Many will recognize Taryn Manning from her role as the bigoted, bible-thumping, bad girl, Tiffany “Pensatucky” Doggett on the hit Netflix series, Orange is the New Black. Few know much about Taryn herself.
The real-world Taryn is a far cry from the gritty, troubled girl you often see her play in films such as 8 Mile , Hustle and Flow, or on Orange. Taryn is actually remarkably elegant, articulate and well-rounded in her intellect. In addition to being an actress, she is also a musician, designer, and amateur theologian. She has a way of finding a spiritual experience in all of her creative pursuits.
Taryn takes Imagista through her career starting with her big dreams as a young girl. She also shares her insights into the struggles she has been through in her work, where her greatest inspiration comes from, and what it is like for her to branch out and discover a second love in making music.
Imagista: Why did you decide to become an actress?
Taryn Manning: I went to dance class everyday after school. I excelled pretty quickly and was put into the Jr Company (which is rare for a newbie). My mom likes to say that my background in karate led me to my ability to succeed so rapidly in dance. I was very competitive and in high school I was accepted into a performing arts high school. I was the new girl in a rather harsh social setting. There was a group of girls I really wanted to be friends with. I thought they were so cool. I would always over hear them talk about their acting classes, and my competitive side took over. I demanded with my mother that I must attend… and the rest is history!
Imagista: Lately you have become most known for your role as Tiffany ‘Pennsatucky’ Doggett on Orange is the New Black. What is your favorite part of working on the show? Have there been any specific challenges with the role?
TM: I love the diversity of the cast and crew! Everyone is so unique and different yet we all mesh together like a big family. The biggest challenge I have faced with my role is the constant change she goes through as they develop different sides to her. I love that my character goes through consistent growth and allows for me to show versatility. The challenge I face, but love, is to make the changes she experiences relate back to the same Tucky we met in season 1.
Imagista: Who has been most influential in your career?
TM: My mother. She has been my constant support, number one fan and motivator. She has stuck by my side through this crazy career and has always been there to lift me back up and inspires me to pour my heart and soul into my dreams. No matter my dreams, big or small, she has always provided with me with the tools and stability to conquer my goals. Even growing up with limited means, she made sure I was always involved in the activities I wanted to participate in. Without her, I don’t think I would have made it this far.
Imagista: What are you most proud of in your work?
TM: My dedication to my craft. My belief in myself. This industry is filled with rejection and stereotyping. I have fallen victim to both of those many times. I’ve seen a lot of other people give up when faced with challenges like mine, but I have always known that this is where I belong and I have handled any obstacle with dignity. I have never let another person control my choices for myself and my career. My persistence has led me to the success I have now, and I am not stopping anytime soon.
Imagista: If you weren’t an actor what do you think you would be doing? Do you think you would be focusing more on your music career?
TM: I always say if I wasn’t an actor I would have wanted to study religion. I still may return to school to study religion. Even before my role as Pennsatucky, I have always been interested in all aspects of religion. Although I do not practice one certain religion, I believe in pieces of each and apply them to my own personal beliefs. The history of religion, and the faith they are built on, fascinate me and I want to learn about every single last one in this world.
Imagista: What is your favorite part about making music?
TM: The process from beginning to end. The idea of a melody, a thought or a sound that inspires the next step. I love getting together with writers and friends and bouncing ideas off one another to make something great even better. Watching the production develop, recording vocals, mixing and mastering; every craft is so interesting to see unfold. Music is a story, so even tying in my acting skills, I love to relay the feeling of the songs in music videos as well. Some people are visual learners and music videos are a great way to portray the words and feelings of the songs. I can’t pick just one favorite part, because each part is so unique and vital to the final result.
Imagista: What’s next for you? Is there anything coming up that you are particularly excited about?
TM:I have been working on my EP steadily and I am very excited to release it! I am shooting a music video this month for my next single. Music is my heart and soul; my father was extremely talented. He was a rock star. My brother and I started a band when we were younger called Boomkat. I grew up in a musical world and it was born inside of me. Freedom of expression, the feeling, is a universal language of which I love to be a part. This is my first solo EP I am releasing and I am so excited to share the real me with the world. It’s been a very personal, spiritual and freeing journey as I have put this together. It’s the most rewarding experience I have ever been a part of.
Season 3 of Orange is the New Black will be released on Netflix June 12.