UZO ADUBA KNEWOrange Is the New Black would be a hit when strangers started calling her "Crazy Eyes." That's the nickname of her character in the Netflix prison drama, which starts its third season June 12 and has been renewed for a fourth. The 34-year-old actress was raised in Medfield, Massachusetts, where her parents settled in the wake of Nigeria's civil war. After training as a classical vocalist in college, Aduba landed roles in Coram Boy on Broadway and in a New York City Godspell revival. In 2012, she auditioned for what she believed was a bit part in Weeds creator Jenji Kohan's latest series; it culminated, last year, in an Emmy win for her portrayal of Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren, the enigmatic, eyeball-popping inmate who writes bad poetry to express her (unrequited) love for main character Piper, and even responds to one rejection by peeing on the floor of Piper's sleeping area. More recently, Aduba scored roles in the musical movie Pearly Gates and the upcoming period film Showing Roots, in which two women try to unite their small town around showings of the Roots miniseries based on Alex Haley's 1976 slavery epic.
Mother Jones: Did you ever imagine, when you signed up for a two-episode gig as a character called Crazy Eyes, that you'd one day be talking to a reporter about season four?
Uzo Aduba: Not at all. All I wanted was to make it through—I was told two episodes, maybe a third. My only goals were to do good work and not get fired.
MJ: At what point did you know the show would be a success?
UA: I was up in Utah in the mountains, and I had no phone service. I was like, "Wow, I'm getting a lot of Twitter followers—that tweet I gave yesterday must have been really sassy." When I came down from the mountain I realized, meeting people on the street, that people watch our show and they're really enjoying it.
"I don't think Netflix goes to prisons. But we have former inmates who have said that they watch the show."
MJ: So strangers call you Crazy Eyes?
UA: Not as much as they did initially. I hadn't worked on TV before, but now, because people have seen my face in a different way more, they're like, "Your name is Uzo, right?"
MJ: Do you hear from women who have been in prison or are currently doing time?
UA: I don't think Netflix goes to prisons. [Laughs.] But we have former inmates who have said that they watch the show. I have been so impressed when they say how much is spot-on—men and women.
MJ: How has working on Orange Is the New Black changed your view of prison life?
UA: When I read the second script, I remember physically stopping and realizing, "Wow, we are telling human stories. This is someone's mother, this is a daughter, this is a neighbor, this is a friend." When it stopped being about their crime or their number or their jumpsuit, I could see them fully as people.
UA: I identify parts of myself in Suzanne—as foreign as she is to me. I think that's why people are drawn to the show. When you start to see that Jenji is telling the story of people rather than "criminals," you start to realize, "Oh, I am that person." It's a minimum-security prison. A lot of these people, it was only a small choice that led to them being in this world, and I think that makes it highly relatable.
"When I read the second script, I remember physically stopping and realizing, 'Wow, we are telling human stories. This is someone's mother, this is a daughter, this is a neighbor, this is a friend.'"
MJ: Suzanne is childlike but also kind of intimidating. How do you get to that place?
UA: I did a lot of walking to invite her in—and to put her down. With Suzanne, all the toys need to come out, like a treasure chest, you know. You're not just looking for the one toy on top of the chest, because that innocence, that purity children have—there is no agenda or positioning that goes into their activities. They just do. All of the toys need to come out, and we'll think about cleaning it up afterward.
MJ: Where would you walk?
UA: I lived so close to where we shot that I would walk there and have a meditation to get my mind open and give myself permission to make bad choices. She's such a freeing character, so open and unrestricted. I feel irresponsible if I don't try everything with her. I give myself permission to fall, like a baby trying to learn to walk.
MJ: Did you always want to be in showbiz?
UA: I thought I was going to become a lawyer—that's the more traditional immigrant path. It was through the encouragement of my mom, who exposed me to the arts—and my teacher during my junior year of high school changed my life. She was my drama teacher and also my creative-writing teacher. I was going to apply to study international relations, and she told me that I should go to art school instead. I'd never even thought of that.
MJ: What did your mom expose you to?
UA: She made me get up with her every Sunday morning to sing in our church. I liked to sing, but I didn't know I was decent. I'm one of five, and she never made any of my siblings be in the choir. I was always so irritated, because it was like a half hour earlier than service. Mr. Hersee, my sixth-grade music teacher, had me sing in a recital that year. It wasn't until that recital, when I was singing Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You," that I was like, "I think I can sing!" I remember having that thought because there was applause and everybody stood up.
MJ: How did being a child of immigrants affect your upbringing?
UA: You can't live in a town like Medfield and not be keenly aware that your name doesn't sound anything like anybody else's. And even more to the point, you look like absolutely no one else there. It's a very homogeneous community—a beautiful community—but I was very much aware that this was not an immigrant hub. At my high school graduation, my whole family came. Up until early adolescence, everybody wants to fit in. But by then, I wanted everybody to come dressed like where I'm from, in traditional clothes. It was amazing, all these beautiful colors and fabulous traditional dress. Everybody felt so proud to be able to show up at an event in Medfield and know that their daughter, their niece, was proud to have them there as they are.
