On the Netflix hit series Orange Is The New Black, Taryn Manning’s character is a rehabilitated deity praising bad girl. To our pleasant surprise in real life she is remarkably lovely, creative and big-hearted! Taryn was kind enough to take the time to chat with us recently about the groundbreaking series, now entering its 5th season, her musical background, and the ups & downs of life in general. One of the most candid and authentic celebrities we’ve had the pleasure of connecting with, Taryn truly is the epitome of star versatility. One may not even recognize her from role to role, as the diversity in her ability has spanned from iconic teen movies to deeply cerebral dramas. And we were ecstatic to showcase her inner Transformational Unicorn as exemplified by her sign mantra in our photo “One by One, We Can Make Difference.”
Andrea: I love what you put on your sign. Could you give usan idea of what that means to you?
Taryn: One by one, voice by voice… just down to the silliest things. I remember as a kid, my mom and I going for a walk together, she would pick up every piece of litter. And I was like, “aww... mom, come on!” But there she was, making her One by One difference. So small in the grand scheme of life, but if everyone just applied that, imagine the population and what a difference we could make.
Andrea: I think that people feel that they have a big chunkthey have to chew, as if we have to bite off something massive. Would you say that you don’t?
Taryn: I understand what you’re saying, and yes it is daunting for me as well. If you think about everything that we know, and the 10 million things that we don’t know, (because they don’t tell us), it can be overwhelming, but for the seekers it’s a great challenge.
Andrea: That’s the idea behind the signs. We are trying to give people the idea that whatever they choose (“cause” or “sentiment”), every little bit counts. Just back something and get on board with it.
Taryn: I mean that sounds kind of general… but really I meant in the scope of social mentality. It really comes from the heart, from a bigger picture and a collective consciousness. I truly believe that everyone has the power with their own self to make their mark on the world and make it better.
Andrea: It is tricky, when you say to somebody, “What’s your chosen cause… what’s your favorite charity?”, because it’s not meant to be exclusive of other things. We don’t expect people to say that because they like animals then they don’t support... say, a children’s charity.
Taryn: Yes, for me charity has always started at home with friends, family, and animals. I personally know from experience that you can’t help others until you help yourself. And I’m the first to admit, we all need a helping hand in life.
Andrea: The reason why the magazine exists, is that we want to speak to people on a humanitarian level. We try to show people that there are always things that can be done and maybe give them something to connect with.
Taryn: I think that for a magazine it’s admirable. Most would not see the connection between fashion and social consciousness, but when you think about it, there are so many implications.
Andrea: I was so happy to see you with pink hair! Let’s talk about you and your band. Tell me about BOOMKAT.
Taryn: Boomkat was a unique, beautiful, and tragic thing. My brother Kellin and I are five years apart, but people sometimes thought we were twins. When I was seventeen, Kellin moved from Tucson to Long Beach, California where I was attending OCHSA. He was playing his guitar and had a four track and a breakbeat loop on at all times…Back then it was a little bit annoying actually, even though my father was a musician, but Kellin was just always playing. And then one day he had this competition and he said, “Taryn, sing this like this.” He had a melody and I was just being a teenage brat and wouldn’t sing. The whole time I was studying dance, ballet, jazz, etc. and had my acting classes on the side for fun. At first we just started this band called KAT, for Kellin and Taryn, and then as we started to develop and play more, we would perform songs for my mom and friends in French. And people were pumped. Long story short, we ended up getting signed to Dreamworks. It was super quick, but we played one show at this place called The Mint, in L.A. It was one of those dream-stories that you hear about. I was twenty-two and we got off stage bum-rushed by labels. They’d heard that there was this brother-sister team. I had an epiphany, “Well, my brother is a Genius that sucks. LOL”. He always said, “I know we are the greatest”. It’s like overconfidence and I have that too, but I’m aware of it. I actually watched something last night, about a list of qualities that a genius has. I had one or two, but my brother checked off everything on the list. It’s profound. We grew up in section 8 government housing in Tucson, Arizona with little means, but my mother made sure we had everything a kid needed and wanted. She was a wonderful, single mother who raised two incredibly creative kids.
Andrea: It is such a TOUGH industry. I hear young people say they want to be famous and I just think… ohhhh… (shake my head).
Taryn: Yes it is, but I’m not a dream crusher, so for anyone who reads this, it doesn’t matter where you started. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. You will get to your own finish line and be fulfilled.
Andrea: I was actually going to ask you…. You are really authentic and really honest about who you are. How do you keep a balance and maintain authenticity?
Taryn: There are perceptions, thank you. I think that’s a real compliment. My friends in San Diego and all over the world say they don’t see me as an actor. They think it’s weird that I stay real. I’m still Taryn. I do have moments of disbelief. There have been times that I have been really hurt and felt ostracized. You know, I don’t talk about it a lot, but I’ve been through some stuff. It’s not like, “I’ve been through more than you”... not like that, but I’ve really used my social platforms almost like a diary. Some people have been disturbed by it and that`s fine. Some people have reached out to me and said, “You’ve really helped me by sharing that you’ve felt this shitty or alone”. People think it’s all so glamorous, but it’s just life.
