SPOILER ALERT: Laura Gómez Spills All On Blanca’s Return For Orange Is The New Black’s Final Season

Laura GomezPhoto Credit: Erika Morillo

SPOILER ALERT! DO NOT READ ON IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE FINAL SEASON OF “ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK”

Last season on “Orange is the New Black,” Blanca Flores was being released from prison—only to be greeted by ICE agents and taken to an immigration detention center. Blanca’s situation is a case of art imitating life, and her life—and her struggle—will be showcased on the seventh and final season of “OITNB,” which premieres on Netflix tonight. Laura Gómez, who plays Blanca on the buzz-worthy series, has a lot to say on the subject, and has even started a series on her Instagram account, #ImmigrantStoriesbyLauraGomez. We chatted with Gómez about the fate of her character and the end of an era as fans finally say goodbye to Piper and her cell mates. Prepare the tissues STAT!

Laura GomezPhoto Credit: Erika Morillo

What will become of Blanca in the seventh and final season of “OITNB”?

As we saw in season 6, Blanca was taken by the Agency of Immigration and Customs enforcement (ICE) in a heartbreaking finale that left people weeping. I can’t really say much about what’s to come except that we actually continue to explore the subject on a deeper level and we’re going be seeing some harsh realities regarding the topic of immigration in season 7.

At the end of the last season, she’s freed from prison only to be put under arrest again for illegal immigration. How do you think her situation reflects what’s happening in America today?

The first thing that we get to confront is the terms we use when it comes to immigration. Illegal vs undocumented, for example. As much as I understand the need for migratory control, there’s a sense of history that’s missing from the dialogue when we talk about migration nowadays, plus the fact that there’s a lot of these people who are coming as refugees, fleeing extremely dangerous circumstances in their hometowns, and again, we have to look at the role of first world countries when it comes to destabilizations of some regions and their current realities. Blanca’s story reflects that of a person who -before going to prison- had been productive in American society, as we see in her backstory during season 4, and the circumstances around her imprisonment are as of now unknown, but we certainly her being set up during season 6, so we might get to see more details around that in season 7 while exploring other immigrant’s stories.

In fact, you just started a series on your Instagram page, #ImmigrantStoriesByLauraGomez. Was it the show that prompted you to start it? Why is this personal to you?

I was definitely inspired by the overwhelming response from our viewers to Blanca’s destiny at the end of season 6. People were deeply affected by seeing that finale and so as I when I read the script. I am an immigrant myself, with easier circumstances since I was born in the U.S., but it makes me very aware of the injustices and abuses that are happening. Immigrants -mainly people of color- are being demonized by the current administration, even though it’s mostly those people under attack who do the hardest of work in this country. One day a friend of mine was wearing a t-shirt that said “Immigrants, we get the job done,” I took a photo of her and posted it on my Instagram and immediately thought what a great way to combat the ignorant notion that immigrant equals criminal. I decided to make this a sort of a constant series on my social media, where I would feature people from different backgrounds and show a profile with their journeys, struggles, achievements and positive impact in American society. It would be my way to tell my version of how I see these amazing people in my life, and perhaps be a small act of resistance.

Laura GomezPhoto Credit: Laura Gomez Instagram

 After seven seasons on the show, how do you feel Blanca has evolved?

I think Blanca has been one of the biggest evolutions on the show. We went from a character that on season 1 was kind of a caricature talking to the “devil” in a bathroom stall, to then discovering she is quite clever, not at all crazy, rebellious woman who happens to have a unique love story her boyfriend Diablo, a steady job with a somewhat abusive boss. We saw her grow while standing up to bullying officers who put her on a table and treated her like an animal in season 4, discovered her unlikely chemistry with Red while they were looking for justice against Piscatella in season 5, and then her unexpected friendship with Gloria in season and the horrific trick played on her by the prison system and being taken by ICE proved, as Stanislavski famously said, that there are no small roles.

How have YOU evolved because of the show?

I certainly have. In terms of the industry, OITNB obviously opened big doors for many of us, and it meant getting a much needed break for me to get to play on a higher field, but it also educated me plenty about these subjects of prison reform and social justice. I’ve always considered myself a pretty well-informed person, but getting to work in a show that exposed us to so many important topics and impactful organizations, it definitely expanded my awareness and my commitment to social causes, which I mostly do through my artistic work. I truly do believe that the arts are capable of helping us heal.

Is there always going to be a part of you that’s Blanca in some way? How, if so?

Absolutely. We’ve been doing this show for seven years, so part of the gift is that the writers are somewhat stealing bits and pieces of our temperaments and personalities, and I have definitely molded Blanca with bits and pieces of my own experiences. There are parts of me in her and vice versa. It’s the nature of portraying a character for so long. In this case, we share plenty of that rebellious side. Blanca is probably way bolder than I am in real life, but I have a lot of that in me, actually.

Are people constantly surprised when they meet you in person? You look completely different on the show.

They are a bit, but it used to be even more surprising before the infamous makeover given to me by Flaca and Maritza in season 5. Now I get recognized a little more easily. Although, there’s something about anonymity while being in such a famous show that I actually quite enjoy.

Laura GomezPhoto Credit: DFree/Shutterstock.com

Was it bittersweet wrapping the show, or were you ready to move on?

It was a bit of both. As an actor there’s that sense of going back to uncertainty that one dreads, plus that sense of familiarity and working with a crew and cast that have been a part of your journey for so long, but it is also the nature of this craft that is constant change, and in spite of the momentary imbalance that causes, a part of me does like and embraces it, cause something exciting is usually around the corner. I am also a film junkie, and I watch lots of good shows, and I got to admit that it feels pretty good to leave on high note, while still being relevant and discussing important topics. This show was huge when it came out for many reasons, including the diversity of women in front and behind the camera. It feels great to have been a part of something so revolutionary. It was important to end it at the right time, and I think this was the perfect way and time to do it!

Who from the cast are you going to miss the most?

Honestly, I get to see and talk to many of my castmates easier and more often than I get to see our crew members some of whom you get to grow so fond of, so believe it or not, I’d say I’ll miss our hair and makeup department the most.

What’s next for you in terms of future projects?

I am heading to my hometown, Santo Domingo, to work in a feature film called “Sunshine” by Dominican director Juan Bisonó and produced by my creative partner in DR, Pablo Lozano who is also going to produce two projects of mine -a short and a feature- that I’ve written and am planning to direct. Both of these are based on two plays I’ve written as well as part of a writer’s group I’m a member of, Dorset Theater Festival’s Women Artists Writing, here in New York City. These are more personal projects that I’m very passionate about cause I truly believe we, people of color, women, minorities in general, need to be more actively involved in creating our own work and telling our own stories. Other than that, I’ve been doing theater at Ensemble Studio Theater, which has been quite fun, and of course auditioning for some bigger projects, so I guess sooner or later something fresh and new will come my way. Looking forward to it all!

Loader