OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:
You're listening to ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR and WNYC. I'm Ophira Eisenberg, and please welcome our very important puzzler, Uzo Aduba.
EISENBERG: Welcome. We're super happy to have you.
UZO ADUBA: I'm stoked to be here.
EISENBERG: Now, I know that you had a very unusual audition for "Orange Is The New Black."
EISENBERG: You did not go in for the character you are playing.
ADUBA: No, it's not even, like, Crazy Eyes and then, like, I went in for the part of, like, somewhat Crazy Eyes.
ADUBA: I went in and I read for the part of Janae, who plays a track star. So pretty much I went in because, you know, I ran track in high school and in college, so we thought that would be a good fit.
ADUBA: I went in, I read, and I came home. A few weeks later, my agent called and they said, we have good news for you. I said, OK, great. They said, do you remember that show you went in for, "Orange Is The New Black?" And I said, yeah, totally. They said, do you remember that part you read for? I was like, yes, the track star - totally remember. And they were like, awesome. Well, you didn't get it.
ADUBA: I was like, oh, great, so that's good news - so that's what we do now, we're now telling actors when we don't get parts. OK, great.
EISENBERG: So your schedule's free.
ADUBA: Exactly (laughter) exactly. And they said no, you didn't get it, but they would like to offer you another part.
EISENBERG: Is it true that you quit acting 45 minutes before you received that call?
EISENBERG: What do you mean, you quit acting?
ADUBA: I did. I mean, like, I really truly did, which is probably why when they're like, we have great news, and, like, they were like, you didn't get it, I was like, well, OK...
ADUBA: ...That's fine, I quit anyway. (Laughter) You know? I had quit the day - that day, that very day 'cause I had gone for an audition for another show. And I was late, and I remember feeling like, wow, I think that audition went really well, but you're not going to get it 'cause you were 20 minutes late and this is God, the universe, telling you this is not for you - because all summer long, when I had been auditioning for, you know, film and television, it had been like, no, no, no, you know, like, the whole time. And so I felt like, this is not yours. You're trying to chase something that isn't yours.
And so I had gone home and quit, and I was like, OK - my parents, you know, my family's from Nigeria - I was like, you know, they always wanted me to be a lawyer when I was kid. Maybe that's what I'm supposed - yeah, going back to this, I was like, I should go to law school, not do the other, you know (laughter), like the story earlier, you know?
EISENBERG: And then you get a call, and I guess the universe was like, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey...
EISENBERG: ...Would you take Crazy Eyes just as a...
ADUBA: And in my head the whole time, I was trying to figure out, like, what in my audition would have ever said, you know, she's not quite right for the track star, but she's totally right for, like, the crazy girl. But you know what? In all sincerity, it wound up being the best thing 'cause when I met her on the page, I felt so at home. I don't know what that says about me also but, like, I just felt like...
ADUBA: ...You know, like, that felt, like, really just the perfect marriage. It was just awesome.
EISENBERG: Did it feel like, oh, I can be, like, the most random, bizarre side of myself?
ADUBA: A little...
EISENBERG: Like a release?
ADUBA: A little bit, but I remember just right away, it ticked off, like, a lot of ideas.
EISENBERG: And obviously, like, it's a groundbreaking script because it's taking place within a women's prison. All, you know - what do we have - 16, 17 characters that are all women.
ADUBA: Yeah. When you first met the character, it was Piper going through the cafeteria, and she was trying to decide where to sit. And all these groups - she wasn't sure if she wanted to sit with them. And then, you know, the writer, Marco, he wrote, and then she looks at a table and there sits - page turn, Crazy Eyes. And it described her as being innocent like a child - except children aren't scary.
ADUBA: And it was like (laughter)...
EISENBERG: It didn't say anything about her relationship with other inmates in the prison or how she - it just said that scary, but children would find her...
EISENBERG: ...Terrifying, OK.
ADUBA: (Laughter) Exactly, and I was like, that's a really specific way to describe someone in this particular setting. And I remember right away I had this image that came alive in my head of a woman with a pacifier in her mouth and a sledgehammer in her hand.
EISENBERG: OK, so we're going to - we're about to find out more about you 'cause you are going to help us with this next game that is about you. We'll be subjecting you to a challenge later...
EISENBERG: ...In the show. But right now, let's bring out your contestant. Please welcome to the stage Lisa Cheong.
EISENBERG: Hello Lisa.
LISA CHEONG: Hi.
EISENBERG: How's it going?
CHEONG: Good, good.
EISENBERG: Lisa, Uzo. Uzo, Lisa.
ADUBA: Hi Lisa.
ADUBA: How are you?
CHEONG: I'm such a big fan so...
ADUBA: Oh, man, thanks for watching.
CHEONG: Yeah. Thanks for being on.
EISENBERG: You're a fan of the show?
