OITNB’s Lorraine Toussaint likes vampires, cricket and following the magic
The actress talks about what makes her tick — and what ticks her off
Lorraine Toussaint’s laugh is a hearty, island-inflected, melodious sound that fills a room out. Her laugh is distinct — and so is her voice. Especially when she gets serious. And when she’s talking about politics — today’s American politics — she’s nothing if not serious.
Since the early ’80s, Toussaint continues to not-so-quietly rule the screens. Her ruthless 2014 portrayal of Vee in Netflix’s hit Orange Is the New Black still haunts us. And she’s currently playing the mother of Morris Chestnut’s character on Fox’s Rosewood. Here, Toussaint talks about trashy novels, her love of Twitter and much more.
What is your social media tribe? Are you on Twitter? Facebook/Instagram?
I’m on Twitter. I’m not on Facebook … yes [both laugh] I have some Facebook pages, but I don’t actually control them. I do have control over my Twitter feed.
What is it about Twitter?
I’m new to Twitter. There’s just something extraordinary about the immediacy of it. And, um, the discipline of it that I rather like. I do need more characters. I don’t actually have enough time to actually spend to write anything too long.
What are you reading right now?
I have it on my phone! I’m reading The Black Dagger Brotherhood. It’s so trashy, I’m almost embarrassed to say. It’s total escapism, and it’s my favorite genre, which is fantasy. I’m a sci-fi, fantasy, horror girl. But this particular series is total escapism. Oh, God, it’s vampires.
Where do you get your news?
I do MSNBC, I do CNN, I do some New York Times, Los Angeles Times. But, you know, if I’m looking for something specifically, I’ll do HuffPost. I still like hard copies of things. I actually like to turn pages occasionally.
What are you looking forward to in 2017?
I’m looking forward to waking up from the nightmare of this administration, and you know, that maybe it’s just a bad dream? And we are not where we are? But I don’t think that’s going to happen. I am actually looking forward to the way this country’s coming together. As difficult as this administration is to accept, and the day-to-day challenges of wondering where we’re going, and how we’re going to get there, I think that at the end of the day, Mr. Trump may … force us out of the kind of national apathy that we have had the luxury of snoozing in. Because we can’t do this anymore. It will force us to rise to our greatest potential as a nation, and as a people. We’re going to start to see people coming together in ways that will exponentially begin to address issues that have been unaddressed thus far. We really have to get together or die. And I think it’s probably going to take that threat to get us off our asses.
Along those same lines, who or what is inspiring you right now?
The ordinary man, the ordinary woman is inspiring me. I felt encouragement when [former President Barack] Obama came into our space because I watched how ordinary people — normal people, with $5, $10 — started coming together, because we cared. I think women are inspiring me. There’s a new women’s movement on the rise, that I think may be a game changer, because if and when women can really come together, we have the ability to bring about change in a way no one else can. The division of left and right, and red and blue — those extremes — I’m watching politics change. I’m watching the ways in which we interpret the Constitution, the way in which we behave … we really are being forced to reach across the aisle. That’s going to be really exciting. I think Donald [Trump] is going to bring out the best in us.
Where does your courage come from?
I’m very comfortable in my own skin. I am not afraid anymore, of making mistakes. And I think that life is very short, so I might as well get on with it. That’s my definition of courage: Not being afraid, but doing it afraid. Brave usually just means stepping out from the crowd, and maybe going the opposite way, and maybe standing alone in opinion, or making a stand for something, or voicing their opinion about something.
What was the last TV show that you binge-watched?
I have been known to save up Scandal so that I can just binge-watch them. I want to binge-watch Luke Cage, I just haven’t found the free day or two. Because, Lord have mercy, I have heard that once I start it, I won’t be able to stop.
What is your favorite throwback TV show?
I love I Love Lucy. I started watching that again with my daughter. She is amazing. And, you know, I have a 12-year-old. She thinks she’s just discovered I Love Lucy.
You’re Trinidadian; I want to talk about cricket!
I like cricket, but who’s got time for cricket!? A cricket match will last you six days. Those cricket folks down in the islands — you want to talk about fanatical? Oh, my God. The whole country shuts down.
What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received? And what’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever given?
There are two actually. One was from an acting teacher when I was in high school. Back then, at a high school for performing arts, the policy was that if you left school to do a show, you couldn’t come back to the program. You couldn’t finish out. And in my third year, I got this fabulous Broadway show, and I was so torn because I wanted to do it. And my acting teacher at the time, the head of the program, said to me, ‘Lorraine, if they want you now, they’ll want you more later. Finish your training.’ And as hard as it was, I gave up that Broadway show and I finished my training. It was the best piece of advice he gave me. And my grandmother, she had a saying, ‘What is for you, cannot be un-for you.’ I have that in my head often. ‘What is for you, cannot be un-for you.’ And the best advice I’ve ever given is, I have a phrase that I created, which is, ‘Forget the logic, follow the magic.’