But "Orange is the New Black," now in production for its third season, has elevated DeLaria's status significantly.
When she heard about casting for "Orange is the New Black," she said given her look, she was not surprised when they asked for her. "It takes place inside a women's prison," she said. "Why wouldn't they call me?"
Big Boo is often used for comic relief, with a hearty sexual appetite, but she also brings humanity to her role. Her character isn't pure caricature like many roles she's been offered over the years have (e.g. an angry, stupid truck driver).
"They wrote the part specifically for me," she said. "I knew it would be funny but I appreciate how they allow me to grow as an actor. I did some crying season one."
She said even as they were taping the first season, the ladies sensed they were doing something special. During episode six, she was with Kate Mulgrew, who plays the steely Red, and Mulgrew sensed DeLaria was about to say how good the show is. "Don't say it out loud!" she told DeLaria. "Don't jinx it!"
During that first season and into season two, she had a dog she nicknamed Little Boo whose real name is Avery. She was a tough actor. "She really was a puppy. We'd call her to set and she'd just lay down and go to sleep!" One major downside to being so close to Little Boo: "She had the worst dog breath ever! Letting her lick my face was taking one for the team!"
DeLaria said she hopes the Emmy-nominated show can last "as long as 'Law & Order.' " The lead character Piper is supposed to be in prison for 18 months and she said through season three, only six months has elapsed.
She is looking forward to coming to Atlanta. She recorded her first comedy record two decades ago at Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points. But she hasn't spent much time there since so her knowledge of the local lesbian scene is sparse.
"I am hoping they're still not line dancing!" she cracked.