by Ronald Sklar
“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 together.”
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 model.
“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.”