Nick Sandow – Orange is the New Black
By: Jamie Steinberg
Q) What was going through mind when read first few scripts of this season of “Orange is the New Black?”
A) Just the way we left off, I sort of had an inkling we were going to head right back in. Knowing Jenji, I knew she wasn’t going to back off. But I had no idea how in…[laughs] Meaning, we had no idea we were going to step in for three days and we were going to stay in those three days for a whole season. I was in my boxer shorts for thirteen episodes. Or at least twelve of them! [laughs] I was excited though because I loved this idea that we were going to take on time. Listen, that’s what prison is all about…doing time. For Jenji [Kohan] to mess with that and for us to mess with that like we did this year and say we were going to stay in it and stay in it for three days over thirteen hours. I was excited about it.
Q) It starts out pretty traumatic for Caputo. You have just suffered a loss at the prison and Taystee is angry over your lack of taking a stand against Bayley. Talk about filming those scenes.
A) Working with Danielle [Brooks] as an actor it’s the easiest thing in the world. She’s just so present all the time. I’ve really loved working with her over this last season. In dealing with that stuff, hearing her and feeling her deal with those scenes, it’s like how you’re seeing it in those scenes. It’s really powerful! So, as an actor you just sort of get knocked in the gut by what she’s doing. Staying inside those moments, of course I had to contemplate all my mistakes for a whole season. That was fun. [laughs] I’m beings sarcastic, but it’s something. He’s so conflicted and he so much wants to do the right thing. Of course, he cannot get out of his own way. By him not saying Poussey’s name, he had no idea that was the thing to do. Not to mention he went off script and defended Bayley (Alan Aisenberg). He could do only that because I think he saw himself in that young guard. He saw how he could have made the same mistakes and wasn’t able to see the big picture. I don’t think he sees that.
Q) What is it about Bayley that makes Caputo so defensive of him?
A) I think he sees an innocent. I do think he sees himself. I think he sees somebody who is about to embark inside a system that will eat you alive. And he’s saying to him, “Get out of here, kid.” That’s it. He’s done for with one mistake.
Q) While being forced to do the livestream by Taystee, is Caputo afraid at this moment or is he more sympathetic with what she is feeling?
A) I knew for me, as an actor, I knew it was bigger. It certainly wasn’t a fear of these girls hitting me with a chair leg. I was staying in because of knowing how much I messed up and I think a big part of him stayed in because he thought maybe this…I think he was throwing up his hands in a way and saying, “I haven’t been able to make these changes. Maybe you can. Go for it.”
Q) Then we find you in the midst of being locked up as a pseudo inmate when you suddenly see your former girlfriend as an inmate. Do you see her as hope for freedom or as a traitor?
A) Well, I think he sees her as a way out. I think he understands how scared she is, but he sees a potential way out. Early on, anyway!
Q) We watched you participate in Litchfield’s Got Talent. How were everyone’s performances determined?
A) It is interesting you asked that because I directed it.
Q) I knew you were a musician and had also directed before.
A) I think that’s why they handed it to me. It had a theatricality to it that they thought would be right up my alley. I remember producers sending out something for the guards early on asking if we had any talents. For me, I’m basically (as far as that goes) talentless. So, I do think what they had in mind what people could do as far as the rest of the cast when they wrote Litchfield Idol. I could be wrong, but I do remember them sending out an email to everyone asking “what are your hidden talents.”
Q) What was it really like being locked in the Porta Potty?
A) [laughs] It certainly was a challenge. [laughs] It was very strange. As an actor, it was very strange because they constructed these Porta Pottys that had removable sides so they could be able to shoot. So, for the most part you are imagining walls at times where they are not because that’s where the camera is. But then you are doing all this acting that is almost like telephone acting where there is someone on the other side, but you’re not really interacting with them. So, it was a little unusual. [laughs] It was a little bit like telephone acting where you are having this phone call with somebody who is there and you know they can’t see you. So, there was something that was sort of a nice play with that. And then just being in a Porta Potty for thirteen episodes was a hell of a lot of fun.
Q) Fun?! I don’t know if I’d use that word.
A) [laughs] Fun. Yeah, let’s go with that.
Q) Every time an inmate runs into you while you’re out there you try to appeal to their emotional side for help. Is that a tactic he chooses to take for these specific inmates or does he feel like aiming at the heart is the best way approach to getting out?
A) Yeah, I think he’s very human. He’s sort of on the other side of it. It’s interesting because I think it’s the first episode of the series where the girls say, “If you want to make a phone call, if you go into Caputo’s office and you cry he’ll let you use the phone.” If I remember correctly that’s the first episode I ever shot. I think it’s interesting you say that because I do think there is something to that. I do think he has that and he is that for quite a few of the inmates where he does make those emotional connections…or he can’t help but. As much as he tries to sort of look the other or play the warden or be the tough or heavy, I do think he is the warden with the heart of gold. [laughs]
Q) I wonder what Caputo is going to say when he finds out they touched his guitar!
