Behind the childlike stare and Bantu knots is an actress out to prove that like beauty, crazy is only skin deep.
There are some unsettling stigmas attached to the word “crazy” — mentally deranged, insane, unsound, impractical. It’s the last word any girl would list on a resume or use to describe herself in a job interview. On the other hand, sometimes crazy can be a good thing. Whether someone’s “crazy about you” or something’s “crazy good,” it’s all relative to the person using it.
Uzo Aduba and ‘cray cray’ have become synonymous in less than a year. As Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren of the Orange is the New Black lineup, she not only embodies one of the most compelling characters to command the small screen, she’s singlehandedly redefined the c-word: unpredictable, intense, and terrifyingly passionate. The cuckoo character’s allure isn’t just in her outrageous dialogue or manic antics; it’s in the woman bringing her to life (who appears to be quite the opposite—especially today.)
Despite the chaotic clamor of the lofty Brooklyn studio, Uzo retains a Zen-like quality on set of our cover shoot this sun-drenched Sunday afternoon. She patiently makes her way along the assembly-line setup of hair, make-up, and styling stations set up throughout the sprawling space, unbothered by all the primping and pawing. She’s so serene that it’s hard to imagine her hissing hysterics or pissing on the floor in a fit of rage or retaliation. Swapping her signature crop of twists for a curly frohawk and prison gear for evening wear, she’s a far cry from her fictional counterpart.
We could credit Uzo’s successful portrayal of Suzanne to many things. Perhaps it’s her extensive theater background. As part of the original revival cast of Godspell, it was her job not only to connect with a live audience, but to make it seem effortless. Nightly. Maybe it’s the genius writing of Jenji Kohan, who churned out enough one-liners to hold us over until next season. Or is it the chemistry between her and our gang of cover stars? However you justify it, Uzo has succeeded where many have failed—by becoming a focal point, not a punchline.