Interview: Lea DeLaria

28 May 2018

Lea DeLaria, most famously known as Big Boo from Orange Is The New Black, joins journalist Silvi Vann-Wall to talk about her upcoming show at the Melbourne Recital Centre. You can listen to the interview here.

The show, which promises to be a night of boundary-pushing comedy and bombastic jazz, is called Lea DeLaria Live On Stage, and is in Melbourne on June 7th—One Night Only!



Hi there, am I speaking to Lea?

You are Silvi, how are you doing?

I’m good thank you. How are you?

Very good, thank you.

That’s good to hear. Now, Lea, I do have a burning question, that lots of people are asking me to ask you, and I’m interested too. Where can I get a pair of these Fuck Trump slippers that I see you wearing on your Instagram?

You can order them from Jake Meusser.

Oh, fantastic.

It’s J A K E M E U S S E R. He’s a little bespoke tailor on Christopher Street, and he makes all of my clothes.

Oh, fantastic. I can’t wait. They’re so fabulous.

Thank you. I love them. I love them.

And I also hear it’s your birthday soon. Happy Birthday.

Thank you, it’s my birthday a week from today, I turn 60.

Wow, that’s such a milestone. Do you feel like you’ve learned anything now that you’re 60? Do you feel wiser?

Do I feel wiser?


Girl, have you ever seen me talk? No, I don’t feel wiser. I keep making the same, I keep making the same fucking mistake over and over, and over again. That’s the definition of insanity. No, I don’t feel wiser.

Great. Well, it’s good to know there’s some consistency.

Oh, yeah. No, no, no, Not me, honey. I’m too busy shaking things up to try to be calm and wise about life.

Great. I love that. That’s such a good philosophy.


Tell me about the show that’s coming to the Melbourne Recital Centre, it sounds fantastic. How was this show conceived? And what can we expect to see?

Well, you can expect to the see the very cynical Lea DeLaria performance, which is lots of dyke comedy, lots of queer political social commentary  within that. Lots of really great jazz. And a heavy combination of all those things. Plus, I’m bringing three fantastic chick musicians from New York City. They’re gonna blow you all away. My trio is just ridiculously great.


I call them the future is female, the best trio of all time. They’re just amazing.

Amazing. Yeah, that sounds so good. Now, I was not actually aware that you were a jazz singer prior to this interview. I’d know you mainly as Big Boo from Orange is the New Black, as I’m sure many people do, but now I’m very interested. What’s your favourite song to perform in your repertoire?

My favourite song for me to perform in my repertoire at the moment is on my current record, which is called House of David: DeLaria plus Bowie equals Jazz, and it’s ‘Life on Mars’.

Oh, great. That’s such a good song.

Yeah, well, when you hear my jazz cover. He was so prolific in what he did, and then who knew he was also prophetic because we … When I do that song now, I can interpret it in such a way that it’s very clear to everyone that I’m making a comment on all the crazy things that are going on in America right now.

Yeah, that’s so true.

On Black Lives Matter, on what’s happening with the government. Just by the way I perform it, when I talk about the cavemen fighting, you know that I’m talking about Kim Jong-Un, and Donald the Fuck Trump. And, you know it’s really, really interesting the way that particular number has come out.

That’s great. So, is music a form of resistance for you then, is it your way of sort of fighting the power I guess?

No, my way of fighting the power is just by being who I am, I mean fucking look at me for god sakes. You know what I mean? It’s like, and if I’m really gonna be hard about fighting the power, than it’s more about my comedy. Music is something that I do for my heart and for my soul.

That’s great. Following on from that question, what’s your favourite song to listen to? Do you have any music that particularly pumps you up, that gets you ready for a show or for fighting the power?

Okay well, I don’t know if this is a correct answer, if this is what you were asking but I am currently right now obsessed with the Donald Glover tune, ‘This is America’.


Its unbelievable, the video in unbelievable. The song itself in unbelievable. I’m just obsessed with it. So I’ve been listening to it again, and again and again.

I’m with you on that one. I’m totally obsessed as well, it’s so on the pulse, I just love it.

Yeah it ridic.

So Lea lots of people consider you a role model. Do you know that any aspects—

That’s crazy, that’s the scariest thing I’ve ever heard.

So you wouldn’t consider yourself a role model?

If I’m a role model for queers, queers are a lot of fucking trouble.

So you don’t think that any of your work as particularly had an impact on LGBT communities?

I hope that my work has not only had an impact on the queer community. I hope that my work has had an impact on the world and the way it views the queer community. I hope that my work has affected an immense change, and has been a part of the change that I have seen in my lifetime. I hope and pray that that’s a fact. People tell me that that’s a fact, but every now and then, I just can’t take it as stand up I just have to make jokes about it.

That’s fair enough. But yeah, I’m with those people. I think you have had an impact.

Well I appreciate it, thank you.

No worries. So you’ve played a lot of roles over the years, some of them have been very iconic. What’s you dream role and have you already played it?

Well [Big] Boo was probably my dream role, was my dream role, without me realizing it was my dream role. I mean I always thought my dream role was to play Rose in Gypsy. Mama Rose in Gypsy, but apparently it was to play basically myself in television and provide the world with a view of what’s it like to be butch dyke in a way they’ve never seen before. In a way that they found palatable, and a way they accepted and have—maybe that’s probably—I guess that’s it that’s my dream role. I guess you win.

