Warning: spoilers ahead.
Even the good guys on Orange Is the New Black are bad. There's Healy, whose brief moments of compassion are overshadowed by his chauvinistic behavior toward women; Bayley, whose naïve and inexperienced nature leads him to suffocate a prisoner; Caputo, who fails to address Poussey's death to the public; Bennett, who abandons Daya and his daughter; and Coates, whose once charming friendship with Doggett spirals into an abusive relationship. So when we first meet Adarsh (played by Gerrard Lobo), the kind-hearted nurse at Litchfield, our expectations are understandably low. But, as those who have already binge-watched season 5 will attest, he proves his worth and value to the prison, without any lapses of character, at least so far. Ahead of the episode drop date, Lobo stopped by the InStyle offices to discuss his new role, working with Laverne Cox, and Indian stereotypes.
Tell us about your new role.
I play a nurse named Adarsh. Basically, everyone has fled the scene of the crime because they heard there was a riot going on, and Adarsh decides to stay—he's new to the job, his Nightingale Pledge [Ed note: an oath of ethics and principles used by nurses] kicks in, and he starts saving people left and right. Then he teams up with a couple of the inmates to get the work done. Once they hear that they can get drugs in medical, he gets visited frequently. [Laughs]
So you're a good guy.
Yeah. While I'm trying to save people that are in critical condition, it's not my job to judge what people have done. Certain people are in there that other people don't like and they're trying to get at them. My job is to take care of that sanctum of the medical area.
Who's in your corner?
I team up with Bursett [Laverne Cox] first. She helps me because she has the firefighter background, so she knows First Aid and how to deal with stressful situations.
What's it like working with an all-female cast?
I was just focused on the task at hand. I'm such a big fan of Kate Mulgrew and Laverne Cox and all these people that I see on TV. I'd just click into actor mode. I got to sit back and see everyone be in their element. Some people are close to who they are as their characters; other people are completely different. It was cool to see. Kate Mulgrew keeps that accent, even when she's reading the newspaper.
Did anyone give you any advice ahead of joining the show?
The first person I met on my first day onset was Emily Althaus. She was so cool and so down-to-earth. She was like, "Honestly man, you booked it, just do you thing." Laverne Cox was the most welcoming person, too. She was like, "America's gonna love you!"
How did you prepare to play Adarsh? Did you undergo special medical training?
They don't give you the entire episode if you're a supporting character. They just give you your two pages. It wasn't until the fifth episode that I realized why I was there and what I was doing, because I say it to someone. I did some prison research, a lot of documentaries, I spoke with friends who are registered nurses, I did a little tour of the Hoboken Medical Center.
What was the hardest scene to film this season?
The first scene I did. There was some business I was doing while I was interacting with Laverne, so it was dealing with this, the camera angle, your lines, and the person you're taking care of.
What do you think Adarsh's backstory is?
I made up that I'm way too into extreme sports and experiencing life than wanting to go to medical school, so I purposely failed my boards and to appease my parents I'd be a nurse just to make enough money and go travel the world and do what I want to do, because I know that I'd never be able to do that as a doctor, if I got married and settled down.
Indian actors are unfortunately often typecast as minority roles. Riz Ahmed recently told The Hollywood Reporter that he'd rather be broke than play a terrorist. Do you agree with his comments?
I haven't had that kind of experience, personally. The closest thing would be people telling me, "You're too good-looking for this ethnic category." Is there really a need to have to do that unless you're specifically doing a show that's focused on it? If you're going to do it, tell both sides of the story. If you're just some dude who's going to get killed and they want you to be this vicious terrorist ... things are way more complicated playing a one-noted character and being labeled as the only thing you can play.
VIDEO: The Cast of Orange Is the New Black Breaks Out in Summer's Best Jumpsuits
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.