[Warning: The following contains major spoilers from the third season of Orange Is the New Black.]
After two years of forging a sweet romance with Daya (Dascha Polanco) — or as sweet as a romance between a prison guard and inmate can be — Bennett left Litchfield, Daya and his unborn child behind without even a word. Needless to say, some fans are pissed. But how does McGorry feel about his unceremonious exit? It turns out, not too differently than anyone else.
When I was watching the season, I kept waiting for you to come back!
Matt McGorry: I know. It's like Chinese water torture.
How much warning were you given that Bennett was going to leave?
McGorry: I knew going into the season that he was going to leave, but I didn't know really how it would happen. We're never really given any idea of our story arc beyond each episode. Part of me would have wished for death over the way that it happened. Because as someone who's a fan of obviously the show itself and Daya's relationship with Bennett, it was pretty heartbreaking to me how he ended up leaving. And then I never got the scripts for any future episodes. I'm slowly watching the series now - I just finished Episode 4 - so it's interesting to not know how your character is talked about as well once he's gone.
Are you enjoying getting to experience the show as a fan for the first time?
McGorry: I am. You know, it's a mixed experience because of the way that his story line ended up. Because I see it and when I watch it, I feel terrible for Daya, and also getting the real, live response on social media via the fans, their take on Bennett as well. So it's a little bit mixed for me right now, but I really do enjoy the fact that I don't have any idea what's happening aside from whispers I've heard here and there and that's sort of really cool. ... Also, strange, by the way, I realized that the sex of the kid got spoiled for me on Twitter. I was like, 'Oh, that's kind of weird.' I didn't know! I didn't watch yet. I was like, 'That's kind of a weird funny thing, some random person's tweet spoiled that for me.' And obviously, it's not my kid so I don't have the same attachment to it, but its sort of a weird meta thing.
Do you know what happens with Bennett's baby at the end of the season at all?
McGorry: My understanding is that Cesar takes it and then Social Security takes it from him and he goes to prison. Again, this is all from social media. In between bursts of people telling me they want to kill me.
What has that been like for you? I can't imagine it's been enjoyable at all.
McGorry: No, it's not particularly enjoyable. The character was very likable for a pretty long time and I got used to that. I'm not sure that getting used to that is necessarily a great thing, because this seems like the safest reminder that the business can be a fickle one at times and being in people's favor can be a fickle thing as well. So it's really kind of important not to place your own self-worth in the response from people, particularly when it comes to your character and your story line. But yeah, it is something that I think is a mix of people joking and people just saying it because they don't have anywhere else to put the negativity, whatever they're feeling about the character. But I'm slowly starting to care less, which I think is a good thing. You know, I think it is what it is. I think, in some ways, Jason Biggs is always going to be the guy who had sex with a pie. This is just a different version of that.
Are you able to justify Bennett's decision?
McGorry: I am. As an actor, in order to play a role, you have to be able to find a place where the character comes from and be able to understand it and justify it, as hard as it seems. And it doesn't mean that anything is necessarily excusable, but I think you still have to find out where that character comes from. For example, if I were to be cast as Hitler, I wouldn't say, 'Yeah, I get why I did the things I did.' But you would try to find whatever insecurities he had, whatever anger that he had and try to at least thread that together into a pattern of thought that would allow it to seem genuine. But as far as Bennett goes, he's not dead, as far as we know. We have yet to see where his story line really ends up. And there is part of me that has hope that he's more the man that we kind of believed that he was the whole time and he really sort of pulls through and comes back. He always wants to be the hero and often is incapable of that in the way that he hopes to be. And he really couldn't care for Daya and the child, particularly while working in the prison. So in my mind, I do have hope that he hatches some sort of plan that forces him to be the bad guy for a while, but ultimately is working towards a better future.
Do you know if they're planning to have you return? Would you be open to that?
McGorry: I don't know. I would certainly be open to that. I would very much be open to that. I would love that. But again, these decisions are usually out of my hands. Like I said, I really do hope that he ends up having some more positive intentions behind what he did. But that's yet to be seen.
Did you ever really think Bennett and Daya could really work?
McGorry: That's a good question. I think that there's a certain, very romantic place in the show reserved for Bennett and Daya. ... I think it's nice to have that sort of escape. Something that really seems like a perfect or near-perfect situation, given the fact that it's non-consensual, given the laws about the relationship between a prison guard and inmate. It's very romanticized. As the audience, you see it through the eyes of both of them and hope that it will work. But imagine reading it as a headline or something in a newspaper that's actually a real-life story. I wouldn't have imagined that it would turn out well. I think that the version where they're in prison together and he waits for her for her entire sentence, she gets out and they raise their kid happily, I think that's less likely to be the case than something that would actually happen.
We also got to see Bennett's backstory in the episode. Was that anything like you imagined?
McGorry: I was so excited when I read that. I knew that I was only going to be there for a couple episodes, so I was already pretty bummed about that. I think that the idea for me that I would get to have a flashback and it was the first flashback of any of the guards, it was like a dream come true. I had always wanted to find out more about him, where he came from, and I think the way they wrote it was really quite brilliant. ... In my mind, I think we're dealing with someone who essentially has some PTSD. ... For example, having a gun pulled out on a kid at a kitchen table. It's more than I think a logical decision-making process [for Bennett]. I think there's a certain visceral response he has to it that I use to justify his actions. And frankly, the differences between who he was - the more confident version we saw of him before - and then who we see in the present - a bit more anxious and jumpy, and I think more haunted than anything we see in the military flashbacks.