That’s so good. When you started the show did you know it was going to become what it has become today? Did you know it was going to take off?

Oh no. Honey nobody knew anything like that. Silvi, nobody would ever know that. You have to remember that this was five years ago, there was no internet TV. It’s completely changed now. We didn’t even know what internet TV was. Netflix hadn’t even put a series out yet. You know what I mean? We were all filming at the same time. There was only three shows, and we were one of the three. I mean, nobody knew what that was gonna be. Nobody knew how much it would change the way people watch television, and so of course we didn’t know that this was going to happen. We knew that we were doing something unique, cause were not stupid. I would love to tell the story about—

I guess maybe six episodes in, I was sitting with Kate Mulgrew, and Kate and I tend to hang out on the set quite a bit, because were both 60. So we’re both of a certain age, and no else really is in the cast so we would always hang out. I guess I must have gotten a look on my face, cause I was thinking about how great it was and what we had going on. I was about to turn to Kate and say to her, “Don’t you think this show is amazing, I think it’s going to be a huge hit”. Before I could say a word Mulgrew looked at me and said, “Don’t say it Lea, don’t say it out loud”. Don’t jinx it.

Don’t curse it.

Do not jinx it. Which, I always thought was really hilarious. Don’t say it, don’t say it.

I love it. Now that it’s got such a huge fan following, do any of you worry about what the fans will think about things that you’re doing in upcoming seasons. Anything like your acting, on the way scenes are directed, is that informed by the fans? Do you ever worry about what they’ll think or you just—all just doing your own thing?

No, no, no that’s their job, That’s their job. My job is to say the words they put in front of me. I never worry about any of that. I worry about the things that, yeah know like when we did Big Boo’s backstory. It was very important to me that that be authentic, that that be a real butch. There was conversation that we had about that. Laverne was probably all over what was being said about trans women yeah know what I mean?


It wasn’t like they had a butch consultant on the stage.


The way they had Russian consultant, the way they had prison consultant, they didn’t need a butch consultant. They have me. So yeah no, that’s the only thing that I would ever get involved in, in that respect. Other than that, yeah. None of that is in my control. We are the lowest rung on the ladder actors.

Sure. Are we ever gonna see Big Boo sing jazz in the show?

I have no clue, again not up to me.

Would you like to?

I did a little singing when we were all auditioning for the Christmas show.

Oh yes, yes I remember that one.

I did a very tiny little bit of singing for that.

Great, I do remember that. That was a favourite episode of mine.

Yeah, that was one of the times they had to come and say Lea, “You are actually singing too good, we need you to sound worse”.

Oh really?

Yeah it cracked me up. So what you get is me sounding worse.

Wow. So there’s an assumption there that no one in prison can sing well, is that what’s going on or?

No, no, no they didn’t want Big Boo to be the one that sang that well. They were setting it up for someone else.

Yeah, fair enough.

It was like you have to, yeah Lea, you have to yeah.

I know this is a bit of a cheeky question, I’m sure we’ve already covered this, but can you tell me anything about what’s in store for the next season of Orange is the New Black?

Of course I can’t, I can’t tell you a damn thing. Hilarious, no.

Worth a shot.

You want me to keep my job don’t you? No, no it’s not worth a shot you want me to keep my job?

Okay, alright. Okay so going back to your many talents and your many roles. If you could only chose one talent, and you had to give up the rest and you weren’t good at them anymore. Would it be your comedy, your acting, or your singing?

If I could only do one talent what would it be?



Okay. And what’s the reason behind that?

Cause singing is my heart and soul.


I’m happiest when I’m down stage centre belting a D sharp.

Lovely. So you have also written a book, and it’s called Lea’s Book Of Rules For The World.


Since writing that have you come up with any new rules, have you had to revise your rules, or any amendments that you’d like to add?

Well it’s been almost 20 years since that book came out. It’s been 20 years since that books come out so I’m sure there are plenty of rules that have come down the pipe. Probably the newest rule for me is, no more girlfriends.


I’m gonna date, I’m just gonna date as many women as I can. I’m just dating and hooking up.


That’s my new rule. My new rule no, no wife, no living with anybody, none of it.

I love it, and if you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would that be?

Oh my god. If I could give one piece of advice to my younger self? That’s so interesting. You’re the second person to ask me that question today and you think I would have an answer.

Oh really?

I really don’t… a piece of advice? Yeah, you know what I do. Probably talk less and smile more.

That’s a Hamilton reference I’m sure.

Yeah, that is a Hamilton reference.


I think maybe, in my case it’s actually quite pertinent.

Okay. That’s all I had. I’m really looking forward to the show. It sounds really exciting. What would you say to people to sort of let them know  the one magic thing they should come to the show, for what is it? What’s the selling point?

Because one, you’re gonna see me. Two, I’m single right now so looking for girls—hey ladies, make a scene. And three, because I don’t think anybody does exactly what I do. It’s a very entertaining, interesting, fun, crazy, wild evening. I don’t think anybody does quite what I do. Buckle up your seat belts. It’s not for the faint at heart. And I will be doing Lea DeLaria screwdrivers, so you may be wanting those too.

Wow yes, I can’t wait. Alright, it’s been a pleasure to speak to you. Thank you so much.

Thank you so much Silvi, nice talking to you.

Nice talking to you to, look forward to the show.

Thanks, bye.

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