One second is all it took for the world to fall in love with Australian actress/model/DJ Ruby Rose. That’s all anyone needed. A few episodes of Orange is the New Black, a nude scene and a million memes later, Ruby Rose is the name on everyone’s lips. As Stella, the newest inmate at Lichfield, Rose drew from a prison background that hits close to home.
You showed up in one second of the season three trailer and people went absolutely nuts for you. How has your life changed since?
It’s changed a lot, honestly. I had had a lot of success in Australia, so I know what it’s like to have people recognize you. It’s not like a complete freak out, but it’s definitely different on a global scale. I went to Las Vegas for a press tour and had to get a security guard, which was just so weird.
I think I’ve read around 5 articles now about how women are crazy about you and want to ‘go gay’ for you.
It’s funny. I mean, it’s weird, I’m not gonna lie, it’s kind of weird. Also really funny and flattering , obviously, and the last thing in the world that I expected. Orange is such a massive show with a huge fan base, so when it came out I thought fans would blow up, but then they’ll settle relatively quickly. For some reason the interest is still there, which is really nice because they’re interested in what I’m doing, either on the show or with my Vj’ing. Some of these meme’s are so funny, but there’s too many of them for me to look at now.
I heard that when you were offered a part on the show, you thought they wanted you to DJ a party.
Well, of course. In the subject headline, it said ‘Ruby Rose- Orange Is the New Black’. My email didn’t load straight away and I thought it was some official Orange is the New Black party somewhere that needed a DJ. When I opened the email and it said ‘Would you like to audition for the role of Stella? If interested, we’ll forward the script.’ I was still in disbelief. I finally noticed that it was from Jenji Kohan and it was one of those things that’s so surreal you don’t wanna believe it, so you don’t really get excited about it.
How much of yourself did you inject into your character? Or was she already fully fleshed-out by the writers?
I think it kind of goes episodically. I only knew as much as they told me and together we were creating this character. I had originally auditioned with an American accent, but when I went in to start filming they decided to let my character be an Aussie. But when it comes to the particulars of her story, I find out when I need to. They don’t tell you anything unless they have to. They tell you when you have to prepare, like when I had to do a friggin’ naked scene! I needed to get ready!
Is your costar Yael Stone [who is also Australian] jealous that you get to use your own accent?
Yeah, she’s pretty jealous. I didn’t even know she was Australian. I watched it and I thought ‘Oh that’s so sweet, the Jersey Girl with an accent like that got a job opportunity!’ I had no idea that she was just an amazing actor. Although she created that accent, you know. She just read it and kind of played around with noises and accents and found the one that fit its character. So I think, she’s jealous that I get to walk in and just use the accent, but at the same time, the accent wouldn’t have worked so well for her character.
Is joining a cast of that size late in the game kind of like prison? Do you have to establish dominance on your first day?
[Laughs] No, I can only imagine it being the exact opposite of prison! Everyone was so sweet and kind. Everyone just opened their arms to me, like literally: ‘Come here and let me give you a hug. We’re so excited to have you on the show.’ I think more than anything, they’re just genuinely excited to bring new people on this journey.
Before going into the belly of the beast, did you do any sort of prison research?
It’s crazy! I’m obviously not an expert on the American prison system, but my mum worked in prisons pretty much her whole life. I grew up listening to her stories. It was always kind of sad when she’d be excited because one of her favourites was getting out; she’d be so hopeful, but then in six months they’d be back in the system and she’d be really devastated.
I was always really in awe of what she did. It was both dangerous and emotionally exhausting. Now that I’m on this show, it’s like everything has come around full circle. She’s the harshest critic because she’s been in there and seen all different sides of it. She was just glad that you get to get to see people, as humans, not as caged animals.
Your short film Break Free has been everywhere lately. Tell me about it and what inspired you.
It’s an autobiographical piece based on how I’ve always felt that there was a struggle between what people wanted me to appear versus how I feel comfortable in a completely different gender identity than I was born in. I was rediscovering myself and trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I’ve been wanting to make a film like this since I was a teenager and figured that I had the time while I wasn’t working. I made some phone calls and I basically kind of set it up in three days: shot it in a day, edited it in a day, put it online and it went viral. It kind of changed my life and allowed me to get an manager and an agent.
Just before I let you go, I know that you identify as gender fluid, as does your character on Orange. Can you explain it to me?
My idea of gender fluidity is just that you’re not really associating or relating to one strict version of gender. You might be born a male or a female but you don’t necessarily identify as that gender, and sometimes you’re between that spectrum. It’s like Fifty Shades of Gender. I definitely fluctuate. I can wake up some days and really feel like I’m a boy or wanna do dude kind of things and dress a certain way and that’s just kind of my attitude and my soul that day.
Then, sometimes I’ll wake up and feel more of the female kind of characteristics that I have. There are still moments where I have sort of a feminine alter-ego, but for the most part I’m somewhere in the middle kind of being more androgynous and boyish.