Before we met Orange Is the New Black's Suzanne Warren (Uzo Aduba), the sun was like a yellow grape. But throughout the Netflix drama's run, the eccentric inmate changed the way we look at things — from love poems and ice cream to how we judge those who seem a little different. And in Season 2, we finally got to see the world through Suzanne's "crazy" eyes.
Aduba, who just won a Critics Choice Award for her role on Orange, spoke to TVGuide.com about Suzanne's troubled past, her relationship with Vee and what's next for our favorite garden rose.
How did you feel when you learned Suzanne's backstory?
Aduba: It helps to give a lot of answers to the need for love, that kind of love, why she goes to the places she goes for it. And it really brought a lot of understanding because in Season 1 when I read the script I went, 'Oh, this is a love story that we're telling.' So, I really wanted to answer the question, 'How far would someone go for love?' So, to see her and see how she's never really had a place in the world for such a long time and feeling out of place and always having felt different because of her family environment and who she has for parents, never fitting in with friends — this is why she is always constantly in the pursuit of love. This is what she's chasing and why she's chasing. It really helped to inform that for me.
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What did you originally imagine Suzanne's past looked like?
Aduba: When we met her parents, I was like, 'OK... these are different people than I imagined.' I imagined the story of a pretty tough world. I imagined someone who was only friends with books and literature. I imagined somebody who's almost so heightened in her mind that she couldn't communicate. Almost like a savant of some kind. She was having a hard time with social skills. That was the world that I had created. And then I had come up with the crime and all that other stuff for who I thought she was ... I knew that sort of desperate need to fit in or want to fit in or want to be loved had to have something to do with an absence, but I never really imagined she'd have that relationship she had with her mom.
Her relationship with her mom is definitely complicated.
Aduba: That's just somebody who she's been misunderstood by and [her mom's] always wanted her to be more than she could be when she was already trying her best. In my mind, I always just think of it as, 'you're trying to push me to be more than what I am and I never ask more of you. I never ask you to be better. I accept you as you are. I need to you to accept me as I am.'
Her mother was so blind to Suzanne's needs as a child. Do you imagine anything's changed now that she's been incarcerated?
Aduba: They have to support her. And even though she's here in prison, they have to still be there for her. I don't know if they're necessarily going to understand ... When they come to visit, her mom wants her to change her hair and she says, 'Mommy, I like my hair this way.' So, there are definitely still things that are sticking points between them, that are causing rifts, that haven't really been settled and haven't been settled since childhood. But Suzanne is determined to stay and remain who she is despite the fact that she doesn't have the support of her mother all the way. That being said, I do think it's beautiful and I love that despite not having her support or full endorsement in certain areas, she still knows well enough to come and visit her daughter.
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Vee sort of fills that maternal void for Suzanne. How would you describe their relationship?
Aduba: That is her greatest love. I think it's just a further example [that] she's chasing love and it doesn't matter what kind of love. She just wants it. Whether it's intimacy, whether it's maternal love, friendship — she will take it. She's so thirsty for it. She hasn't drank from that well yet in her life and she just wants to be loved. And when she meets someone like Vee who says her name so lovingly, and who is interested in what she does and pays her a compliment, she realizes she's being seen. So, it's so quick and easy for her to latch herself onto her because that's someone who might feed that need or that void that she's had inside herself for so long.
Even though Vee was always playing her, do you think the "garden rose" speech was a real turning point for Suzanne?
Aduba: Absolutely, because whether it was to Vee's gain or not, it still put a seed inside her. Because if she hadn't planted that inside her, who knows when Piper started talking to her what Suzanne would do. She may have settled for scraps. And the lesson she got was you do not have to settle for scraps. You are enough. You are more than enough. And you deserve more. And I think that's in her now.
She was really devastated in the finale. Do you think she'll learn anything from how things ended with Vee?
Aduba: It will be interesting to see what it gives to her. How far into the ground or into the soul Vee was able to plant that idea of being a garden rose. It'll be interesting to see how it unveils or unpacks itself now that we've seen this devastation occur. That's what I want certainly and I hope. But I also know lessons like that take time, and even though it seems she's been learning this lesson her whole life, we'll just have to wait and see.
What did you think of Crazy Eyes' backstory?