It seems like all the ladies of the Litchfield correctional facility were having a tough year on Season 3 of “Orange Is the New Black.” But no one had it worse than Laverne Cox’s character, Sophia.
[SPOILER ALERT: The remainder of this article will spoil the later episodes of “Orange Is the New Black” Season 3.]
Sophia made a splash in Season 1 as the prison’s resident hairstylist. Unfortunately, her presence was very light in Season 2, but the latest season of the Netflix comedy series more than made up for that by giving Cox's character one of the most intense and important storylines the show has tackled so far.
"I'm just so excited for people to see this season,” Cox told E! Online. “It was my favorite to shoot and I think [Jenji Kohan, the show's creator] raised her game and every single actress on the show has raised her game... My storyline this season got really real, kind of too real in some ways, but that is the brilliance of the art form that we get to do."
After a tiff with fellow inmate Gloria (Selenis Leyva), the Spanish ladies turn the prison against the transgender Sophia, arguing that a man shouldn’t be allowed to reside in the same prison as the rest of the inmates. That escalated into a violent hate crime in which a group of inmates jump Sophia in her salon. Speaking to Vulture, the 31-year-old actress revealed that the scene really resonated with her as violence against transgender women is a subject she takes very seriously.
“It was really hard to be in those circumstances knowing that so many trans people are fighting for their lives. Even speaking about the moment where Sophia is attacked and she’s fighting for her life, I can’t help but think of all the trans people all over the world who, on a daily basis, are fighting for our lives, to have a sense of dignity, and to survive,” she said. “And the trauma associated with that is very real for me, and I can’t help but think about the collective trauma of our community as trans people and trans people of color.”
Sophia’s struggles didn’t end with getting jumped. After the prison population turned on her, she was forced to hold her head up high as the prison system hurt her even worse. The company that bought the prison though it was a good idea to send her to solitary confinement for her “own protection.” In reality, they were hoping to sweat her out in the hopes she would drop her demands for better guard training to prevent further attacks.
“We were just very aware of how transgender people in prison are often placed in solitary confinement — sorry. Wow, this is really bothering me,” the actress told The Hollywood Reporter of the backlash Sophia received. “And the rationale is that it is for our protection, that it's to protect us. And the reality is this injustice happens every single day to trans people.”
Cox is currently working on a documentary about CeCe McDonald, a young transgender woman who was subjected to solitary confinement in a men’s prison, allegedly for her own protection. Those interested in the film can check out the IndieGogo campaign, which is in its last round of seeking post-production funding.