#NowStreaming Catch Francesca Curran as Skinhead Helen on Orange Is The New Black.
Dress: Aisha McShaw
Director: Michael St. Michael @michaelstmichael
Photographer: Zach Alston @zachalston.nyc
Wardrobe: Raven Roberts @_ravenroberts
H&MU: Tia Rivers @tiarivers
Interview: Dylan Rubinstein @dylanjader
Prune: Orange is the New Black is like a Cinderella story for you. One day you’re a Barista at Starbucks, the next you get a callback. Talk to me about landing the role of Skinhead Helen.
Francesca: I was in between theater jobs, a new actress, about a year and a half out of acting school. I decided that I needed a survival job, just like most actors do, so I started working at Starbucks to make ends meet. One night I was working the late shift and my agent emailed me and told me I was going for an audition for Orange is the New Black in the morning. I thought it was going to be a pipe dream. I went into the audition, and out of all auditions I’ve ever had, it was the one I was least nervous for because I didn’t think it was going to happen. I wore my hair slicked to my head, ripped jeans, and a gray wife beater. 48 hours later, I got the call that I had got the part. I didn’t know if it would be a regular role, but it ended up completely changing my life.
Dress: LeAnne Marshall
Prune: Two days after you got a callback, you went in and shaved your head. Were you nervous or excited?
Francesca: I was in such a shock that it didn’t even occur to me that I was getting my head shaved. I was thinking about meeting the brilliant writers and producers. I thought about how insane an experience it was going to be. I went in to it excited to meet everyone, and not upset at all about them shaving my head. Hair grows back. It’s all part of the experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Prune: How long does the preparation for Skinhead Helen’s look take every day?
Francesca: It varies. My makeup artist, Karen, is incredible, and she is committed to doing the tattoos to a science. I take a lot longer than most people. I would say about two hours, but sometimes a bit longer. They re-shave my head every time I go in, but it’s the tattoos that take a while.
Dress: David Meister
Prune: Talk to me about Skinhead Helen as a character and her significance in the show.
Francesca: Skinhead Helen is a troubled soul. She’s a white supremacist – neo-Nazi. We don’t know why she’s in jail. The writers have kept me in the dark about it, which is really interesting and exciting, because I have no lead. I have my own story made up in my head about it, but it gives me exciting room for growth and hopefully a really interesting backstory. I play the tough girl, even out of the white supremacist group, I’m the security guard. She’s withdrawn and not talkative. When she speaks, it’s with reason and means something. She’s an aggressive introverted character, and a complete 180 of who I am in real life.
Prune: OITNB has a huge fan base. How has your life changed since appearing in the show?
Francesca: I get recognized from my social media presence. A lot of people recognize me with the blonde wig, or my full glam. There are the more dedicated fans who have facial recognition with me, but aren’t sure how. It’s really fun for me, but I try not to enjoy it too much. I always encourage people to come over and say hi, because for me, it’s such a new experience. It makes me feel good inside. Even though I’m playing such an awful character, people still appreciate the acting.
Dress: Faviana https://faviana.com/
Prune: You work with a widely-accredited cast on the show. What have you learned from your costars?
Francesca: Being on set for me is such a master class. There is no amount of money that I could pay for a better acting lesson. I’ve learned so much from Uzo (Aduba) who plays Crazy Eyes. She’s the most incredible- award- winning person. She’s an oxymoron because she’s so highly esteemed but so humble, so gracious. Outside of the show I’ve learned such humility. I’m still a rising star, and she’s taught me not to take any day for granted. Being a working actor is a miracle. There are so many of us, and it’s so competitive. On set, as a whole I’ve learned to always take my time, observe, listen, and not to be afraid to ask questions.
Prune: Were you a fan of the show prior to being a part of it?
Francesca: I was a fan. I was just starting to watch it, I was a little delayed. I knew how big the fan base was, so it was a no brainer for me to join the cast. The first day on set I was getting my head shaved and Samira Wiley sat next to me and put her arm around me, I almost passed out.
Heels: Christian Siriano
Prune: Let’s chat fashion. When you’re Francesca, what is your day to day style?
Francesca: My day to day style is very funky and eclectic. I love mixed media and color. I like pairing casual with formal. Ripped jeans with a cool Gucci top and tons of accessories.
Prune: What are your three favorite trends at the moment?
Francesca: Mega platform shoes, the higher the better. I’m obsessed with a super bold smoky eye and a nude lip pair. I really like anything with pearls. Jeans with pearls attached, jackets with pearls. I also love adding patches to my clothing.
Prune: Last but not least, let’s fashion prune. What current trend would you like to eliminate?
Francesca: Color blocking. I do like florals and patterns but I don’t like too much of one color on the same color. It has to be a different shade to make a piece stand out, because for me it’s all about making a statement.