I recently had the opportunity to interview Emily Althaus; she is currently a recurring member of Orange is the New Black, playing “Maureen Kukudio” and inmate and love interest for Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba). Emily has an extensive background in theatre (Harvey, Assistance, Three Sisters) as well as a variety of guest spots on highly-acclaimed television series (Law & Order: SVU, Blue Bloods, Togetherness). Emily offered an insight into what it was like transitioning from theatre to television, the audition process before joining OITNB and how she navigates changing from comedy to drama. See below for the full interview, and keep your eyes peeled for Emily in the upcoming independent film “Stereotypically You”. Not only that, make sure to tune in to Orange is the New Black Season 4 for all things Maureen and Crazy Eyes. Lastly, I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to Emily for taking the time to talk to me, it was an absolute pleasure, and I look forward to watching your career continue to soar.
- With your significant background in theatre, did you find the transition to television easy or difficult? What did you find the most difficult (if anything)?
I sometimes think of acting for the stage like driving stick shift. And acting for the camera like driving an automatic. Odds are, if you can drive a stick you can switch to an automatic, but it’s not always so smooth the other way around. None of this is to say that either is “easy,” but there are absolutely similarities. When I started doing more on-camera work, I certainly heard “SMALLER” a lot. Filling a theatre and playing to the back row is very different than having a camera tight in on a close up. The listening and being present doesn’t change, but the reaction sure does. I’d like to believe I’m learning all the time how to do both a little better.
- You entered the world of Orange is the New Black last season (3), as a love interest for Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba), how was the audition process for that role? What drew you to the character of Maureen Kukudio?
I originally auditioned to play Pensatucky’s mom in a flash back! I eventually heard back from my agents that they weren’t going to use me for the role, but that they wanted to write something for me. (sweating starts now) I think I’m being truthful when I say that neither I nor Orange knew what this character would become at that moment. I wasn’t ever given a “character break down” as we’re so often accustomed to, so I remember my first day thinking…I guess I’ll say these lines like THIS. Ha! And as I was written for more, patterns sort of emerged. I had a great talk with Nick Jones, one of our incredible writers, and we discussed the possibility of Maureen being somewhere on the spectrum. The freedom I had to build her was both inspiring and slightly terrifying, but always made easier by the brilliant writing of our team.
- How has it been becoming a part of the diverse, multi-faceted and talented ensemble that is OITNB? Can you remember your first day on set?
I remember my first day so vividly. We weren’t on set, we were upstate at our exterior prison location. Andrew McCarthy was directing and I had a MAJOR crush on him growing up, soooooooooo nerves on nerves on nerves. I remember everyone being so lovely and warm. I thought that might be my only day on set, so I thanked everyone and said goodbye and pinched myself. I think I said goodbye every day after that, until it finally sunk in that they were keeping me around. As far as diversity and our cast, it’s an honor. I want to see more of it. I want it to be the norm and not the thing a series is applauded for. Because that’s what our country is, diverse. Every little girl (and boy) should be represented on their TV, on their favorite shows. I’m honored to be a part of this diverse cast and can’t wait to be a part of the next one 🙂
- Is there anything you can tease for Season 4? Will we be seeing more of your character and her relationship with Crazy Eyes?
My understanding is that silence is the best way to keep a job, and I love my job so…..Can I leave it at : Season 4 = WOW
- Crazy Eyes and Maureen have this somewhat innocent and mysterious connection; did you and Uzo spend time developing that or was it an instant sort of chemistry?
I’d love to believe that over time we’ve created that, and are creating that. But I can say that day 1 with Uzo never felt like day 1. She’s got depth, it’s why you love watching her. She’s open and vulnerable and ready to PLAY. And that’s what I love. We’re both theatre kids so play is super important to us (I’m speaking for her here, but I feel I’m speaking truth). Having that right off the bat was huge. Uzo deserves every good thing coming her way. She’s the real deal.
- And a guest star spot on Togetherness, the Duplass Brothers are hilarious and crazy talented, how fun has it been to be involved in that?
Maximum fun. Like, the most fun you’re allowed to have doing a single thing. That kind of fun. Those brothers are genius. The world they created with that show, with that cast, with that crew…being a small part of it was an honest dream come true.
- You’ve also had guest spots on Law & Order (SVU) and Blue Bloods, quite dramatic procedural shows compared to OITNB and Togetherness, do you find there are different challenges between comedy and drama?
It’s interesting, I’d say the commitment required of a comedic actor is exactly the same as the commitment required of a dramatic actor…But comedy is harder. Ha. I loved working on these procedurals because they run like well-oiled machines. The “head space” may be different, but showing up to work is the same. Getting to watch people who’ve done this for 17 years (cough, Mariska Hargitay cough) was SOOOOO COOL. She’s such a boss, and handles the subject matter with such care and consideration. I’m really in awe of her, and that team, and what they’ve been able to accomplish.
- You’ll next be seen in the independent feature “Stereotypically You”, tell us a little bit about the movie and the role you play in it?
I have the tiniest part in this movie. If I’m remembering correctly, I may not even say any actual words. Ha. I was supposed to be one of a few girls in a “bad date” montage. My section consisted of a LOT of improvised animal noises and eating. Here’s hoping I made the cut!
- Do you have any other projects in the works? Is there the possibility that you may return to the stage?
I’m always auditioning. Always pursuing “the next thing”. I would LOVE for that thing to be on stage, or in a movie for that matter. Work in most forms is terribly exciting to me, but nothing specific yet…Why, are you hiring!?
- If there is one piece of advice you could offer actors making the move from stage to screen what would it be?
Don’t limit yourself! I thought for such a long time that “someone like me” (whatever that means!!) couldn’t be/wouldn’t be put on TV. It was in my head. A private self-conscious thought I repeated to myself. And not only was it a non-truth for me, but it was a head trip and deterrent. If you’ve got the goods, keep at it. Be you. Oh and, sometimes less is more!! 🙂