Monday, August 26, 2013

Secret Girlfriend of the Week: In Soviet Russia....prison food eats you.

Have you been watching Orange is the New Black? It's one of those Netflix original series (like House of Cards and the new Arrested Development season) where all the episodes are available for streaming at the same time. Which means you can binge watch to your heart's desire.

Unfortunately for me, life often gets in the way of my binge tv watching so I've only made it through the first six episodes. But! What I have seen is awesome and if you haven't started watching the show you really need to. Not just because of the interesting concept, the riveting plot, the large and diverse and amazing cast....

...but because of Kate Mulgrew.

Remember Kate Mulgrew? She was the gravely voiced, tough as nails Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. I am sad to say it took me about 4 episodes to recognize her, she looks and acts that different. And it is BLOWING MY MIND. 

In case you aren't familiar with the plot of Orange is the New Black, the show "revolves around Piper Chapman, a woman from Connecticut, living in New York City, who is sent to a women's federal prison for 15 months after being convicted of transporting a suitcase full of drug money for Alex Vause, an international drug smuggler and Chapman's former lover." Synopsis from wiki, of course.

Basically, the main character is your typical middle class blonde yuppie who finds herself thrown into prison because her former lesbian lover used her as a drug mule. Hijinks ensue. It's from the same creator as Weeds, but unlike that show, the decisions the characters make are usually smart and are not always wrong. Except for the ones that land them in prison.

Getting back to Kate, she plays Galina "Red" Reznikov, a Russian inmate who is the head chef of the prison kitchen and sits pretty much at the top of the prison hierarchy. You don't want to mess with her, as Piper discovers her first day when she insults the quality of the food in front of Red (without knowing Red is in charge of its preparation). Through flashbacks we learn that Red and her husband ran a restaurant and got involved with the Russian mob. Let's just say that their large restaurant-sized freezer was used to put some things on ice you don't normally find in an eatery.

I mentioned earlier that I didn't recognize Kate Mulgrew for several episodes, and it was totally true. It's not just the short red hair and the Russian accent that changed her, but she completely inhabits the role. Of course, the short spiky red hair doesn't hurt. And that shit is for real--no wigs here. Miss Thang walked herself down to the barber and got it cut and dyed. Now THAT's commitment to a role, people.

Not gonna lie--Red is scary as hell.

I found a great interview with Kate Mulgrew about Red here and I recommend you read it. It has only mild plot spoilers so feel free to click. Here are some excerpts that I found particularly interesting:
Question: You famously played Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. What do you think Red and the Star Trek franchise's first female captain to anchor a series have in common?  
KM: A ship is a ship. One is a spaceship and one is a prison. But we're both leaders of a kind, and we're both very tough and very vulnerable. Beyond that, I would draw very few parallels.  
Question: You've been an actress for more than 40 years. How does OITNB fit in the greater scheme of things?  
KM: This is the first time I've ever felt completely liberated as an actor. They only want me to be Red. They don't want me to be beautiful or exemplary. They just want me to be Red. And that's true of every single woman who's been cast. Jenji has exquisite taste. 
The entire first season of Orange is the New Black is available on Netflix streaming. Check it out and feel free to binge. But I wouldn't recommend Red's food--especially the sandwiches. Watch the show and you'll know what I mean. 

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