A) [laughs] I didn’t think about that. I think the episode I shot Gomez was messing with my bass. I didn’t think how infuriated Caputo would be and what a betrayal. [laughs]
Q) We do hear him talk about what has gone on in Piscatella’s past with Red. How does Caputo rationalize having kept Piscatella around as a guard despite knowing his history?
A) I think most of the things with Caputo I think there is a lot of closing his eyes to things to be able to get past it. He got caught up in a new job. He is now put to the other side of middle management where he is spending a lot of time outside of the prison. Here is a guy who spent the last twenty-five years of his life locked in a prison. I don’t mean that literally but he’s working day and night inside a prison. So, I think it was very easy for him to pass the baton just to be able to be outside the prison and sort of have that perk and have someone who is going to handle things. I think it was him turning away from sort of a lot of the realities of what was happening on the inside until it was too late.
Q) What were some of your favorite moments from filming “Orange” this year?
A) I think for the most part being forced to contemplate being on the other side of it for the first time. I think, for me as an actor, that was the most profound thing. To know and get what that feels like and how dehumanizing it is. I think it was a great challenge. For me, as far as exploring or as an actor getting your hands dirty, that (for me) provided the most interest and intrigue – as opposed to one thing. Of course, there are some great moments of realizing they are putting me in a Porto Potty. [laughs] When they march me out…Some of our Litchfield Idol stuff and being locked inside there with all of the guards. For the first time he is with everybody and probably the most alone…ever.
Q) The strip tease has to be pretty standout as well…I mean, from Caputo’s point of view, he’s locked in with the guards watching this happen.
A) [laughs] I know. Well, I had to shoot the strip tease which was really pretty amazing. That was a pretty great challenge trying to sort of be on one side of the camera…We were blown away by the strip tease. I knew what was coming because I saw it in rehearsal. I was blown away by it. I was like, “Okay, we just need to cover the shit out of this. We can’t let a moment go.” I think we knew right at the rehearsal that this was something special and we’re going to have to cover it twice as much as we thought.
Q) How many takes did you do for the strip tease?
A) [laughs] Oh, we did a lot of takes! We really did. Also, I think there were orders from Jenji. I think she said, “I want to see that strip tease.” I think I was really committed to getting every angle, so to speak. [laughs]
Q) Was this a specifically choreographed dance?
A) Oh yeah! He worked with a choreographer. Evan [Hall] did an incredible job on it. I saw it early on and then bringing the girls in. The play between Emma [Myles] and Julie [Lake] throughout was just perfect.
Q) For this episode did you allow for any improvisation?
A) It’s a combination of both. I love what actors can do and I love letting them go and when they know their stuff and know where they are and they know sort of what has to happen in the scene. I let the actors go and I did with this. We got the script and we got a lot more. I was committed to sort of exploring and really letting them go. The product of that episode says it all. I felt like I was really lucky in that way to get a chance to direct it. I sort of knew I had full support of the cast and that’s something a director just doesn’t walk in and get. But I knew I had that just from being in the trenches with them for so long. And the crew. We have a phenomenal crew here in New York. They’re like our gold because they are there 12 hours a day where as an actor you walk in and you walk off. But they are there through it all and to step on the set and to be able to have the support of the crew…That immediate support, you don’t get that. You step on another set you have to earn that. So, I was very fortunate and lucky to have both of those things. We’re a family now at this point.
Q) Is there anything else you want to be sure fans know about Caputo this season?
A) I’ll be honest, I’m more interested in hearing what they think. I get it. I get from people on the subway and in the street. It’s very interesting. You can tell a lot from a person and their opinion on this character. It really swings. It’s never one thing.
Q) I know you have Instagram, but has that persuaded you to maybe join more social networking sites like Twitter?
A) [laughs] I’m too scared of Twitter. I don’t even want to go down that road.
Q) What would you like to say to everyone who is a fan and supporter of you and your work?
A) Listen, I think we are not where we are without the fans of “Orange is the New Black.” It’s not lip service. I’m a New Yorker. I take the subway every day. I walk the streets. I’m around people and I feel how passionate they are. People are truly, truly passionate about the show and that is just such a supreme inspiration. I mean it. I’ve worked in this industry for a long time and I’ve never felt that before. I’ve never felt like an audience base so passionate about it. It’s not often you get to do a show where not only does the audience love it, you have a great character and the writing is great, but you feel like you’re saying something that is really important about what is going on and you’re shining some light on people that don’t get light shone on them – on characters like this. So, it feels important and really profound.