Orange Is The New Black’s Uzo Aduba reveals deep personal connection to role on Mrs America

UZO Aduba rose to fame on Orange is the New Black but her latest role on Mrs American is personal.

The actress, 39, plays Shirley Chisholm the first black woman elected to Congress and the first woman to run for Democratic presidential nominee.

Shirley had long been a part of Uzo's life, before the Emmy award winning actress even realised.

In preparing for the political history drama premiering tonight on the BBC Two, Uzo did a lot of research about the formidable woman.

She told The Big Ticket podcast: "I had to read about her politics and the things she had enacted and her work as an actual political figure, a congresswoman."

But it was Uzo's mum who inadvertently embedded Shirley into her daughter's life.


The actress explained: "All I knew as a kid was her talking about her when [my mom] came to America [from Nigeria] and being like, 'My fighting Shirley Chisholm'.

"I was like, 'She’s mine too'. I don’t know what that means, and I don’t even know who that is, but 'My fighting Shirley Chisholm!'."

Uzo also revealed she started wearing her wig for the show months before they even started shooting to get used the physicality of playing Shirley.

"That was my practice in the morning, putting it on, making sure it doesn’t fall off or slip back, all of this," Uzo described.

"When you’re taking it off and realising like, 'Oh, this is her armour. No wonder why she had so much stuff on. She had to wear these bold clothes or else she would not be seen. She needed to wear this big hair or people probably would not see her'."

She added: "Because if you even track women her age of the time, that was not what they were wearing.

"She was bold. She was big. While still being graceful and gracious, she was strong.

"But she also was aware of the world in which she operated. She knew she needed to be not only heard but seen.

"It’s important to be seen."

Uzo became a sensation after starring as Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren in Netflix's hit show Orange is the New Black.

She loved that Shirley "was a woman who had an entirely different definition for herself than the definition the world tried to impose on her".

“When you listen to her speeches, they are all about possibility. She was the original hope agent,” Uzo said.

Mrs America is based on the true story of the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.


It documents the rise of second-wave feminism in the 1970s which was opposed by conservative women such as Phyllis Schlafly (played by Cate Blanchett).

Mrs America also stars Aussie actress Rose Byrne as famous feminist Gloria Steinem, Elizabeth Banks, Tracey Ullman and Sarah Paulson among others.
Mrs America's first two episodes air tonight (July 8) from 9pm.

The series will be available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

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