The success Laverne Cox has found in Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” was a long time coming. As she explained during our recent video chat (watch it below), before being cast in the hit streaming series, “My rent was way past due. I got an eviction notice earlier that year, and to think two years later I’m nominated for an Emmy, the show is nominated for 12 Emmys, and it’s like this cultural phenomenon – God is good.”
She contends for Best Comedy Guest Actress for her role as Sophia Burset, a transgender woman in prison for credit card fraud. And her recognition is historic: Cox is the first openly transgender actor nominated for an Emmy.
But she wasn’t expecting to be singled out when nominations were announced on July 10: “I’ve been a Gold Derby fan for years, so the night before … I was like, let’s see what Gold Derby’s saying … everyone was listing [‘Orange’ co-star Uzo Aduba] and a bunch of other folks, and I was like, oh, this isn’t good. So I went to bed thinking that I wasn’t going to get nominated, and so when I woke up and I was, it was the best thing ever.”
This isn’t the first recognition for Cox this year; GLAAD recently awarded her its Stephen F. Kolzak Award for her work promoting LGBT rights. That activism makes the success of “Orange is the New Black” even more meaningful to her. “It’s not just changed my life,” she said, “it’s changed the lives of so many trans people out there. So many people think differently about trans identity now because of this show.”
But even though the trans community is enjoying “unprecedented visibility,” Cox wants to make sure we don’t forget that “we still have this epidemic, this state of emergency where trans women disproportionately are being taken out.” She added, “I think it’s important for us to celebrate these wonderful moments – I certainly am – of visibility and recognition, but also understand that a lot of folks’ lives are still in danger … There’s a lot of work to be done to ensure that trans people everywhere have justice.”
Watch our complete interview below, then predict whether Cox will win Comedy Guest Actress: