Orange Is the New Black's second season was all about family. At the center of this were two very different women struggling to create and maintain their prison support systems. But while Red (Kate Mulgrew) learned the importance of humility in her quest to win back her girls, Vee (Lorraine Toussaint) was focused only on one thing — survival — no matter how much it harmed those closest to her.
But playing Season 2's villain posed a particular challenge for Toussaint. "When I approach a character, the first thing I look at is the emotional arc. Where I started, where do I end up, and what do I learn in the process?" Toussaint explains to TVGuide.com. "With Vee, because of the way in which psychopaths are wired, there's a fundamental cog that's missing that prevents growth in a funny way."
To cope with Vee's emotional stasis, the way Toussaint approached and related to the character was to find that genuine connection and growth in Vee's relationship with Taystee (Danielle Brooks) — though she admits this might not have been visible to the viewer.
"Taystee is Vee's salvation. That relationship is the only hope of her ever maybe reincarnating as a human being," Toussaint says. "And I do think that she does, in her core, in a limited way, and it is relative, love that girl. And her actions come from love. And certainly by the end of it, there is a tiny capacity for conscious choice and choice of loving with Vee. I had to find that."
Of course, towards the end of the season, Vee kicks Taystee out of her prison family as punishment for Poussey's behavior. But Toussaint shares a unique perspective on this apparent betrayal: "As a mother, we sacrifice for our children. It doesn't matter. You do what's best for your child no matter what it costs you. And on some level, I think she actually performs, maybe for the first time, a sacrificial act. Even if it means just getting rid of her."
Whether you believe Toussaint's interpretation of Vee's motives or not, there's no question over Red's learning curve this season when it comes to the importance of family. "It's crucial," Mulgrew says. "I go to great lengths to get them back and apologize to them."
"Same for me," Toussaint adds. "It's crucial that she has family. And that's one of the things Vee and Red have in common, is that they would both kill for their children. Vee would also kill her children, but she's different."
"I think what neither of us can bear, interestingly enough, is being ostracized," Mulgrew says. "We cannot bear it. We need to have our group."
But while Vee needs her group like a parasite needs a host, Mulgrew insists Red's intentions really are pure with her girls. "I think that my capacity for love has been tried and true on the outside. I have three sons that love me and a husband that I've been married to for 40 years. So all of Red's relationships are lasting, as they are in prison. There's an element of real dimension to them and depths. I think they know that, if nothing else, I'm good for my word and I will stand by them regardless. And I do."
However, just because Red has made up with her prison family doesn't mean there isn't potential for more contention down the road. Mulgrew explains that in exchange for Red taking care of her girls, she expects unconditional allegiance. "And when it doesn't happen, that's when the sh-- hits the fan," Mulgrew says.
So when Red eventually discovers Piper lied to her about the status of her family store, will she interpret that as a betrayal? "We have to see," Mulgrew teases. "I think Red would say honesty is the best policy always."