A day on set includes… “a lot of singing! My ghetto dorm girls are Samira Wiley (Poussey), Danielle Brooks (Taystee), Adrienne Moore (Black Cindy) and Vicky Jeudy (Janae). There’s a lot of joking in the middle of filming, but we do take our work very seriously and do a lot of rehearsal at the top of the day. We usually go onto the set, practice the scene two or three times. And then we often choose to congregate in one person’s dressing room or in hair and makeup to work through the material some more.”

“We try to be really thorough in our storytelling. And I love that, because rehearsal time is my favorite part. We’ll start our day there, and you know, it is kind of ‘work hard play hard.’ So in between, there’s a lot of laughing and anecdotes. We love to sing! I don’t know why we always end up singing. Someone will start it off, and we break into four- or five-part harmony. The playlist can be anything from gospel music to 1990s R&B to current Mumford & Sons and opera.”

My first trip to the penitentiary was… “scary! I was either 16 or 17 years old. I can’t imagine them taking us in eighth grade, because the memory feels so fresh in my brain. I remember the jumpsuits were green. We went to a men’s minimum-security prison—Norfolk County Jail. We saw cells, and we went to the main room and saw the yard. We sat with some of the inmates, who were all chained together, and they were talking to us about their stories. I recall distinctly that there was a line painted on the floor that we were meant to follow. The warden was very stern. I was like, “This program works! I am getting the message and lesson and I will abide.” I won’t forget that.”

My dream role… “may not have been written yet, in all sincerity. But in the theater, I’m desperate to be old enough to play Lady Macbeth. I can’t wait to do that. And I would love if they made something about Nina Simone. She’s amazing. She has an incredible story.”

You should be reading… Ruby by Cynthia Bond from Oprah’s Book Club. I finished it earlier this year, and it was exceptional. It was really incredible and very well written. It went into the belly of the beast, and I don’t know if I’m fully out of it yet. You should also check out The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis and Lean In by Sheryl Sanberg.”

I can cook… “some mean Nigerian food. That’s probably one of my favorite foods. I make a pretty good salmon, too—a lemon salmon. And I make a nice marinated black cod.”