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Not My Job: We Quiz Uzo Aduba, Who Plays 'Crazy Eyes,' About Private Eyes


One of the reasons Netflix is now the biggest name in TV was the success of one of their first original series, "Orange Is The New Black." And one of the reasons that show was a success was Uzo Aduba, a sophisticated actor who played an absolute lunatic named Crazy Eyes.

BILL KURTIS: Uzo joined us in August and told us how close she came to quitting the whole business.


UZO ADUBA: I started auditioning for film and television and was getting a lot of noes. And on the day I auditioned for this one particular job that I thought, you know, I'd had a good audition for, I was crazy late. Like, if anybody's an actor in the room, you know you're not supposed to be late for an audition, and I was.

And I thought that was God, the universe telling me that I was not supposed to do this and that I was in the wrong business and all these noes were signs that I was supposed to be somewhere else with my life.

And so I went home, and I decided that I was going to quit. And I said, I'm going to order some sushi. I'm going to order some wine. And this is a celebration. And I'm going to go and become a lawyer.


ADUBA: And, yeah, I got the phone call from my agent that night. And they said that you booked this job. And I said, OK. And I said, what's it called? And they said "Orange Is The New Black." And there it is.

SAGAL: There it is. And then...


SAGAL: And pretty much, lucky everybody. And did they - we also read that you had auditioned for one part, and they said, no, no, no, we don't want you for that part. We want you for this other person named Crazy Eyes.



ADUBA: I auditioned for this part of Janae, who was a track star and - because I ran track in college. And my agent and my managers thought, like, oh, that makes sense. She should audition for this. And so I'm always, like, curious what in my audition felt like, she's not right for the track star, but she should definitely play this crazy girl.


SAGAL: Yeah. Did that worry you, because, I mean, they were like, you know, there's something about that person - we like her, but we're worried she might kill us - hey.

ADUBA: Exactly.

SAGAL: I'm going to confess something to you. I had not been watching "Orange Is The New Black." So I started watching it just recently.


SAGAL: And you appeared. And I swear to you - I mean, I used to be in the theater. I know this is a mistake. But I was, like, watching you, going, oh, how interesting. For that role, they found an actual crazy person.


ADUBA: You wouldn't be the first.

SAGAL: I'm sure.


SAGAL: So I have two questions. When people encounter you, do they assume that you are, in fact, kind of crazy?

ADUBA: Absolutely.

SAGAL: Yeah. Do you ever, like, indulge that?

ADUBA: (Laughter) It's the best way to get out of a bill, I tell you, you know?

SAGAL: I can imagine.

ADUBA: No, I usually don't because it's like, I'm on the subway, and I'm like, this is probably not the place, nor the time.


SAGAL: Well, we talked to Edie Falco, who, of course, was on "The Sopranos." And she talked about how she would sometimes hear from actual mob families about how much they appreciated it. So do you ever hear from people who are in prison or who have been in prison talking about your depiction of their lives?

ADUBA: Yeah, we've definitely heard from people who have been in prison - none who are incarcerated. But, like, Natasha told us this story - who plays Nicky Nichols - she told us the story once of running into a judge who was like, I have seen all of those characters come through my court. All of you are so real.


SAGAL: We were looking - you mentioned that you're a trained singer, right?


SAGAL: Yes. I don't know if this is true, and I want to hear it. You were in the live TV version of "The Wiz," playing Glinda, the Good Witch.


SAGAL: And we read that you beat out Beyonce for that role.

ADUBA: (Laughter) What's your question?


SAGAL: Is it true? Are you the first person in the history of the world to deny Beyonce something she wanted?

ADUBA: I will - no comment, no. No is the answer to that question. There's no even thought to that. No.


SAGAL: I got to ask you about one last thing, which is perhaps the role you might eventually be best-known for. In "My Little Pony: The Movie," what exactly was your role in that film?

ADUBA: I played Queen Novo.

