By Rachel Sokol
From Hollis to Hollywood
Vicky Jeudy of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black is an actress, mentor, and a native New Yorker.
Although she plays an angry, brash inmate in the highly-applauded Netflix series Orange is the New Black, Vicky Jeudy insists she was a “terribly shy” kid.
“However,” she explains, “I always enjoyed acting and was always creative.”
Jeudy, who is Haitian, grew up in Hollis, Queens, graduated from St. John’s Preparatory school in Astoria and studied Theatre at SUNY New Paltz and in Manhattan, before deciding to compete in New York pageants.
“The pageant world taught me confidence and ways to not second guess myself,” says Jeudy. “Once, on stage, I whispered to my roommate the names of women I thought would ‘make the cut.’ And she replied, ‘How about you?’ I said ‘no,’ and seconds later my name was called. I was a Top 25 Miss New York semi-finalist and was shocked. Sometimes, we don’t give ourselves enough credit.”
For Jeudy, this was an important lesson to remember as she pursued her acting career.
Jeudy appeared in Law & Order: SVU and independent films before landing the role of Janae Watson—a promising track star who gets involved with the wrong guy, ultimately landing in prison—on OITNB.
The series was created by Jenji Kohan, the visionary behind the former Showtime series Weeds. The Netflix hit—called “smart, salty and outrageous” by The New Yorker—is adapted from a memoir by Piper Kerman, a Smith College graduate who served fifteen months in a Danbury, CT woman’s prison in the late 90’s. (The prison is called Litchfield in the series, and set in upstate New York) An ensemble of strong women and men play the inmates, family members, and prison staffers you love to hate, or hate to love.
“I went to SUNY Stony Brook recently and all the college students there watch the show, which is surprising and great at the same,” says Jeudy. “I hope they are learning the moral stories about how the decisions you make at a young age may affect you long term…”
Fans are so devoted to the show Jeudy said some took the day off from work to binge-watch Season Two, which debuted on Netflix in early June.
“I’m so grateful for the fans, and I can’t thank them enough,” she says. “I feel like this is a journey my castmates and I are embarking on together and I’m looking forward to what’s coming down the pipeline, creatively.”
So, for those who feel guilty about spending hours upon hours watching Orange…? Jeudy assures you it is fine.
“I binged on BBC America’s series Orphan Black; I watched Season Two yesterday,” she admits. “The show is awesome, it’s been my summer obsession and I love it.”
Jeudy remains hush-hush about her next creative venture, but hints she is playing a role nothing like Janae Watson. “It will be a surprise,” she promises.
As OITNB fans know well, Watson is a bit standoffish and bitter. Jeudy promises she is the complete opposite of her character, who “is dealing with anger because she was so hurt. I do not take Watson home with me; at the end of the day, she ‘stays’ on set,” she says of playing such a dramatic character. “In the moment, (playing Watson) I’m looking at the situation and giving myself over to it. Once you’re done shooting, you leave it and you walk away. Outside of OITNB, I’m back to being bubbly Vicky.”
Want proof? Just ask the skeptical fan Jeudy recently encountered.
“I was recently bike riding in Central Park a cute guy stopped me and he asked me for a picture. We were chatting and I took the picture in my pink headband and purple sneakers and he said, ‘Wow, you look so different and nice. I was expecting you to be like your character, all mad like ‘yo yo what’s going on…,’’” she laughs. “But no, that’s not me!”
This summer, Jeudy will be filming Season Three of OITNB in New York and looks forward to visiting friends in Atlanta and catching up with the teens she mentors in Manhattan.
“I’ve always loved teenagers. People write them off, but the teen years are a very critical time in their lives: it’s when they experience their first kiss, job, boyfriend, love…everything to them feels like ‘life or death,’ emotionally,’’ says Jeudy. “I look forward to sharing more moments with them.”
“I’ve also been juicing a lot this summer,” adds the fitness enthusiast. “But I’m also curious about pole-dancing classes here in the city. Why not? You can stay in shape and also learn something you can share with your future husband, right?!”
“But I don’t think I can use pole-dancing on the ‘OITNB’ set,’” she adds, laughing. “Ummm, it’s just not something I can see Watson doing, at all! But it sure looks like fun.”