Alysia Reiner: How This "OITNB" Star Is Giving Back

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Learn more about the "Orange is the New Black" actress and her charity work with the Women's Prison Association.

Aug 8, 2014 | 12:45 PM

Although she plays one of the meanest characters on Netflix's hit series "Orange is the New Black" (and trust us, that's saying something), actress Alysia Reiner couldn't be nicer in real life. In an exclusive interview for WhoSay, she shared that her experience on the show (and friendship with real-life Piper Kerman) inspired her to help female inmates via the Women's Prison Association. Keep reading to learn more about her impactful charity work, what it was like to play Natalie “Fig” Figueroa, what we can expect to see in Season 3. (Warning: mild spoilers below.)

WhoSay: Tell us about your time filming "OITNB." Is it fun to play such a tough character?

Alysia Reiner: Um yeah! Haven't you always wanted to boss everyone around?
 
WhoSay: In what ways does "OITNB" give an accurate depiction of women's prisons? In what ways is it pure entertainment?

Alysia: I have never spent time in prison except as a visitor doing research, so it's hard for me to speak to this, but we do all try to be as realistic as possible—and of course, entertaining as well. I think the comedy moments—the cartoons in the prison newspaper, for example—are pure entertainment. That and the discussions of "bagnuts."
 
WhoSay: In "It Was the Change," we learn a little bit more about Fig and her husband. Do you think the revelation makes us a little bit more sympathetic to her character?

Alysia: I think you can answer that better than I can. I certainly hope so! I don't believe there is such a thing as bad or mean people. I think there are just people who are deeply hurt and in pain and take it out on everyone else. Well, and some people who are deeply disturbed, but Fig isn't in that category.

WhoSay: Will we be seeing more of Fig in Season 3?

Alysia: Yes, you will.
 
WhoSay: Any funny moments from filming that you'd like to share with us?

Alysia: I think any time you have to pretend to go down on someone, Hijinks Ensue.
 
WhoSay: What "OITNB" character do you relate to the most personally?

Alysia: Poussey. I so want to know how she got into prison, but man, her spirit is so beautiful and optimistic.
 
WhoSay: Have you been recognized on the street since your appearance on the show? How do people respond to you?

Alysia: Yes—more & more! Not a day goes by without a ton of selfie requests. It's only been a lot of love and praise, which is shocking because Fig is such a meany!

WhoSay: Tell us why you decided to work with the Women's Prison Association, aside from the obvious connection with "OITNB." What drew you to this particular charity?

Alysia: Thank you so much for asking! I love healing the Women's Prison Association. I think if Fig won't help women in prison, I will! I designed a locket with Kira Kira, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the WPA! Guilt-free shopping!

Piper Kerman, who wrote "OITNB," works closely with them and introduced me to them. From the minute I started volunteering and seeing their amazing work advocating for women, I wanted to see how much I could do! Hence the locket...
 
WhoSay: What inspired you to team up with designer Suz Somersall?

Alysia: I met Suz and she was such a talent and beautiful soul. (She agreed to give 100 percent of the proceeds to WPA!) I loved the idea of designing with her and getting more notice for both her and the WPA!  
 
WhoSay: Any other charities/causes that you'd like to share with us?

Alysia: I also work with the Cancer Support Community.

And made a film, "Speed Grieving," and 100 percent of its sales go to the CSC! 
 
A few other causes worth mentioning:

I could go on and on!!

WhoSay: Tell us about some of your upcoming projects.

Alysia: Well, I just started a production company, Broad Street Pictures, with Sarah Megan Thomas. Our film is being written as I type, by the amazing Amy Fox, who teaches screenwriting at NYU and whose last film went to Sundance, so clearly she is no hack! We are so so excited about the idea we came up with—though of course it is totally hush-hush...
 
I am shooting a ton of films this summer and just completed two: "Ava's Possessions" and "No Letting Go." I'm about to shoot a couple more and moonlighting on a couple of other TV shows that I am so excited about. I head to Hawaii tomorrow so you can guess that one. I'm not sure I am allowed to announce the other one yet, so your hint is that another cast member is on the show... ;)

Thanks for taking the time out of your jam-packed schedule to talk with us, Alysia!

Cover image credit: LaShaunte Wade

Follow Alysia Reiner on WhoSay for more behind-the-scenes photos with her OITNB castmates and updates from her everyday life.

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