“I tend to play women who are intelligent and
confident, not these little naïve girls,” Laura Prepon tells me. “I
had moved out of my house when I was 15. Maybe it’s from that. I
don’t know. But it’s a compliment that people think I have my stuff
Fortunately for Prepon, art imitates life, and
vice-versa. The tall redhead we’ve loved for years (and in reruns)
on That 70s Show is turning her now-blonde head toward the
future: Netflix, that is. In the wake of Kevin Spacey’s
straight-to-Netflix megahit, House of Cards, comes Prepon
co-starring in a women-in-prison series, Orange Is the New Black.
“Netflix totally left us alone,” she says, “and we
pushed the envelope like you would not believe.”
Based on the prison memoir by Piper Kerman, the
series co-stars Jason Biggs, Kate Mulgrew and Taylor Schilling.
Prepon plays a drug smuggler caught and sent to the Big House. Be
sure to recognize her with this spoiler alert: her hair has been
dyed jet black.
“[My character] is this rockabilly international
drug mule,” she says. “I need black hair for that. People are not
going to recognize me in this role and it’s amazing. As an actor,
one of the cooler things is when people don’t know that it’s me.”
The series, which debuts this summer, is a
welcome-back for an actress we always admired for her gravity and
seamless confidence. As Donna on That 70s Show, she suffered
fools gladly and, with her arms folded, transcended the kitsch
cliché. Her best prep for that may have been her former career as a
“I was not a fan of it,” she says of the modeling
business, which came after her when she was 15. “I kind of stumbled
into it. I was really into sports and hanging out with my friends.
Modeling never even crossed my mind. Ever. Within months, I moved to
Milan by myself, with all the castings, all the cattle calls. When
you are 15-years old living in a foreign country by yourself, you
really have to take care of yourself.”
The bookings came easy, but the satisfaction was
“You’re really just a hanger for clothes,” she says.
“Some people don’t mind it. They love it. But for me personally, it
was just slowly chipping away at me. The essence of me – and all I
had to give – didn’t really matter. This is not me. This is not
what I want to do.”
Brighter skies beckoned, however. Modeling is how
she transitioned to acting. After a series of TV commercials (she
booked the very first commercial she auditioned for) came an
opportunity for a new Fox series called The Kids Are Alright,
later renamed That 70s Show. Prepon had just turned 18 and
had never acted before, yet she won the audition.
The series was an immediate hit and ran for eight
years, then forevermore in reruns.
“We were all so new,” she said of her young
co-stars, which included Topher Grace, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis.
“Danny Masterson was the only one who had done anything. None of us
knew what we were doing, but we were all so perfect for these
characters. All of us helped each other grow. We’re a family. We’re
still like family. Nobody knew what it was going to turn into, that
it was going to be this huge, amazing show. It’s so amazing to be
part of television history like that.”
To what does she owe the iconic status of the
“The chemistry of the characters,” she says. “That’s
what it’s all about. That’s what it all comes down to.”
Prepon, now all grown up, plays a woman about to
turn 30 in The Kitchen. With all due respect to Molly
Ringwald, this could be the worst cinematic birthday ever for
Prepon’s character, who finds out that her boyfriend (Bryan
Greenberg) is cheating on her – with her friends! As a topper, it
seems that her best friend is secretly in love with her. Thank
goodness cake and alcohol will be served.
On her own recent landmark birthday experience,
Prepon says, “People are nervous about turning 30. But I think about
all the experiences I’ve had thus far in my life and I was so
fortunate to have them. I cannot wait for what’s going to come in my
thirties. It’s going to be so cool. I just embrace it.”
Her experience with the film is already embraceable,
as her acting talents were tested and, in a way, vacuum-sealed.
“The entire movie not only takes place in one
location but in one room,” she says. “It was like a play, and the
whole thing is like a choreographed dance.”
The dance continues as Prepon continues to test her
limits. She, as usual, is ahead of the game. Even she admits that,
as a youth, she was listening to The Psychedelic Furs when her
friends were listening to New Kids on the Block.
“Even at a young age, I was always way beyond my
years,” she reflects. “I was always searching for something. I don’t
know what it was, but there was something out there for me. And when
I found acting, I was like, this is what I was looking for. I never
took drama classes, I was never in a theater group. None of my
friends acted. It didn’t even enter my mind.”
Seems like The Kid is alright.
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