‘Orange is the New Black’ actress at Atlanta Pride

If you go

Atlanta Pride Festival

Atlanta Pride parade with Lea DeLaria as honorary grand marshal

Oct. 12 from 1-4 p.m. and at the Coca-Cola stage at 6:55 p.m.


Piedmont Park, Atlanta

Within hours after Netflix debuted the entire first season of its groundbreaking ensemble dramedy “Orange is the New Black” in July 2013, a fan recognized comic Lea DeLaria, who plays the very butch lesbian prisoner who goes by Big Boo.

“I was walking down the street past an Ace Hardware and a girl came out with a screwdriver for me to sign,” DeLaria said in a phone interview earlier this week, citing a major prop from one of the show’s first-season episodes. By that weekend, she was being mobbed in the streets of New York City.

“I’m really grateful for this role,” said DeLaria. “This is awesome. I’m having a ball!”

DeLaria will be honorary grand marshal at the Atlanta Pride parade Sunday at 1 p.m. and will do some stand-up on stage at Piedmont Park in the early evening.

Before Big Boo, DeLaria was already a well-known figure in the LBGT community and was the first openly gay stand-up comic on a late-night show, “The Arsenio Hall Show” in 1993. She has been an actor with a varied resume that includes “One Life to Live,” “Will & Grace” and “The Drew Carey Show.” She has performed in plenty of Broadway and off-Broadway shows.

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 was not surprised when they asked for her, given her look. “It takes place inside a women’s prison,” she said. “Why wouldn’t they call me?”

With a hearty sexual appetite, Big Boo is often used for comic relief, 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.”

Even as they were taping the first season, the ladies sensed they were doing something special, she said. 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!”

DeLaria said she’s 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 here since so her knowledge of the local lesbian scene is sparse.

“I am hoping they’re still not line dancing!” she cracked.