Best known for her role of Ramona “Pidge” Conteras on the global phenomenon that is Orange Is The New Black, Miriam Morales is a busy woman, and she couldn’t be happier about it. Having honed her craft through appearances on shows including Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and independent films such as An Ornament of Faith, she recently produced a short entitled Tupperware Party and has plans to write a book in the near future.
With OITNB fans already getting excited for next season, Morales kindly agreed to this interview to chat favorite actors, dream roles and her acting legacy.
PW: Please introduce yourself.
Miriam Morales: Hi, I am Miriam Morales, a fearless dreamer and proud Puerto Rican, just trying to live as authentically as possible and hoping to inspire along the way.
PW: When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in acting? Was there a film you watched or an actor/actress you admired that inspired you?
MM: I knew at a very young age that I wanted to be an actor when I did a play at my church - I think I was about 5 or 6 years old. It was a small role, but I just loved the process of it all. I looked forward to rehearsals, costumes, the songs, everything.
Lauren Velez is a big inspiration for me because she was the first Latina actor I saw on television - on New York Undercover -that looked like me. That was incredibly inspiring! The roles she takes on are fierce, strong and intelligent women, and I love that about her.
PW: Who are your favorite actors and actresses and why?
MM: Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, and Leonardo DiCaprio among the many. Their performances are so incredibly nuanced, and they truly transform into their characters. Watching them is always a great acting lesson.
PW: Can you recall the first audition you attended?
MM: Yes! I definitely recall the first audition I attended. I was in 6th grade and completely obsessed with the show Ghostwriter; they were recasting for the role of Gaby. The audition was held at Planet Hollywood in NYC, and I remember BEGGING my parents to take me, which they did. I remember leaving school early and taking that drive from Long Island to New York City and feeling incredibly excited! I’ll never forget that moment.
PW: You're best known for your role as "Pidge" in Orange Is The New Black. What can you recall of that audition, and what was it about the show that made you want to be a part of it?
MM: Well, I had been a huge fan of the show since the very beginning. There wasn’t anything like it being offered on television and in the format that it was presented - on a streaming service with an entire season available for viewing. That was ground-breaking for sure. What I love about the show is how seamlessly they incorporate such a diverse group of people, those within the prison and outside, all with interesting personalities and stories of their own. There is so much more than what meets the eye, which really draws the audience in. Another aspect of the show that made me want to be a part of it is that I could see myself on it. OITNB is so diverse in the ethnicities that are represented and that makes it unique as well.
When I found out about the audition for “Pidge”, I literally had about a day to prepare. I didn’t have much information on the character other than she was Dominican, tough, and short, so I knew I had to create an interesting person and just go in there and do my job. The day of the audition I worked with my coach and went to it immediately after. I was nervous, but that quickly went away once I was in the room. I simply showed them my interpretation of the character and then let it go.
PW: What do you think it is about the show that's made it so phenomenally successful?
MM: What has made the show so successful is exactly what I love about it: the diversity - there’s literally someone for everyone. Learning about the characters through their backstory gives them dimension and relatability. You can’t help but feel empathy for them. The show also does a great job of remaining relevant by incorporating important social issues that reflect the times we’re living in.
PW: The show has won numerous awards over the years - how do you feel about that, and is there one win in particular you're most proud of?
MM: I’m super proud of the wins, and they’re extremely well deserved! I’ve felt that way about OITNB even before being on the show. I think the one I am most proud of was when Uzo Aduba won for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series and when the show won for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. Those two were really big, and they solidified the show’s significance in the industry.
PW: Is there anything you can tell us about what fans can expect next season yet?
MM: Just that they can expect another amazing season!
PW: What are your thoughts on social media, and how do you think it's impacted the success of the show?
MM: I have this love-hate relationship with social media. I think social media is a great tool to start a conversation, drive a message, and continue engaging with an audience. It’s instantaneous, and there’s a direct connection readily available. To that degree, I think social media has had a tremendous impact on the success of the show. The show has fans all over the world, and they’re talking about it on a daily basis, which helps keep the excitement going in-between seasons. Seeing how engaged and invested the fans are is truly amazing.
However, I do believe there should be a level of social responsibility when it comes to social media, and there isn’t enough of that. In regard to having this easy access to actors/celebrities, I think people forget that these characters are just characters; the actors that portray them are real people with real feelings.
And, lastly, numbers are just numbers. I know people really only care about the number of followers they have, but I think it’s important to remember that it doesn’t define a person’s worth or talent. I think that’s important for the younger generation to keep in mind.
PW: What would your dream role be?
MM: La Lupe is such an iconic artist in the Latino culture; I’d love to play the younger version of her in a film. I’d need to take singing lessons again, though! But, really, any story that highlights an inspirational story or Latino figure would be amazing.
PW: What can you tell me about the short you’ve produced entitled Tupperware Party?
MM: Tupperware Party was a short I produced as part of a 72-hour challenge that I was participating in. I was the team leader, which basically meant being the producer. We had to write, shoot and edit a film in 72 hours. It was an extremely challenging - pun intended - process, and I learned a whole lot. It was something I did for fun, to learn from, and to collaborate with other actors and creatives.
PW: What else does the year have in store for you?
MM: In addition to the show, I am also helping Asia Kate Dillon - Brandy Epps - produce a theatrical performance, US, which incorporates original text, audio, and footage to help drive the #BlackLivesMatter conversation forward. It’s a one night only event on October 8th at 10PM in NYC at Dixon Place. I’m really excited about it! You can learn more about it on mirrorfire.org.
PW: Finally, what advice would you give to anyone looking to make it as an actor/actress, and what would you like your acting legacy to be?
MM: To anyone looking to “make it” as an actor/actress, I ask: what does “making it” look like to you? What does that mean? It’s important to define success for yourself and to not go by anyone else’s standards. Set goals, work hard, know your worth, and always study your craft. Never stop learning so you can continue to grow as an actor and as a person.
I would wish for my legacy to be one of the humility, gratitude, and determination that I always carry with me, in and outside of my acting career.