SAGAL: Oh, wow.

ADUBA: Queen - yeah, Queen of the Hippogriffs.

SAGAL: Did you have a cutie mark of any kind?

ADUBA: Did I have a what?

SAGAL: A cutie mark.

ADUBA: I - that's a good - you are very familiar with "My Little Pony."


ADAM BURKE: Is it also true you beat out Beyonce for this "My Little Pony" role?


SAGAL: Beyonce's out there going...

ADUBA: Rumor has it.

SAGAL: ...This woman keeps getting in my way. Uzo Aduba, we are delighted to talk to you and honored, in fact. But we have asked you here to play a game we're calling...

KURTIS: Private eyes - they're watching you.


SAGAL: So you play the character known as Crazy Eyes. So we thought we'd ask you about private eyes. Answer two out of three questions about private investigators, and you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - the voice of their choice on their voicemail. Bill, who is Uzo Aduba playing for today?

KURTIS: Ian Doherty of Adams County, Colo.

SAGAL: OK, so here's your first question, Uzo.


SAGAL: Most private investigators thrive on anonymity - but not detective Jay J. Armes, who became so famous he even had his own action figure and a guest spot on "Hawaii 5-0." What sets Jay J. Armes apart from other PIs - A, he's a goldendoodle; B, he has two hooks for hands or, C, he's an AI program running on an iPad mini?

ADUBA: Oh, my gosh, I'm going to guess B.

ADUBA: You're going to go B, that he had two hooks for hands. You're right.


ADUBA: Wait. What was A - yay.


SAGAL: Jay J. Armes lost his hands in a childhood dynamite accident.


SAGAL: And he went on to great fame in the '70s as a private investigator and even got a role as an actor. That's very good. Next question - according to a posting on the private investigator board on Reddit, a real-life private investigator was once paid real money to do what - A, discover the meaning of life; B, follow a guy's cat around and see what it does all day...

SAGAL: ...Or C, find the lost Ark of the Covenant?


SAGAL: Oof, indeed.

ADUBA: These are intense. I am going to say, OK, B. I'm going to go with B.

SAGAL: You're right. It was B.


SAGAL: His report was that it, quote, "just walks around the streets, licks itself and climbs trees."


SAGAL: All right. You can be perfect. Your last question - Bill quoted the song when we began this. Bill quoted the song "Private Eyes," one of the biggest hits by the pop duo Hall and Oates. How did Daryl Hall and John Oates meet to start their legendary partnership? Was it, A, Hall illegally tackled Oates during the 1975 Eastern Regional Ultimate Frisbee championship game; B, they met in the service elevator of the Adelphi Ballroom in Philadelphia while fleeing a gunfight between two rival gangs or, C, Oates was getting his hair done, saw a picture of Hall taped to the mirror and said, make me look like that guy?

ADUBA: Oh, gosh. OK. B is winning it.

SAGAL: B was they met in the service elevator of the Adelphi Ballroom in Philadelphia while fleeing a gunfight between two rival gangs.

ADUBA: I don't feel - that sounds too Michael Jackson "Beat It" to me. I don't feel like that's real.


ADUBA: I'm going to go with A.

SAGAL: You're gonna go with A. They...

ADUBA: Yay. Is it A?


SAGAL: I'm beginning to see how you got the role.


SAGAL: It was actually B. I'm afraid they did...


SAGAL: Maybe that's where Michael Jackson got the idea. They were young. They were at Temple University. They were at Battle of the Bands at the ballroom. A gang fight broke out. And they ran into the service elevator, looked at each other, and musical history was made.


SAGAL: Bill, how did Uzo Aduba do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Two out of 3 - she questioned her instincts.

SAGAL: Never do that. Never do that. Congratulations. Uzo Aduba plays Crazy Eyes on Netflix's "Orange Is The New Black." Season six is out now. Uzo Aduba, thank you so much for joining us - what a pleasure to talk to you.


ADUBA: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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