Any new inmate on Orange Is the New Black is bound to make waves, and chatterbox activist Brook Soso has made quite the impact at Litchfield.
Half Asian, Soso — played by Kimiko Glenn — brought even more diversity to the OITNB ranks. From her first night at Litchfield, she was a presence, thanks to her initial friendship with Piper (Taylor Schilling), and then for her annoying habits of talking constantly and not taking showers.
The half-Japanese Glenn is a relative newcomer to television. She was born and raised in Phoenix, and started doing musical theater at the age of 10. Just a few months after attending the Boston Conservatory, she landed a role in the national tour of Spring Awakening. Afterward, she settled down in New York, where she continued to do theater work, including Love's Labour's Lost for Shakespeare in the Park and opposite Julianne Moore in Freckleface Strawberry.
OITNB is her first major TV role, and Glenn quickly became a star, thanks to the fascinating role. Brook Soso becomes a lightning rod in Season 2. Soso claims to be in Litchfield for political activism — though you never know with these inmates. She apparently volunteered on an organic farm with her former BFF Meadow — who mysteriously isn't her friend anymore.
Piper tries to "sell" her to Big Boo in return for her blanket, but Soso ends up on Nicky's hookup list instead. Other inmates call her a "dirty hippie" for her refusal to take showers (out of a belief that people should live in their natural odors), and she enthusiastically leads a hunger strike to protest the conditions in the prison. And when the electricity goes out in the prison during a big storm, Soso leads the women in rousing sing-along renditions of Meredith Brooks's "Bitch" and Lisa Loeb's "Stay."
By the end of the season, Soso becomes a memorable fixture in the Litchfield scene. Yahoo TV chatted with Glenn about that touching sing-along, Soso's backstory, and whether we'll see Brook in Season 3.
You haven't done much television, and now you're on a hit show. What's the reaction been?
First of all, everyone's been very supportive, so I'm thankful for that. I've been getting a lot of "Oh gosh, she's so annoying!" and stuff like that, but I think I've done my job. [Laughs.] I think that's how she was written. My friends and family have been so supportive, and from the fans, I've also gotten a lot of "I love her so much" and "I can relate to Soso." It's been really nice.
What was it like joining an existing cast?
When I first came in, it was a little bit of finding my footing. I was aware that it was a hit TV show, so coming in, I wasn't sure if I should introduce myself. We're all wearing the same outfits, so no one really knows who each other are. So it took me a few weeks for me to finally be like, "I'm playing this person." Taylor knew who I was because I did a lot of scenes with her, but it took me a second to gain the courage — because I'm a little shy sometimes. But everyone was so wonderful and gracious and kind. People welcomed me with open arms, especially because I haven't done TV as often. A few of the seasoned actors were showing me the ropes.
Tell us your audition story. What was it like?
What's pretty funny about my story is that I was in the middle of watching the show [Season 1], because it had just come out a few weeks before. I don't normally binge-watch, but I was on that spiral of "Oh, God, I can't stop watching." I finished one of the episodes, then checked my email, and it says "Audition for Orange Is the New Black." And I just stared at my computer for a second and then realized, "Oh wait, that's real!" It took me a second to process. And it's for tomorrow! Oh, my God!
It was pretty typical: There's a breakdown and a bit about the character and scenes to read. I got about nine pages; it was pretty hefty — Brook talks a lot. That was a bit challenging to memorize! I read with the casting director — she was really sweet and gave me one of those nods. I didn't think anything of it, but the next day, I got the call from my agent that I would be this recurring character. And I was like, "Oh, my gosh, I'm going to be in Orange Is the New Black. That's so cool!"
What was your first day like?
My first day — they're all kind of melding together — but I think the first day, I did the entrance scene where Lea DeLaria, who plays Big Boo, is kind of vulgar to me. "You're fresh meat," or whatever. That was the first scene I shot, and that was interesting and intimidating. I'd seen all these characters on my computer, and to see them in real life was funny. It was cool seeing them at work; it was really inspiring. Oh, and my crying scene was that day, too, I think. I remember being extremely intimidated, like "Oh, gosh, I have to do this scene with Taylor Schilling and I'm supposed to be sobbing." That was challenging, but Taylor is so open and genuine and there with you. She's very present. She's the most exciting scene partner.
What was your favorite experience on the set?
The most fun I had was filming the sing-along [in the episode "It Was the Change"]. Everyone was there, and it felt like summer camp or something. The cafeteria was atrocious and it was dark, and so much of the cast was there and we all got to hang out. And we got to sing, and I love singing. We got to be silly, and it was just a really fun day.
Do you know anything about Soso's backstory?
No! I don't know anything! I'm so curious! They don't tell me anything, for real. I get the scripts as they come, and no one really lets on what they're planning for me.
Litchfield has one other Asian inmate, whom we haven't seen much of. Now Soso is there. It seems like the show is diversifying even more.
Oh, yeah. One of the things I loved about the show in the first place is the fact that it is so diverse. And it's run primarily by women. The central characters on the show are women and the people behind the scenes are primarily women. For me, as a viewer, it's far more exciting to see diversity onscreen because you get different flavors and a different story — a more interesting story. It's nice to see Asians represented onscreen, because for me, I didn't have much of that growing up. It's gotten a little bit better, but I think it is still a problem. I would love to see more Asians onscreen, more than just playing the stereotype.
You're half-Japanese, right?
Yeah — half Japanese, 25 percent German, 12 percent Irish, 12 percent Scottish!
Do you know yet if you'll be on Season 3?
I definitely will be. I'm not going to be going anywhere for Season 3.
You started out in musical theater, but are you looking to do more TV now?
I think that television and film are very interesting. And watching Season 2, I'm just so amazed at how well it turned out. I read the scripts and knew it would be amazing, but seeing what everyone did with it and how they edited it was so exciting. Obviously, I come from a theater background, so for me, that's always going to be my heart. I don't know if I could ever prefer film or TV over theater, because that's what I grew up doing, and I love singing more than anything.
We know you tour around, singing. Any plans to do an album or anything like that?
I would love to. It's not my focus right now, but I think that'd be a really exciting thing for the future. That's always something I thought would be fun.
Check out a live performance of Glenn singing "Breathe Me":
Orange Is the New Black Season 2 is available on Netflix.