By Samantha Highfill
July 10, 2014 at 02:54 PM EDT
Allen Berezovsky/WireImage

When the 2014 Emmy nominations were announced Thursday morning, Uzo Aduba was sitting in traffic. But after a phone call from her rep, the Orange is the New Black star realized that she had just earned her first ever Emmy nomination for her work as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren in the show’s first season. EW caught up with Aduba right after she got the news.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First of all, congratulations!

UZO ADUBA: Oh my goodness, thank you so much!

So where were you when you found out this morning?

I was in traffic. [Laughs] I was in traffic and, true story, I just happened to look down and see my phone ringing and I was like, “Oh it’s my publicist, let me pick up the phone.” I don’t know how long it was ringing because my ear buds were in, and I picked it up, and she and my manager told me. I was like, “Are you kidding?” I couldn’t stop saying, “Are you joking?” And they were like, “We would not joke about this.”

Well, that makes dealing with traffic a lot easier, I would imagine.

Oh my goodness. I could have sat in traffic all day. [Laughs]

Suzanne is such a great character, but when you took on this role, did you ever imagine it would give you these opportunities?

Samantha, the answer is a very short one, and it’s “no.” Who was I talking to just yesterday? I’m trying to remember where I was, and I was saying just that to somebody. They were asking me, “What about tomorrow?” I said, “The fact that I’m even having this conversation right now feels so out of body.” And I’m not trying to be more humble about it. The truth about it is, at no point in time when we were making this did this ever enter my mind. All I wanted to do was to tell a good story. That was it. First of all, I was just happy that I booked a TV show. I’d never done that before. [Laughs] I’d only started trying for TV and film that summer, so to have done that, I thought “Wow, that’s amazing.” I was really excited for that, and then when I was doing it all, I really was interested in telling a good story and holding it firmly, and it’s still actually true. Where I work from, it’s really trying to hold as firmly to the truth and integrity of Suzanne and to fight as hard as I can for her every day. So no, just simply, no.

What was your favorite scene or moment in filming?

From season one, I mean, I had two favorite scenes. The first one I had was I love when she wrote the poem for Piper: “Before I met you, the sun was like a yellow grape.” I loved it for a couple reasons. I remember getting that script and really dissecting it, because she had so many different pieces and layers to her from that scene, to then, we went over to the pie throwing scene, and we got to see these two sides of her—of what she would do for love. She would write poetry for love, and I remember just being at home really trying to break down those lines and break down that poem and trying to figure out, “What does a yellow grape feel like? What’s it supposed to mean when she says that?” [Laughs] And really trying to get inside the head of this woman, and then going all the way to the polar extreme of “I will cut you. I will cut you, bitch.” That scene felt like such an exciting exercise for intensity and speed and acceleration, because I think there were only like three or four lines. I wanna say [there were] maybe three lines exchanged between myself and Laura [Prepon] before we got to “I will cut you. I will cut you, bitch.” And I just remember thinking that’s where I learned who Crazy Eyes is, and why they call her that. They call her that because it’s out of nowhere. And I remember thinking, “What an exciting challenge to try to, in these three lines, go from zero to 60 and then right back down to zero like nothing even happened.”

Was that the episode that you submitted?

That was the episode that they submitted.

Looking forward, is there anything you’d love to explore with Suzanne in season 3?

That’s a good question. I would even broaden it past season 3 just for the person, Suzanne, and the Suzannes in the world. I would love for her to know her worth, to stop seeking outside of herself. Because that hasn’t really worked out for her. [Laughs] I would love for her to know, rather than to seek, love, to know it inside her that she is enough.

Final question: If you could give any show, past or present, an Emmy purely because you love it, what show would it be?

The Wire.

Good choice!

I was ready for that question. Next question, The Wire. [Laughs]

That’s the perfect note to end on. I’m sure you will, but have a great rest of your day.

Traffic doesn’t look so bad today.

Jenji Kohan’s absorbing ensemble dramedy, based on Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name, takes viewers inside the walls of Litchfield, a minimum security women’s prison where nothing’s as simple as it seems—especially the inmates.
  • TV Show
  • 6
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