Laverne Cox knows she has a lot to prove in the upcoming TV remake of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.
Cox — of ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK fame — takes over the role of sexually ambiguous mad scientist Frank-N-Furter, a role made famous in 1975 by Tim Curry.
“Everyone hasn’t been fully happy about me playing this part, or even that there would be a remake, because the fans are so hard core,” she says.
“I’m a black transgender woman from Mobile, Alabama. I always feel like I have to prove myself.”
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is set to air in Fall 2016 on Fox.
Curry will narrate the musical. Victoria Justice and Ryan McCartan star as lost lovers Janet and Brad stumble upon Frank-N-Furter’s creepy castle.
“I’ve been preparing a lot,” Cox told me during a recent stop in Los Angeles to promote the upcoming fourth season of OITNB.
“I’ve been in intense voice lessons and dance lessons, and acting coaching, and doing what I do to prepare. It’s been wonderful.”
Here’s more of what she had to share:
Have you ever been to any of the midnight showing of ROCKY HORROR where you throw toast…?
Ironically, no. When I discovered ROCKY HORROR I was in college and some friends were like, “You have to watch this.” So we watched it in the dorm room. There was all this audience participation, so they started screaming at the TV so I started learning all the audience participation through my friends and I bought the soundtrack and learned all of the songs and was just obsessed with it. In particular, “Don’t Dream it, Be It” became a personal mantra for me. Early Laverne, my early adolescence, was shaped by the ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.
What was it like getting that call?
When people offer me things now, I try not to get excited. I was like, “Oh, this is interesting.” I hadn’t sung in… I’ve sung before but it’s been a while. I’ve trained a lot, I’m a person who looks to study things, and so I studied voice a lot. I’m sort of a student of voice. I was intrigued, and I was like, “This would be really cool,” but I didn’t get my hopes up.
My screen test was the day after the Emmys actually. I found out that I booked it five days later. Then, yeah, so I’ve had a lot of time to completely freak out about it, and be like, “Oh my God I can’t believe I get to do this.”
What can you tell us about the costume?
I’ve had consultations with Kenny Ortega, our director, about what the wardrobe will be, [but] we have to have some surprises.
Have you met with Tim Curry yet?
I have not met Tim Curry yet. I can’t wait to. I’m hoping to be calm. It’s one of those things where you meet people that you idolize, you hope to be calm. I haven’t always been calm when I’ve met people that I idolize, and I try to sort of, “Yeah, well, I don’t know how it’s going to be,” but I’m honored. I’m just honored that he’s part of the production.
For Halloween I was here in L.A. I got to meet Sal [Piro], who has been the president of ROCKY HORROR Fan Club for 39 years. He said to me when he found out I was playing Dr. Frank-N-Furter, he was so excited and thought I was the perfect person.
Is there anything you’ve always wanted to ask Tim about the role?
I just honestly want to just sit with him and talk, and be in the same room with him. I’ve done so much research. It was 40 years ago, so his career has evolved, and he’s evolved as an artist, and … It’s just weird when you’re obsessed with something and then the person is in front of you. I think that’ll just be really really fun.
How much do you want to turn the doubters around, because you said some people have not received it well?
I always feel like I have to prove myself. I think that’s a really wonderful thing to be in a place where you have to prove yourself. I understand that I have to work really hard, and prove myself, but at the end of the day, I just have to bring what I [can].
How much is all of the media attention surrounding Caitlyn Jenner in the last year impacted you in your life, and career?
What I’ve always thought about more trans people having visibility is that it’s about multiple stories. It’s not ever just about one or two trans narratives. I think what has been so great about Caitlyn is that people can see, because of her visibility, and mine — I’m probably not as visible as Caitlyn is — but how different trans people are and how different our experiences are. That is really amazing. That we are really diverse. We are different, we have different views on a plethora of different issues. That diversity is something I always celebrate. For me, I want more trans male stories. I want more non-binary gender fluid trans stories out there. It’s about multiplying our stories.
Where do you go from here? What is on your to-do list, and things that you want to accomplish in the future?
Right now my to-do list is working my ass off in ROCK HORROR PICTURE SHOW. That’s all I’m thinking about.
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK returns in June on Netflix.
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