramos
Maritza Ramos is Flaca’s best friend in the prison and is often seen joking around or arguing with her. She first appears to be a little dumb, but viewers soon figure out that she’s actually quite crafty and uses this perception to con others when possible. She also has shown an ability to rise to the occasion during times like the prison riot, when she successfully got a guard to drop his weapon.
Diane Guerrero In Real Life
Diane Guerrero is a fine addition to the multi-talented women of Orange is the New Black, as she is an author as well as an actress. She wrote a book called “In The Country We Love: My Family Divided” about the experience of seeing her parents deported when she was only fourteen years old. She often works to promote immigration reform in her spare time.
Kimiko Glenn As Brooke Soso
Viewers didn’t get to know Brooke Soso until later on in the show. She is perhaps the inmate that is most similar to Piper due to her naivety and lack of a tough side to her personality. However, she annoys her fellow inmates due to her bubbly personality at times. She is also noted for her hunger strike that she conducts to raise attention to poor conditions at the prison.
Kimiko Glenn In Real Life
A 28-year-old actress with the Broadway musical Waitress under her belt, Kimiko Glenn brings Brooke Soso to life on Orange is the New Black. In real life, she dates actor Sean Grandillo and has been seen in movies such as Nerve. She has also appeared on the small screen in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, High Maintenance, and Voltron: Legendary Defender.
Jessica Pimentel As Maria Ruiz
There are a lot of mentally tough women on Orange is the New Black, and Maria Ruiz is certainly one of them. She rarely lets her guard down and eventually takes a leadership role among the other Hispanic inmates during the show. Although she does show her softer side when her boyfriend Yadiel brings her baby daughter around, she is very hurt when later on, Yadiel decides it’s best not to do so any longer so her daughter doesn’t have to see her mom behind bars.
Jessica Pimentel In Real Life
When she’s not acting on the show, Jessica is actually active in music. She’s the lead singer for the well-known metal band Alekhine’s Gun. In the world of acting, she has appeared in shows and movies such as How to Score Your Life, Pride and Glory, and All My Children. For her performance on Orange is the New Black, she has earned a Screen Actors Guild Award.
Laverne Cox as Sophia Burset
Sophia Burset is an interesting character for a number of reasons. As a transgender woman, she challenges Piper’s naivety from the start. Second of all, as one of the few girls that actually wants to contribute something positive (through her hairdressing) to the other women, she provides the show with another clearly good person to root for. Her backstory reveals a sad history that included a life as a firefighter named Markus.
Laverne Cox In Real Life
Laverne Cox made history as the first openly transgender woman to earn an Emmy nomination. Unsurprisingly, she is very active as an LGBT advocate and is active in social efforts. She has earned a Daytime Emmy for the show Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word and recently starred in films and shows that include Freak Show and the series Doubt.
Julie Lake As Angie Rice
As Angie Rice, Julie Lake plays a character that is one of Pennsatucky’s sidekicks. They both share their tendencies toward hypocrisy and unfortunate dental health, but unlike her friend, Angie is a timid girl deep down. She is part of a sad storyline where she is given early release on accident from the prison and ultimately found at a bus stop, penniless and unsure of where to go.
Julie Lake In Real Life
Fortunately, in real life Julie Lake takes much better care of herself than she does when playing Angie Rice. She is a Yale University graduate and like many of her castmates, has found that Orange is the New Black has been her big break. Beforehand, she played roles in productions like Farah Goes Bang, Mental, Boomtown, and Tinderellas. She most recently filmed the movie Landfill.
Francesca Curran As Helen Van Mae
In the fourth season of Orange is the New Black, Helen Van Maele makes her debut. She adds a racial tension that wasn’t present on the show before due to her outspoken racism and identification with the neo-Nazi movement. While she is very aggressive, she also has a strange tendency to appreciate unicorns, Lisa Frank, and other rather childish things.
Julie Lake In Real Life
Many of the stars of Orange is the New Black look much different off-screen than when in character, but the extremely pretty Julie Lake may just take the cake in that category. She’s a 23-year-old actress who is enjoying her biggest role yet on the show. She was dedicated enough to shave her head for the part, growing her hair a little when not filming and occasionally wearing wigs to take other roles.