Pablo Schreiber's Orange Is the New Black character has the sadism of Joffrey Baratheon and the mustache of Tom Selleck, an unlikely combination which somehow turned Pornstache into a runaway success. We talked to Schreiber about the surprising reaction to his character, what's in store for Season 2 and whether his real-life facial hair is up to snuff.
How has the reaction to Pornstache been so far?
Pablo Schreiber: The reaction to Pornstache has been alternatively amazing, awesome, overwhelming and a little bit bizarre. There's such a wide range of reactions to the character that it's definitely been, as far as that goes, the most all encompassing reaction covering the whole spectrum, from people who just love the guy and say it's their favorite TV character ever all the way down to people who ask why I would ever bring something like that to life on the screen and [say] I'm probably not worth living any more. Death threats, the whole deal.
There are so many fans who have very strong sexual attraction to Pornstache.
Schreiber: It's true, it's true! I don't know why. I did everything I could to make him as repulsive as possible. There must be people who are attracted to disgustingness because that's clearly what he is.
Pornstache is such a despicable character. As an actor, how do you identify with someone so vile?
Schreiber: Well, on two levels. First of all, as an actor to get to play someone that's not only despicable, but just like to the worst degree, you know. There's really no limits on how far I could go with the character. So as an actor to be given the freedom to do that and to go to all those places that you normally are told are taboo or not OK to go to, that's just pure fun. But then as far as identifying with the person ... to me that's just having a real clear sense of why he operates the way that he does. For most people that operate in a really terrible or awful way or do despicable things, its almost always coming out of some kind of deep seeded insecurity or fear. And so to me, to put your finger on the pulse of exactly what that character's fears and insecurities are is the quickest way in to making him a relatable human being. If people don't like him at least they can have some kind of sense of why he behaves the way he does.
Do you think his feelings towards Daya are genuine? Is he really in love with her?
Schreiber: Oh, I think so yeah. I don't understand that storyline if he's faking it. I don't' really get it. I don't know why he's doing that. I think in order to buy into that you have to believe he was swept off his feet and really the only thing that he was waiting for was for someone to pay attention to him. And the moment that someone does, he's all in. And that's probably the most tragic thing about him. That as nasty as he was being the entire time and all the awful things he did, if someone would have just paid attention to him and been nice to him, it could have all been avoided.
So it didn't necessarily need to be Daya? Because I don't really get it. She has two C.O.'s head over heels for her and I don't understand what's so special about her.
Schreiber: You don't get the draw, huh? Yeah, I think from what the script said and the story that we told, I think that's right. It could have been anybody. I mean, he talks about her lips, that he's never kissed a girl with big lips before, so I think there was probably an element of exoticness to her. And earlier in the season he showed an affinity for Sophia and "cyborg p---y" as he put it, so I think there was certainly an attraction to the Other and the different, that he had. But yeah, ultimately the biggest thing that he shows is that he really wanted someone to talk to and once someone did, he's all in.
I was completely shocked when he used a condom. Pornstache doesn't exactly strike me as the cautious type.
Schreiber: Yeah, I don't think it was out of any cautiousness for her. I think it was purely survival instincts. What I took from that is that he's clearly been in this situation before and he was taking no chances. So yeah, I don't think he was looking out for gonorrhea. I just think he didn't want to put a baby in her, which clearly was a founded concern because they were coming after him.
Daya hasn't actually taken a pregnancy test yet. Is there a chance she's just sick with the flu?
Schreiber: I think that yeah, absolutely, there's a chance she's sick with the flu. There's a chance she's got a baby in her. There's a chance it's John Bennett's and there's a chance it's a little Porny. Could be any one, you know. I think the options are wide open.
If she is pregnant, Pornstache is going to assume the baby's his. Do you think he would be a good dad?
Schreiber: Of course! Pornstache? Pornstache would be the best dad. Are you kidding? Can you imagine little Pornstache's running around, imparting life lessons all over the place. He's gonna teach that kid to be a man, you know what I'm saying?
How do you even get in a headspace to think of some of the one-liners you came up with? They're so perverse.
Schreiber: I don't know! People have been bugging me about that. 'How'd you do that? It's so nasty. How do you come up with that sh--?' It felt pretty easy to me. I'm certainly not that guy. I'm nothing like Pornstache. But once you're asked to remove the filter and be as awful as you can be, it's just a perverse sense of fun that comes along with getting to break all the rules that society normally puts on us. You don't have to behave politely. You don't have to be nice. And suddenly all the sh-- you've been wanting to say to people forever, but you don't because society tells us to be nice to each other, it all just comes flooding out. I dunno. It felt pretty easy to me.
One of the worst thing's Pornstache has gotten away with so far was covering up Tricia's overdose. Is there any chance that will come back to bite him in Season 2?
Schreiber: I'm going to answer that question the same way I'm going to answer all of your questions about 'Is there any chance.' Is there a chance? Of course. Of course it could come back to bite him in the butt. I think that's a large thing that's looming over Season 2 in terms of how it relates to Pornstache. Any number of the things we've seen him do could come back at bite him in the a--. He's certainly been putting a lot on the line. And he's on disciplinary suspension now so he's already in some hot water. There's any number of excuses they could use to get rid of the guy if they wanna get rid of me.
Are we going to get to learn Pornstache's backstory in Season 2?
Schreiber: I have no idea. I wish I knew what was coming in Season 2, but it's all a big mystery to me. They're busy shooting Season 2 back in New York right now and I'm here in L.A. shooting another show [Ironside]. So as far as what's going to happen to my guy, I don't know.
Judging by the accent, Pornstache is from somewhere in the South. Was that your choice or creator Jenji Kohan's?
Schreiber: No, it was mine. And I actually never spoke to Jenji about this. I still haven't talked to her about it. I'm assuming she's OK with it cause she never asked me about it. But I made the choice early on that he was from Texas. It was important to me obviously for many reasons that he's kind of the odd man out in that environment. A man on an island in a way. And to me him being an out-of-towner and from the South was just another way of putting him in opposition to everyone there. That he was a guy with no friends, no connections, and him being a southerner in the north was another way of highlighting that.
Has playing the odd man out character affected the on-set dynamic at all?
Schreiber: Yeah, totally. I mean, in the sense that dramatically I was responsible for playing that part and also just in the sense that physically I was a grotesque human being with my haircut and my mustache, so none of the ladies on the set wanted anything to do with me. Rightfully so. So it kind of created that dynamic quite naturally. They just avoided me like the plague and I walked around disgusting them as much as I could.
Were you ever considered for any of the other male roles or was it always Pornstache?
Schreiber: When the script first came to me, my agents and managers were submitting me for the role of Larry, Jason Biggs' role. And because I had worked with Jenji already on Weeds she was familiar, obviously, with my work and she said, 'I don't think that really fits. Is there anything else you'd be interested in?' And I read the script and saw this little one scene role of Pornstache and said that guy sounds interesting.
It's hard enough for me to imagine you as Larry, but it's even harder to imagine Jason Biggs as Pornstache.
Schreiber: Have you seen his Twitter avatar? You might have an easier time imagining it. Yeah, no. I think everybody in the show plays the role that they were destined to play. It all worked out quite perfectly in my opinion. I think he would have done fantastically as Pornstache though. I'm a big Jason Biggs fan, so I'd watch it.
Have you ever had a mustache in real life?
Schreiber: No, no. Nobody wants to see what grows on my lip.
Can you grow a mustache?
Schreiber: Well ... What's can? Something grows there. I don't know if I'd call it a mustache, but it's a little more like a duster I'd say.
Orange Is the New Black is available to stream in its entirety on Netflix.