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EXCLUSIVE: 'OITNB' Breakout Kimiko Glenn on Being Hated by Fans and Finding Her Voice in Season 4

by Stacy Lambe 1:06 PM PDT, July 06, 2016
Photo: Getty Images

It's easy to get lost in an ensemble series like Orange Is the New Black, but Kimiko Glenn stands her ground as Brook Soso, the chatty and idealistic prisoner who joined the Netflix program in season two and, in season four, eventually finds her place in the Litchfield Penitentiary ecosystem, even romancing fan-favorite Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley).

"I was actually watching Orange Is the New Black when I got the audition," Glenn tells ET. "I was like, 'It's such a good show. I'll never be on the show. I'm too me. No, I could never be in prison.'" Lucky for her, producers saw something that worked and cast her as the wide-eyed, hippie chick. "And it totally changed my life," she says excitedly.

But playing Brook hasn't been easy, despite the character's plucky outlook. When she was first introduced, Brook was seen as a new, even more naïve version of Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling). Immediately irritating to many in the penitentiary, she was left alone.

MORE: 'OITNB' Star Taryn Manning on Tiffany's Choice to Forgive and Estrangement From Her Brother

"I've never played a character so rejected by everyone. Not only the audience but the people I'm interacting with in the scenes," Glenn says of Brook, who up until season four was largely on the fringe and even driven to attempt suicide at the end of season three after feeling isolated. "Imagine saying your lines and everyone goes, 'Ugh' and then turns away or says things like 'Shut up.' Imagine that for two seasons. It was actually really hard to manage. Obviously, I have great friendships with the cast, but playing a character like this, it's hard."

Photo: Netflix

Despite that irritation, snippets of love for Brook were seen early on, when she starts a spontaneous singalong of the Lilith Fair variety -- Meredith Brook' "B***h" and Lisa Loeb's "Stay (I Missed You)" -- during a season two power outage. The moment was also a favorite for the actress, who says it felt like camp. "That was probably Brook's greatest moment, in terms of being in prison and having people respect her," Glenn says. "Also, I just had so much fun that day."

In season four, things finally turn around for character as she's accepted into newly anointed den mother Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson's (Danielle Brooks) group and finds a companion in Poussey. "She has someone to talk to. It's the main thing I was excited for when I got to one of these scenes. And I was like, 'Oh my gosh, someone cares,'" Glenn says of Brook finding her voice, and more importantly being heard by her fellow inmates. 

MORE: 'OITNB' Cast Totally Wants to Do a Musical Episode -- and Has a Few Ideas on How to Do It

In addition to (eventually) winning fans over on the series, Glenn is charming audiences as Dawn in the Broadway musical adaptation of Waitress alongside her Tony-nominated co-stars, Jessie Mueller and Christopher Fitzgerald. She also reveals some serious pipes, especially in the show-stopping number "When He Sees Me."

Photo: Joan Marcus

"That's also a huge reason why I wanted to be a part of this show," Glenn says of the number written by Sara Bareilles. "Because I was sent the demo and the song is amazing and it totally encapsulates how you feel when you're about to put yourself out there. Like, all the things you feel before a first date."

It may be her Broadway debut, but Glenn is familiar with the stage -- and singing -- thanks to a part in the touring production of Spring Awakening and several Off-Broadway roles, including Lady Maria in Love's Labour's Lost as part of the Delacorte Theater's long-running production of Shakespeare in the Park.

MORE: 'Orange Is the New Black' Stars Before They Were Inmates

While she wasn't filming Orange Is the New Black when Waitress opened, Glenn has been feeling the pressure of a busy schedule, similar to what Brooks experienced when the revival of The Color Purple opened late last year. "I couldn't anticipate how busy I'd be," Glenn reveals, saying she now knowing why "people on Broadway are always so tired. It's eight shows -- I've done eight shows before -- but it's all the other stuff outside of it."

And now that season five has started production, that includes finding a balance between her commitments onstage and onscreen. "I'll be a bit more settled," she says, thankful that she had time to find her footing. "You don't think about or anticipate when you get into it. I'm totally thankful and it's totally manageable but, you know, it's a lot."

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