CHEONG: Yes, I am.
EISENBERG: Like, when you watch it, what is one of the things that you love the most about it?
CHEONG: Just the diversity of the cast. It's not your stereotypical one guy looking for love, or...
ADUBA: No, it's not.
EISENBERG: And Lisa, do you see yourself in any of the characters?
CHEONG: I could see myself in some of the - I guess I come from a middle-class affluent background and, you know, some of the characters are from a middle-class background, and they just took a couple of wrong turns and there they are in prison.
CHEONG: And I could potentially end up there if I'm not careful.
EISENBERG: I feel like you're watching it for a different reason. You're like, all right, I'm not going to do that.
ADUBA: Not that choice.
EISENBERG: OK, so Lisa, this game is called Random Questions with Uzo Aduba. We have asked Uzo some random questions about herself, such as, how do you like your chocolate-and-vanilla swirl, in a cup or in a cone? To which Uzo replied...
ADUBA: A cone.
EISENBERG: A cone.
EISENBERG: So all you have to do is guess how you think she would've answered the question.
CHEONG: I think I can do that.
EISENBERG: And why a cone? I mean, other than the fact that I totally agree with you.
ADUBA: (Laughter). Because you can't eat the cup?
EISENBERG: Yeah, I know.
ADUBA: You can eat the cone (laughter).
EISENBERG: So here we go. As you may know, Uzo ran track for Boston University, and she has completed both the New York and Boston Marathons.
EISENBERG: So what did she say was more hardcore, the 100-meter dash or running 26 miles?
CHEONG: Twenty-six miles.
EISENBERG: Yeah, it's hard - it's tough. I've never done it.
EISENBERG: Yeah, why do it?
ADUBA: I - I don't know. No, I mean, I ran for - both times, I ran for two cancer organizations. I mean, I'd be lying if I didn't say around mile 18, you're like, couldn't I have just, you know, sold Girl Scout cookies or something, you know? But like, you know, like - but it's a worthy cause. It is. I mean, when you finish though, you guys, it is, like, the greatest sense of accomplishment while your legs are shaking underneath you and you can barely recognize your family, you're really...
ADUBA: ...Really glad you did it.
ADUBA: Really (laughter) glad you did it.
EISENBERG: Who would Uzo rather have a girls night on the town with, the fictional characters from "Scandal," or "The Real Housewives Of Atlanta?"
CHEONG: "The Real Housewives Of Atlanta."
ADUBA: The "Scandal" ladies.
ADUBA: The "Scandal" ladies.
EISENBERG: What do you love about that show?
ADUBA: I mean, I love that show.
ADUBA: I love "Scandal," cannot get enough. Olivia and Quinn - I mean, I could just (laughter)...
ADUBA: I would be really wanting - Mellie. I would want to, I mean...
EISENBERG: These are your friends.
ADUBA: That's my jam, yeah, I would be there.
EISENBERG: How many unread email messages are typically in Uzo's inbox, 3 or 300?
CHEONG: I'd say three because you seem like a very on the ball sort of person.
EISENBERG: Look at that.
ADUBA: Thank you.
ADUBA: I think I wrote 3 million.
ADUBA: I told my sister one time - she works in corporate and, you know, they get, like, hundreds of emails a day - and I was like, Cheech (ph), I was so overwhelmed. And she was like, why? I was like, I had to have gotten at least 10 emails...
ADUBA: ...I don't even know how I'm going to respond to all of these.
EISENBERG: Uzo is a classically-trained opera singer. Would she choose to be in a production of "Carmen," or would she rather be in a production of "Jesus Christ Superstar?"
CHEONG: I'm going to go with "Jesus Christ Superstar."
EISENBERG: Yeah, that's the dream?
ADUBA: Yes. I really would like to do Judas.
EISENBERG: Oh, yes.
ADUBA: Yes, like one day just like, (mimicking song), and like kind of like the movie version, where it's like, (mimicking song). You know, like...
ADUBA: And just be like, (singing) my mind is clearer - like, the whole version.
EISENBERG: Yeah, well, I have a feeling that as soon as this show airs, it's going to happen.
EISENBERG: Someone's going to be like, what, what, what? Stage it now, everybody. Stage it now. All right, Lisa, we've tallied up your score, and congratulations, you got enough right.
EISENBERG: Lisa won her very own ASK ME ANOTHER anagram T-shirt. Thank you Uzo Aduba, you are incredible...
ADUBA: Thank you.
EISENBERG: ...And I'll see you a little later in the show when we put you in the puzzle hot seat. Uzo Aduba everybody.
EISENBERG: If you have a lot of trivia imprisoned in your mind that you'd like to release, come be a contestant on ASK ME ANOTHER. Sign up at amatickets.org. We will send you a quiz and see if you have what it takes to make it in the big house of trivia.
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