‘LL: How did the OITNB role come about?

Miriam Morales: I had been a huge fan of the show from the very beginning, and I actually auditioned for it back in season three. It’s something that was on my vision board. It was what I visualized and what I wanted, and I would always remind my manager any opportunity that I had that I needed to get on that show. And so, a breakdown was released for my character, and my manager called me and she asked me my height, and I said five feet. I was like, “Why do you need to know my height?” She told me about the breakdown, and it specifically said, the shorter the better. I said, “Submit me, absolutely.” I auditioned for it, and it was one of those last minute appointments, and I only had a day to prepare, so I worked with my coach on it on the day of my audition. Initially, I didn’t think that I booked it, because I didn’t hear anything right away. I was really depressed about it, but then I found out a few days later that I booked it. It was the most amazing feeling ever.

‘LL: What were your thoughts on Pidge when you read up on the character?

Miriam Morales: For the character of Pidge there actually wasn’t much in the breakdown of her other than that she was Dominican and tough. Of course, when it comes to the tough part, that could be interpreted in a variety of ways, so not having too many specifics about her was actually like a blessing because I don’t have any limitations as to where she can go. I could kind of create her as I get more information about her through the scripts and through what people say about her and the way they speak to her and things like that. Pidge is a character that I definitely had to craft and really pick up on the little clues that I was given when I was given any as to how I could further develop her. I like the fact that it was kind of like a clean slate and that she could’ve really gone in any direction.

‘LL: What were some of the things you did to make Pidge standout a bit more?

Miriam Morales: I found Pidge to be very comedic at times, so it would just be mainly in mannerisms—how I spoke to people or how I interpreted different situations. In season five, I feel like that’s when Pidge really flourishes and you get to see how she makes the best out of the situation. I mean, there’s a riot going on, and she decides to snort coffee to stay up. Like, she’s that person [laughs]. It was fun—I loved it! Her range really came out in season five. You get to see all of these layered dynamics. She’s tough when she needs to be when she’s guarding the hostages, and yet, she’s in between just being so ridiculous, so goofy and just making the best of the situation.

‘LL: As a big fan of the show beforehand, can you walk us through your first day on set and how you felt the entire time?

Miriam Morales: I meditated the day of. I love meditating. I think it’s a great way to center yourself. I’ve always been that kind of person that I keep my excitement inside—unless I’m completely caught off guard and I expose myself and it becomes obvious [laughs]. My first day I met Taylor Schilling, Kate Mulgrew and Jessica Pimentel. My first day was only with them basically and Rosal Colón, and that was our first day together as well. Also, I had forgotten that the director was Andrew McCarthy — who I loved growing up — and so, when they introduced him to me, I was like [panting] “Hi!” I don’t know if that was obvious, but when he walked away I was like, “Oh, my God! I hope I didn’t make a total fool of myself.” It just slipped my mind that it was him. That was amazing, too, getting to work with Andrew McCarthy. I remember watching his movies over and over again when I was a kid, but I mean, you just focus, you go in, you work and that’s it.

‘LL: Who was your favorite character on the show going into it?

Miriam Morales: Oh, wow! There are so many that I love. I really like Crazy Eyes. It’s such a wonderful character, such a well-developed character. There is so much to play with there, and it’s such an open, vulnerable, honest, raw interpretation, and Uzo [Aduba] does an amazing job. I really love that character, and I also feel that it is a great representation of how we view and treat people with mental illness. Here you are in prison, but it very much mirrors outside life. It’s a nice way to put a microscope over that. I really love that character.

‘LL: The latest season put your character as one of the inmates at the forefront of an uprising inside the prison. This in ways mirrored a lot of what is currently going on in the real world. Did any of the situations going on in real life inspire you when shooting season five?

Miriam Morales: A little bit. I feel like if anything what’s going on right now mirrors way more what was going on when we were actually shooting it, but little bits and pieces of that were definitely starting to develop. I think just as a human being those things inevitably affect you in a subconscious level whether you want to admit it or not, and that definitely comes through in the work. How could it not? You’re experiencing something, and then you have to come to set and, yes, it’s a character, and it’s TV, and it’s “not real” but, yet, it is very real, because it’s a real experience. It’s real stories, and prison riots have happened before. I don’t know if I would use the word “inspired,” but definitely what was going on is definitely something that is reflected on the show on various levels—from the rioting and the characters and the actors that are going into this to make this come to life.

‘LL: Have they told you yet what the future holds for Pidge, you know, being that she was one of the people mainly in charge of guarding the hostages? I expect to see more of Pidge just based off that.

Miriam Morales: I would love to see more of Pidge, too! Unfortunately, they don’t tell us anything. It’s a secret for us just as much as it is for you. I have no clue of what is to come, but I hope that it’s more of Pidge.

‘LL: What would you like to see more of when it comes to the character?

Miriam Morales: I would like to see more of her layers come through. In a lot of ways, I feel like Pidge is suppressing something that I think is kind of violent. I would like to find out what’s her background story. How did she end up here? I feel that that plays a very huge role of how she’s handling herself in prison. I also think that she’s tougher than what people perceive her to be, and smarter. I feel like she’s one of those people that you don’t want to sleep on.

‘LL: What has been the most rewarding part of working on OITNB?

Miriam Morales: Just working on the show [laughs]. I say this all the time, and it may sound cliché, but it really is a dream come true. I was such a huge fan of the show, and that was the show that I wanted to be on, so just working on it is the most amazing part. And, of course, meeting people and meeting the other actors and building friendships is just an added bonus.

There is more to Miriam than OITNB. Read on to find out Miriam’s future plans outside OITNB…

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About The Author

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Born to Dominican parents in NYC and raised in Passaic, NJ, in nearly a decade as an entertainment writer, Emmanuel Ureña has written for numerous publications, including VIBE, Latina.com, BET.com, LLERO, Urban Ink, Inked, and many others. When he’s not typing away on his MacBook, Ureña is reading fictional novels and comic books while enjoying ice-cold Blue Moon beers. You might also find him at a local tattoo shop getting some fresh ink!

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