It’s beautiful. I’m super grateful, I’m super disappointed a lot too… it’s a challenging business full of daily obstacles.
Andrea: True, that’s the reality of promotion. Because when you are branding, if you are selling yourself as a brand, you want to be who you are. People will respond to that more. You don’t want to be generic.
Taryn: Yes and that’s the beauty. The million dollar question is, “What is the winning recipe?” It’s truly to just be who you are. Not acting like a fool or hurting people or anything, but I’ve had my share of difficulty and at this point it’s not like that. I’m feeling it’s my responsibility, being out there and being outspoken, not like interrupting an award show or anything, but I’ve been through it. So how about people just coming together, talking and not being so hateful, first and foremost, you know? How about being real in who we are?
Andrea: Definitely. (Writer / producer) Craig Brewer said “There are some people who can put on trashy-like wardrobe, and Taryn can play those roles with dignity and earnestness.” How do you feel about that?
Taryn: I think that what he was trying to say, and I hear that often by the way, is that human beings are judgmental. Even if it’s not coming out of our mouths, we can’t help but be like, “You know that skirt would have looked better on…”. These thoughts are constantly in our minds. We’re not saying it, but it’s an innate sort of thing. In other words, if you get someone who on the exterior might appear in a way, or is living a certain lifestyle and you don’t necessarily agree with, you don’t just go chopping them off as though they are not someone’s daughter or sister… That’s the way I play my roles. They are not one dimensional. Sure, you see what’s on the exterior, but what’s on the interior? Maybe they are so full of abundance and curiosity. Maybe they want to learn, you know? I think there’s a little piece of me in there too.
Andrea: Well, the thing that I read just prior to that was about your childhood, and about you growing up in a “trailer park” and I thought, how much of… you know, you hear actors all the time talking about being typecast, or breaking out of a perspective, and I wondered how much of that was what you put into it, and how much of it is what the industry is putting into it?
Taryn: Well, to be honest, I grew up in a mobile home park and section 8 housing. My dad was a beautiful man, but wasn’t paying child support, so my mom was a single mother. The complex wasn’t healthy, my brother’s bike was always being stolen, and it was always about fighting financial hardship. There was another park down the way, not a trashy one. It was like a neighborhood. There was a pool! It was never a stereotypical “white trash” type of thing. My mother really took care of it. It didn’t have the stigma attached to it. And I wouldn’t change living there. My mom made us a great home there.
Andrea: That’s why I’m asking, because being poor is hard, but not just because of the lack of money, it’s exhausting because of having to fight that stigma all the time.
Taryn: Yes, it makes you work harder. My best friends and I all moved out to L.A. at eighteen to become actors. My observation is that those who had money from a young age, don’t tend to have that urgency and that “hunger”. Some are all about making their own way without help from others. I think there is something that drove me personally, as far as being able to put on any “costume” and adapt. I can pull from the depth of pain, no matter what I’m “wearing”, and it’s not coming from that at all. It’s coming from training, and a genuine ability to listen. I remain teachable. Even in a career setting like this, they won’t see me for roles that I know I could do. You know when people will see these photos, they will see something ethereal. That’s not what I usually play, so thank you. I’m thirty years old now. I’ve played a mother twice, I want to be a mother, but I’m not the roles I play. I’ve made mistakes, but I’m still here to say, “tomorrow’s a new day” and be there for people.
Andrea: I went through a reel of your “Best OITNB moments” and when you put the scenes back to back like that, you see how really intense your character is. Have you ever had to do something with that character that was too uncomfortable? Or had to go to a place that’s hard for you?
Taryn: Well, I am a professional actress and we are known to have a range of emotions. My range of intensities are varied to say the least, as I take time to design each and every one of my troubled characters. Yes, the very first season I showed up in Episode 6, so the girls have already formed a bond and in a sense, it’s like walking into school the first day. I didn’t look anything like anyone would ever recognize me from, which is fine, because I was meant to be really damaged and one dimensionally “bad”. And you know, I’m not racist, or anything, but my character is just blurting out the most horrendous things. My soul (as Taryn) was just saying “I’m so sorry, guys”. It was trying on my soul, but then, I do kind of go through a pretty big arc. I do start someplace as that character and we’re not done. I do feel really pleased that they’ve given me that arc. Pennsatucky’s character has been a lot of fun. I do go through some extreme emotional moments with her, it can be depressing. The scene where my character was sexually assaulted was thrown onto me. The writers did a phenomenal job helping and supporting me and my interpretation of how my character felt. I made my choices very deliberate through my acting process to be respectful to my character, others that have gone through that horrific experience, and to the writers in respect to the storyline. I don’t know why this show is in the comedy section. I find that to be ironic. It’s a lot more than just a comedy. Often you are laughing indeed, but the tears are in your throat. It’s a ride! Ultimately, I’ve been having a great time with my character and I can’t wait for the next season to come out.