Uzo Aduba, who plays Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren on "Orange is The New Black," had decided she was going to quit acting when a fateful telephone call changed her destiny.
"The day I found out that I got ‘Orange’ I actually had given up acting," Uzo revealed to Billy Bush and Kit Hoover on Monday's Access Hollywood Live. "I had been trying to do it, and was working in New York doing theater, I had been spending the summer – my first time trying – to do film and television – and it was hard, and I was like, 'Maybe I’m not supposed to be this,' you know? And then I got home, and about an hour after that I found out I got this job."
The actress – now nominated for an Emmy for her work on the Netflix hit series – had auditioned for "OITNB" a month prior without hearing a thing, then had a solid audition for "Blue Bloods," but thought she had blown her chance after she showed up late.
"I had gotten completely lost in Brooklyn somewhere, and then I had my audition and I was like, ‘I think that went OK, but I bet you’re not going to get it because you were 20 minutes late, because you were lost,'" she said, explaining what led her to want to give up acting. "And I thought, ‘That’s a sign, you’re not supposed to be doing this – find something else to do,’ and I was boo-hooing all the way home.
"Then when I got home, true story, I got the phone call that I got ‘Orange is The New Black!'" she added.
The actress didn't initially audition for Litchfield's favorite pie-thrower, so she was a bit surprised when she was offered the role of Suzanne. However, after familiarizing herself with the material, she knew it was the role for her.
"I always think I have like, smaller eyes. So I was like, 'What in my audition made them think that I have crazy eyes?'" she laughed. "[But] I was really thankful. When I met the part, I was like, ‘That feels right.'"
Uzo said "Crazy Eyes" was described in the script as "innocent like a child, except children aren’t scary."
"I was like, oh, I know who this woman is – she’s really passionate about life and everything about her is just a tad off," she said. "And I just had this vision in my mind of a child, with like a pacifier and a sledgehammer."
As for her Emmy nom, Uzo said she is beyond grateful, as are her fellow nominees (Kate Mulgrew, Taylor Schilling, Laverne Cox and Natasha Lyonne).
"We’re in heaven… I’m just really thankful that people are loving the show like we love it and love making it," she said. "It’s overwhelming."
"Orange is The New Black" is available now on Netflix.
-- Erin O'Sullivan