Watch Out For “Orange is the New Black” Actress Rebecca Knox
“Orange is the New Black” actress Rebecca Knox should be anything but worried about the Netflix series’ cancellation.
With her own screenplay in production, another being written with a fellow cast member, and her family’s mezcal business to take care of, Rebecca has only begun to breach the surface.
A Long Island, New York City native and child of both Columbian and German immigrants, Rebecca’s upbringing and path to becoming an actress has been anything but linear.
“I didn’t really want to be an actor when I was a kid,” Rebecca said. “But my mom really wanted me to be an actor. She was putting me in theatre camp and I hated it. I was super shy and I didn’t want to be on stage, it gave me anxiety to perform.”
At 25-years-old, Rebecca nabbed a part on the latest season of “Orange is the New Black,” the Netflix original that tells the dark (and sometimes comedic) stories of female convicts in prison. Rebecca plays Tina Swope, one of Daddy’s—a female leader of a prison gang—drug-addicted “girls.” Her character, who makes her debut in season six, is new to the series but is set to continue to season seven, the show’s final season, which is currently being filmed.
Although “Orange is the New Black” has its farcical moments, it’s strength as a comic-drama rests in the verisimilitude of the trauma and anguish common among incarcerated women. Rebecca finds her character emblematic of a larger narrative within current-day America.
“[Addiction] is a huge epidemic in this country,” Rebecca said. “In the process of studying Tina, I learned about [drugs] and their presence in prisons, and the presence of contraband in prisons in general. I mean, it’s mind-blowing and I’m grateful to portray a character that is so relevant right now.”
“I’m really happy to work,” Rebecca said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s TV or film. I mean even theatre I hope I get to do at some point.”
Before Rebecca landed any of these gigs, however, her heart was in music. She began working in the music industry in high school, under Ba Da Bing Records and then starting her own record label at 18-years-old, JetBoy Records.
“All of a sudden I got all of everything that I wanted and I realized that I wasn’t happy,” she said. “I didn’t want to be a manager behind the talent.”
So she changed her path, and ended up enrolling in the Lee Strasburg Theatre and Film Institute, where she enrolled in a range of acting classes and overcame her stage fright, eventually leading her to crush it as Tina Swope.
On set at “Orange Is The New Black,” Rebecca found role models in all of the women around her, namely Emily Tarver, who plays Officer McCullough on the show, as well as Vicci Martinez, who plays Daddy, whom she called her closest friends. Rebecca is currently working with Emily on a new screenplay.
“[Emily] has been a guiding light to me in general…in my career and helping me with contracts; she just knows what she’s talking about,” Rebecca said. “She’s definitely taken me under her wing. And then her girlfriend [Vicci]. They have just been like my family. I’m so grateful to them.”
While acting takes up most of Rebecca’s time, she still finds moments to fulfill her new found passion: writing. She finished her first screenplay, “Cavity,” which she said is currently in development as a feature-length film.
“It’s a spooky retelling of a relationship I had,” Rebecca said. “It’s about my experience with abuse, and it’s a really intense story. A lot of people are like, ‘I don’t know if we should do this,’ and you know, I just knew that I had to.”
She said that writing the screenplay was a “cathartic” way to deal with the trauma of her past.
“Getting it down on paper, it gave me a new understanding of who I was at the time. Even though I’m a little scared to be that vulnerable and show people, knowing that it is a story of mine specifically, I think it’s also important to share these kinds of stories so other people who maybe are experiencing it, or have, don’t feel so alone.”
Let’s be clear, she’s not making this feature out of revenge.
“I think through writing my screenplay, the most important thing was that it was my experience, and my experience has nothing to do with the other person,” Rebecca said. “I don’t have anger toward that person now. I think it’s that I have more of an understanding of that person.”
Not only is Rebecca a huge advocate of therapy, but she also has practiced Vedic meditation—which consists of mantras, focusing on breathing, and visualization—for four years.
“Sometimes I’ll do a mantra for 20 minutes, and I sit in a quiet dark place,” Rebecca said.
It might surprise some, but Rebecca says she is “fortunate” to have gone through what she’s experienced. As for what that experience is exactly, you’ll have to wait for “Cavity” to see for yourself.