Today is a really big day for Alysia Reiner and the cast of Orange is the New Black. The fifth season of Netflix’s hit show premieres today, and we all get to see what has happened to Fig over the last couple of years and what’s going on with everything else in the highly anticipated return of this series. On top of OITNB, Alysia also stars on the hilarious FX comedy series Better Things, which just wrapped filming its second season. With both shows, producing her third movie, being a mom and all, it’s amazing she even had time to chat with us here at Manhattan Digest, but she graciously did and we got to know so much about this talented actress, humanitarian and as her daughter knows her as- badass.
Alysia sat down with us to discuss both shows, which character she relates more to in either Fig or Sunny, her reasons for being a staunch supporter of saving the environment and women’s rights, and so much more. Take a look!
The new season of Orange is the New Black comes out today! What can you tell our readers about the new season?
I think it is so exciting that it’s premiering today! A very cool concept about the show is how time slows and really experiencing that. I think there is a really interesting metaphor there, about time in prison, where how time actually does feel. I am outrageously happy to be part of it, because the end of Season 2 you really weren’t sure what happened to Fig! If I told you any more than that, you would be so disappointed! You don’t want to know how I come back, you want to SEE how I come back!
What do you like the best and the worst about playing Fig on the show?
I think the best is the freedom to be the “not so nice” human, and the worst is playing this “not so nice” human and sort of having to deal with that. I always tease that my daughter used the word “badass” very early in her young life, because I would be on the subway and people would say “my god you are such a badass!”
It has taught me so much about standing up for myself and really being this very strong woman that I, Alysia, usually am not. The opportunity to find parts of myself that are not my daily experience of the world and also the ability to see things from a different perspective is very exciting as an actor. To see it in a different person’s eyes. It is important in the moment and history, and these beliefs are so not mine but they are really enlightening. She’s taught me a great deal in her experience in the world and opened my eyes in a big, big way.
On the flip side, you have your other show “Better Things”, which you just wrapped filming season two of! What was the first season like for you and what can we expect for the second season?
So Better Things was the first time for me playing the best friend, and it is so different from Fig and that is such a joy when you get to play such different things at the same time. I am so, so thrilled about it. I would say that in season 2, we just explore all of the relationships a lot more. At the end of season one, you are not quite sure what is going to happen with this marriage, and we will definitely be exploring that this season.
Do you find that you relate more to Sunny or Fig in real life?
Oh my god… SUNNY! It is such a joy playing Sunny… I mean, even her name! I love how she takes care of her friend and I really love playing that character.
Doing two shows at once is pretty admirable! How do you juggle it all and do it seamlessly?
You don’t! (Laughter). There is no such thing as seamless. For me, the biggest challenge is also being a mom and the travel of it all, because we shoot on two different coasts. The good news is for the most part that they haven’t shot at the same time. I think the other thing is to try to be the woman you want to be in the world, particularly in the world at this moment.
It is a blessing beyond belief, and you thank your representation a big deal because they are always working hard to do their best to make sure everything works. Sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes you want to add a third thing and it just doesn’t work out. Right now, I’m shooting on “Younger”, and I got to fit in an episode of “Odd Mom Out” and “Broad City”. As an actor, you want to play as many different people as you can, and it really is play and going on an adventure every time you get to do a new character.
I know you are a huge advocate for women’s rights and the environments. What inspired you to be so passionate about both?
In reference to both, it is hard for me because it is so obvious. I feel it is in my DNA. If we don’t protect the environment, then there is no Planet Earth. There is no place for our future generations to live, it is just the truth of it at this moment. And then in reference to women’s rights, I think I grew up believing that these are human rights and anything else doesn’t really make sense. So, creating as many opportunities for women as possible is so deeply important to me. I want every woman on this planet to feel valued and we still have so much work to do still in order to make that happen.
So Manhattan Digest is a lot about our city’s culture and what makes it still so unique to this day. Given that, do you have a favorite restaurant here in Manhattan and why?
Oh my goodness, I have way too many favorites because I love so many places! There are so many different restaurants that have so many different meanings to me. I love Red Rooster, which is around the corner from us because it was the first place my daughter was a regular. I love The Rainbow Room too, it is so beautiful and I have so many memories from there. One of the boys I was dating back in high school took me there, and I remember having one of their famous drinks where they burned the orange peel and I thought it was just so cool. It is all about memories for me when it comes to my favorite restaurants here in Manhattan.
In conclusion, what advice would you give to anyone who wants to have longevity and success in their careers similar to what you are experiencing yourself?
Number one for me is finding happiness outside of your career. Because, you can’t make it all dependent on that. Find your joy in a lot of different places. Number two- find ways to create your own work. I am lucky to have done that a bunch of different ways. When I was first starting out I created a reading series and produced a short film when I lost my dad, and for me that thing of creating your own work has always been about service. Find stories that you want to be of service to, or people you want to serve. In reference to my first film that I produced, it was about my father who had cancer and how can I help people with grieving talk about their feelings more, so they don’t feel so alone. With Equity, it was about how do I help women, and now I am starting my third film and it’s about how to do we achieve the way we talk and consider women as mothers, and create more opportunities for women to redefine their role and relate the value of motherhood more and value women who choose to not be mothers at the same time.