“Orange is the New Black” star Taryn Manning lives a double-life: actor by day, musician by night. “I’ve done music for a long time—not a lot of people maybe know that,” she tells GO. “Even before my first movie, I was in a band. I never talked about my acting to propel my music or vice versa. And I don’t know why—I just kept really strict about it, within myself.”
But now the singer and DJ says that since “OITNB” has “touched so many people,” she’s happy to see them coming out to her musical events—even if it’s just to see their favorite character in real life. “If they’re coming up to me saying ‘It’s Pennsatucky!’ I don’t trip at all,” she says. “Next thing you know, I’ll glance over and they’re dancing and actually enjoying themselves.”
Manning will be spinning for hundreds of fans as part of NYC Pride’s Teaze women’s event on Saturday, June 24th at The DL (95 Delancey St.) Having just dropped a new single, “Gltchlfe,” from her forthcoming EP, Manning says she might serve up some of her own tracks, but mostly wants to play “unifying” music with positive messages, songs that have themes of tearing down walls.
“However you want to interpret that,” Manning says. “Meaning the walls in our hearts, the walls that are being threatened upon us, the walls that have come down.”
At Teaze, Manning will spin some “old school jams,” she reveals, as well as Britney Spears and “definitely Rihanna.” Manning knows what the women want to hear, just like she knows what they want to see. And with the new season of “Orange is the New Black” released just a few weeks before her DJ gig at Pride, she shared that while Pennsatucky’s character arc may seem less robust this time around, it’s merely because the show is overflowing with so many great stories.
“As individuals, we’ve gone up to [creator] Jenji [Kohan] and been like ‘Why aren’t we in [this season] a lot? What’s going on?’ Which you don’t want to do, but every now and then you break, and you’re like ‘Are we cool?’” Manning says with a laugh. “Jenji has a beautiful and eloquent way of explaining it to me, which, by the way, resonated. It was like, ‘You’ve gotta see the show as an ocean and not just a stream. The bigger picture,’ rather than being myopic about me and my character.
It’s a whole story we’re trying to tell you guys. It’s an ocean of entangled beautiful messes and triumphs and fucking tragedies. So it would be very selfish to say anything just about [Pennsatucky] because it’s a whole picture, a bigger picture.”
One castmate she did miss this season, though, was Poussey, played by out actress Samira Wiley. (“The woman has gone on to do such incredible things,” Manning says. “She’s so supported and so happy. She recently got married, and they’re just so in love!”) Poussey’s untimely passing at the end of Season 4 left viewers shaken, but Manning understands why the writers made the decision to kill off such a beloved character.
“Of course it was sad, but we’re making TV. It was effective, right? That was the point,” Manning says. “[The writers] must’ve made that choice because it would have the strong impact that it did, so I respect it. It’s a shame, but as actors, we don’t have stable jobs, if you think about it. We don’t know when the next job’s coming in a sense. So, if anything, it’s like, ‘Well, goddammit, if they could kill her off, we all must be going down!”
But Manning is ready and willing to stick with the queer-inclusive show until the end—even if it means her music has to be relegated to weekends.
“One day it will come to an end because it has to, right?” Manning says. “Like Jay-Z said, ‘Grand opening, grand closing!’ The thing is we don’t really know what they write for us, so we don’t know really what the heck’s gonna happen. They keep us tortured like we are in jail—watch who’s coming from behind, like ‘What’s going on?’” she laughs. “It’s such a cool job; it’s so much fun. We have a blast.”