"African stories are missing. First-generation stories. Female-driven stories. I would love to see my own story, because I know I'm not alone in being where I'm from."
MJ: So what's your dream project?
UA: I want to tell the stories of the missing—the people we don't see in our daily narratives, whose voices aren't heard. In terms of biopics, I'm drawn to the Nina Simones of the world, the Leontyne Prices, the Marian Andersons. African stories are missing. First-generation stories. Female-driven stories. I would love to see my own story, because I know I'm not alone in being where I'm from.
MJ: Your latest film involves the Roots miniseries. When did you first see it?
UA: I watched it after I read the book because I was so fascinated—and my mom was so impacted when it came out because she had never seen that story before. When I watched it again for Showing Roots, I was like, "I can't even believe, at a time so close to when the Civil Rights Act was passed, something like this was made with such honesty." The book is phenomenal. It's an amazing story.
MJ: You took a selfie with Hillary Clinton at this year's EMILY's List gala in Washington, DC. Are you ready for Hillary?
UA: I was born ready. [Laughs.] She's a remarkable candidate. I was giving a speech, and you're looking out and there's Hillary Clinton, and she wasn't just listening and nodding at the right moment, but really listening. When we were able to chat behind the scenes, I was like, "Wow, what an incredibly gracious, down-to-earth, thoughtful woman."
MJ: Does she watch Orange Is the New Black?
UA: I didn't ask. We weren't really in that sort of world.
MJ: With Pearly Gates under your belt, can we expect more singing roles from you?
UA: It's in me. I don't think I could even stop it if I wanted to. I never felt like I wanted to only be an actor or a writer or a singer. I just like to make things. I want to tell honest stories, good stories, whether through music or pen or through words or actions. That's all I want to do.
Lincoln Chafee kicked off his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination on Wednesday in Virginia by promising to fight climate change, curb extra-judicial assassinations, and switch the United States to the metric system.
The Rhode Islander, who served in the Senate as a Republican before joining the Democratic party after being elected governor, unveiled his left-leaning, if idiosyncratic, agenda in a wide-ranging address at George Mason University. His continued opposition to the Iraq War, which he voted against authorizing as a senator, could put him in conflict with the party's front-runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. As a senator, Clinton was an early supporter of the invasion, though she has since called it a mistake.
National defense was just one area in which Chafee advised heeding the wisdom of the international community. (He likewise proposed ending capital punishment entirely, and praised Nebraska for its recent ban.)
But then Chafee went a few feet—er, meters—further:
Earlier I said, let's be bold. Here's a bold embrace of internationalism: Let's join the rest of the world and go metric. I happened to live in Canada as they completed the process. Believe me, it is easy. It doesn't take long before 34 degrees is hot. Only Myanmar, Liberia, and the United States aren't metric, and it it'll help our economy!
Finally, a presidential candidate with a foolproof plan to bring down rising temperatures.
This wasn't the way Bernie Sanders expected to conclude the first week of his presidential campaign—comparing a 1972 essay he wrote for the Vermont Freeman to E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey. But the article, first reported in Mother Jones, quickly caught fire because of its description of a woman who "fantasizes being raped," and by the weekend, Sanders had taken steps to renounce it.
"This is a piece of fiction that I wrote in 1972, I think," the Vermont Senator said, appearing on Meet the Press. "That was 43 years ago. It was very poorly written and if you read it, what it was dealing with was gender stereotypes, why some men like to oppress women, why other women like to be submissive, you know, something like Fifty Shades of Grey."
But if the 1972 essay ruined his media tour, it didn't do anything to suppress the enthusiasm of the progressive activists Sanders aims to make his base. Sanders spent his first week of the campaign speaking to overflow crowds across the Midwest (3,000 people in Minneapolis) and New Hampshire. And, evidently, he's turned some heads. Here's the New York Times:
DES MOINES — A mere 240 people live in the rural northeast Iowa town of Kensett, so when more than 300 crowded into the community center on Saturday night to hear Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, many driving 50 miles, the cellphones of Democratic leaders statewide began to buzz.
Kurt Meyer, the county party chairman who organized the event, sent a text message to Troy Price, the Iowa political director for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mr. Price called back immediately.
"Objects in your rearview mirror are closer than they appear," Mr. Meyer said he had told Mr. Price about Mr. Sanders. "Mrs. Clinton had better get out here."
Clinton's strategy, to this point, has been to act as if her other prospective Democratic primary opponents don't exist. Sanders might have just changed that calculus.
The wait is over. Martin O'Malley is running for president. The former Maryland governor formally kicked off his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination on Saturday in Baltimore, the city he served as mayor for six years. O'Malley, who has been publicly weighing a bid for years, is aiming to present himself as a solidly progressive alternative to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. But it's going to be an uphill slog—in the most recent Quinnipiac poll, he received just 1 percent—56 points behind Clinton, and 14 points behind Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who was an independent until he entered the 2016 Democratic contest.
