Laverne Cox on Orange Is the New Black and Trans Activism

“Students have come up to me crying because they feel like they can be more themselves,” says the actress, who’s been speaking at universities about the challenges transgender people face

'Grandma' film premiere, Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah, America - 30 Jan 2015

Laverne Cox (Photo: Everett/REX Shutterstock)

Orange Is the New Black doesn’t leave fans wanting for much (except more), but if viewers had one complaint about the last season of the hit prison dramedy, it was this: not enough Sophia, the real-talking hairstylist inmate portrayed by Laverne Cox. The character is both groundbreaking (Cox is the first transgender woman of colour to play a lead on a scripted mainstream TV show) and enormously entertaining (sample one-liner: “‘Please’ is for commissary hos and Oliver Twist”). Thankfully, Cox promises we’ll see much more of her in season three (on Netflix, June 12). “I’m so excited about sides of Sophia that the audience is going to get to know that they haven’t seen yet,” she says. Upcoming plot details are on lockdown, but Cox does mention she shares a lot of scenes with one particular actress. “I can’t say who, ’cause that would give—” She interrupts herself to squeal, “Oooh, it’s juicy! It’s sooo juicy!”

Watch the latest trailer for Orange Is the New Black season three:

Sightings of the actress may have been less than optimal on season two of Orange, but there have been plenty elsewhere as Cox has emerged as a prominent face of the LGBTQ equality movement. The 30-year-old, who was bullied as a child in Alabama for “acting like a girl” and attempted suicide at age 11, has many dreams for the community’s future: “I want the lives of trans people to be treated as though they have intrinsic value, and I want to see a more complicated understanding of gender. We have to move beyond this system of thinking in binary ways.” Recently, she’s been speaking at universities across North America about the challenges trans people face. “Students have come up to me crying because they feel like they can be more themselves—not just LGBTQ students, but straight-identifying as well,” she says. “It says so much about where we are as a culture that a transgender woman can fill lecture halls.”

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