Orange Is the New Black’s Taryn Manning on Making Friends on Set and Her Daring New Role

<em>Orange Is the New Black</em>’s Taryn Manning on Making Friends on Set and Her Daring New Role
Elisabeth Caren

In a series full of memorable characters, Taryn Manning's can't-look-away portrayal of a meth addict turned evangelical Christian is reason enough to binge-watch Netflix's Orange Is the New Black. We caught up with the show biz veteran and chatted about the upcoming season of OITNB, how she prepared for another very different new role, and another passion: music.

Manning’s character Tiffany "Pennsatucky" Doggett on Orange Is the New Black doesn’t exactly play well with others---but on set, making friends with her costars hasn’t been an issue. “I’ve bonded with everybody,” says Manning, who names Lea DeLaria (Big Boo) and Emma Myles (Leanne) as the two actresses she hangs out with most often while off duty. “I love Taylor [Schilling], Laura Prepon. Adrienne [Moore], Jackie Cruz. We’re all good friends---but those are the ones I keep in good touch with. We have brunch.”

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As for what’s in store for the next season, which returns June 12, Manning will only say that Pennsatucky “continues to evolve.” And while Manning’s real life may be very different from the one she portrays in the series, “The one thing I can relate to is the underdog quality of her.”

Jessica Miglio for Netflix
RELATED: Watch the Trailer for the New Season of Orange Is the New Black

Manning’s empathy likely helped during her latest project, the Lifetime Original Movie Cleveland Abduction, in which she portrays Ohio kidnap victim Michelle Knight, who was freed, along with two other women, in 2013 after being held captive by Ariel Castro for 11 years. “I didn’t get to meet Michelle until about halfway through [filming], and then I fell in love with her and her spirit,” Manning says. “She is an incredible, awesome, unique, funny, magical person. She’s just the epitome of positivity. She’s awesome. She changed my life.”

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“One thing that Michelle did while she was in there is, she loves to sing and she liked to write lyrics and poetry,” she says. Not so different from Manning herself, who sings, writes songs, and DJs. “It’s what I do when I’m not acting---I work on music. It’s sort of an outlet to get out other things and it’s just something I love so, so much.” With a dad who was a drummer and a brother who is also a musician, Manning grew up surrounded by music. “It’s just inside of me,” she says, “and I picked it up really quickly.”

While a release date for her upcoming album hasn’t yet been slated, Manning has been hard at work putting it all together. “I literally have 63 unreleased songs,” she says, “so now it’s trying to pick out the ones that matter to me the most.” And it sounds like combining her love of acting and music might be in the stars---at least according to a psychic Rabbi she once visited. “He told me that my career is going to be full of both singing and acting, and it’s going to intertwine.”  One thing’s certain: Manning is well on her way to making his premonition a reality.

Tune in to Lifetime on Saturday, April 25, at 8 p.m. to catch Manning’s emotional performance.

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