Here are five things you should read about O'Malley right now:
He's the "best manager in government today," according to a 2013 profile by Haley Sweetland Edwards at the Washington Monthly:
The truth is, what makes O'Malley stand out is not his experience, his gravitas, nor his familiarity to voters (Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden crush him in those regards). Nor is it exactly his policies or speeches (New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, both rumored presidential aspirants, have cultivated similar CVs). Nor is it that he plays in a band. Nor is it even the Atlantic's breathless claim last year that he has "the best abs" in politics. (Beneath a photo of the fit governor participating in the Maryland Special Olympics' annual Polar Bear Plunge, the author gushed, "What are they putting in the water in Maryland?") Instead, what makes O'Malley unique as a politician is precisely the skill that was on display in that windowless conference room in downtown Annapolis: he is arguably the best manager working in government today.
That may not seem like a very flashy title—at first blush, "Best Manager" sounds more like a booby prize than a claim a politician might ride to the White House. But in an era where the very idea of government is under assault, a politician’s capacity to deliver on his or her promises, to actually make the bureaucracy work, is an underappreciated skill.
He pursued a tough-on-crime policing strategy as mayor of Baltimore, according to a recent Washington Post article:
It was as a crime-busting mayor some 15 years ago that O'Malley first gained national attention. Although he is positioning himself as a progressive alternative to Hillary Clinton, O'Malley also touts a police crackdown during his time as mayor that led to a stark reduction in drug violence and homicides as one of his major achievements.
Yet some civic leaders and community activists in Baltimore portray O'Malley’s policing policies in troubling terms. The say the "zero-tolerance" approach mistreated young black men even as it helped dramatically reduce crime, fueling a deep mistrust of law enforcement that flared anew last week when [Freddie] Gray died after suffering a spinal injury while in police custody.
He's obsessed with the War of 1812 and discussed said obsession in an interview with the Daily Beast's Ben Jacobs last September, after dressing up in an 1812-vintage uniform and mounting a horse:
Win, lose, or draw, O'Malley said he is enthusiastic about the bicentennial and has read up on past commemorations to prepare. He recalled for The Daily Beast a 100-year-old Baltimore Sun editorial about the centennial in 1914 and searched excitedly through his iPad for it. PBS will broadcast the event nationwide on Saturday night, and it will feature what is planned to be the largest ever mass singing of the "Star-Spangled Banner" and an outdoor concert in Baltimore that will include a rock opera about the War of 1812, and O'Malley's own band, which he referred to simply as "a small little warm-up band of Irish extraction."
Though he was the model for the character of Baltimore Mayor Tommy Carcetti on the HBO series The Wire, he is not a huge fan of the show or its creator, David Simon, who described an awkward encounter with the governor last year on an Acela train:
This fellow was at the four-top table immediately behind me. I clocked him as we left New York, but as he is a busy man, and as most of our previous encounters have been a little edgy, I told myself to let well enough alone. I answered a few more emails, looked at some casting tapes on the laptop, checked the headlines. And still, with all of that done, we were only just south of Philadelphia.
I texted my son: "On the southbound Acela. Marty O'Malley sitting just behind me," then joking, "Do I set it off?"
A moment later, a 20-year-old diplomatic prodigy fired back a reply: "Buy him a beer."
...I stood up, noticed that Mr. O'Malley was sipping a Corona, and I walked to the cafe car to get another just like it. I came back, put it on the table next to its mate, and said, simply, "You’ve had a tough week." My reference, of course, was to the governor's dustup with the White House over the housing of juvenile immigrants in Maryland, which became something of a spitting contest by midweek.
Mr. O'Malley smiled, said thanks, and I went back to my seat to inform my son that the whole of the State Department could do no better than he. Several minutes later, the governor of my state called me out and smacked the seat next to him.
"Come on, Dave," he said, "we're getting to be old men at this point. Sit, talk."
Writing for the Atlantic in December, Molly Ball dubbed O'Malley, "the most ignored candidate of 2016."Another takeaway from the piece, which chronicled his trip to an Annapolis homeless-prevention center that provides job training, might be that he tries too hard:
"I love kale," O'Malley told the chef, Linda Vogler, a middle-aged woman with blond bangs peeking out from a paper toque [who was teaching a cooking class]. "Kale's the new superfood!"
"It looks like birdseed," she replied, hurrying on with the lesson. As the class counted off the seconds it took to boil a tomato, O'Malley changed their "One Mississippi" chant to "One Maryland! Two Maryland!"
When Bernie Sanders was a student activist at University of Chicago in the 1960s, he was a leader of the local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality and helped to organize a protest of the school's racist housing policies. But the radical action he mounted that received nationwide attention was of a different nature: In 1963, as a junior, he waged a crusade for sexual freedom, assailing the school's leaders for forcing their puritan views on undergraduates—and ruining their students' sex lives.
In doing so, Sanders made national news. This crusade was emblematic of the way Sanders conducted himself in Hyde Park and throughout his political career—firm in his beliefs, fiery in his rhetoric, and unafraid of confrontation.