Will orange ever really be the new black? Probably not, but that’s not stopping the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” from being a hit. One of its lead characters is played by Dascha Polanco, who stars as pregnant inmate Dayanara Diaz. In prison with her mother, Dayanara juggles her forbidden love affair with prison guard John Bennett (played by Matt McGorry), while attempting to end the career of “Pornstache” Mendez (played by Pablo Schreiber) by leading him to believe he is the father. In the midst of filming the third season, which was picked up in May, Polanco talked to WWD about what to expect in Friday’s premiere of OITNB’s second season, how she’s dealing with newfound fame, how the cast members really feel about each other, and why she cried while attending a party with Demi Lovato.
WWD: What can we expect this season?
DASCHA POLANCO: Season 2 we’re seeing the back story and focusing more on the other characters—and Dayanara and her pregnancy with the drama between Pornstache and Bennett. The audience are going to be really, really happy. They’ve done the unexpected writing to switch stories and it’s getting better and better.
WWD: How is it to be a part of an ensemble where every character is so well written, played by actors who are so strong?
DP: Thank you for that. It feels like we’re about to take over the world. It’s empowering and comfortable you feel at home. There’s a big difference when you’re working in a situation where you’re the outcast and when you’re working in a situation where you actually fit in and feel like a family. It feels like we support one another and we’re ready to raise the bar to the next level. You try to live in every moment.
WWD: When did you find out when you were greenlit for a new season?
DP: Back in May, I think? It wasn’t so long ago that we started negotiations then. We were like, wait, what? I didn’t think I was even going to be in season one! I don’t think we were prepared for the first half of the show; I didn’t predict anything that’s going on. It’s surreal and it takes a moment to take everything in. Season two occurred and now there’s so much pressure to keep the audience entertained. Then there’s season three and we’re, like, not only are the audience content but Netflix and Lionsgate and everyone is supportive of the entire show. There are moments when you’re like, wow, I’m on a hit show and a working actor. It’s overwhelming at times.
WWD: How has your life changed since you signed onto this show?
DP: It’s been very quick compared to many different actors. I have a great team behind me. To believe in yourself everyday is important but to have a team behind you, that pushes you forward and makes you believe it’s a moment of, this is what you’re supposed to do for a living and it pushes me. I walk and at the very beginning people are like, “oh, we probably went to the same high school,” or “Oh, we live in the same neighborhood.” But now I know when people are looking at me. They know it’s Dayanara and are like, “Oh my God, I love you!” and they apologize for stopping me. I’m always like, “Girl you better bother me now because when I’m traveling the world filming all these movies you’re not going to have easy access to me so you better enjoy me now!” (laughs) There’s so many times when you think there are so many people who want your position. I always remind myself that.
WWD: You guys are seen on social media traveling with each other, shopping together, riding bikes together. Is this just for show, or do you really enjoy being around each other?
DP: Actually it’s just for show—everyone just fights with one another! (laughs) We really enjoy each other’s presence. Last night I was with Jackie (Cruz), Diane (Guerrero) and Laura (Prepon). There are moments when you’ll see me with Uzo (Aduba) and Danielle (Brooks), or someone else. We enjoy each other’s presence. Although everyone has their own thing and likes their own things to do, on set we are happy to see each other. Sometimes we are late to get on set because we’re chatting in our big old room. We’re all in a place where we’re like, this doesn’t happen, we need to enjoy what we have.
WWD: Not too much estrogen going around?
DP: Hello? We’re all on the same cycle, you know that moment!
WWD: What’s a fond moment from Season 2 that’s the most vivid to you?
DP: For Season 2 since I’m pregnant with a belly there are moments when I would leave my belly with the buttons open. I’d have to go to the restroom and be like, really, I have to wear that it has like twenty buttons and it takes me forever! So everyone would always crack up and everyone would play with my belly. We’d make jokes out of the seriousness of it.
WWD: What’s your association with fashion?
DP: I grew up around fashion with my family. They always wore high-end Parisian designers. Growing up it was always the Yves Saint Laurent and the satin fabrics, and my mom with her big Eighties hair. Within me I love fashion and I love fashion week, and when it’s red carpet I love taking risks. Even if I am curvaceous I take risks. I love color. I always tell them why do I always get black clothes [from designers] I’m ready for the color, the prints! Hello? I can look like a zebra on the carpet and also I’ll act like one too! I am not afraid to bring it. I love Rihanna’s style. I love risk takers and I love people who are outside the box. She has the masculine meets feminine style. I’m about the outside the usual style. I like to shop
WWD: Do you have a stylist?
DP: I don’t. But I’m looking for one. I’m taking it to the next level.
WWD: Has it always been easy for you to talk to people?
DP: It’s always been easy to talk to people but not it’s easy for me to talk to celebrities and media because I’m in that circle. I’m never shy, I could talk to Obama and be like, “Hey Obama, what’s up?” The ambiance changes and I have more access to different individuals. I went to the Cosmopolitan For Latinas’ Fun Fearless Latina of the Year Award when they were presenting Demi Lovato for an award. And the singer Thalia was there. I grew up watching her and recording her telenovelas and reenacting them. The whole streak in the hair thing I have is because of her. When I saw her yesterday I did not know she was going to be there. I was teary-eyed because I was nostalgic and she was so nice. It was like a moment where I was like, I cannot believe I’m in the same room sharing the same experience with this woman. It was a moment when I was like this is why I love what I do aside from my craft.