Orange is the New Black’s Season 6 brought a new prison to viewer’s screens and with the change of setting came new inmates with new backstories. Two of those inmates were Carol and Barb, also known as “The Little Debbie Murders.”
The sisters have a surprising connection to Frieda that dates back several decades. I had the chance to speak with Ashley Jordyn, who plays young Carol Denning, about how she went about creating one-half of this magnetic character.
Young Carol Denning appears in three episodes of Season 6. Jordyn’s first appearance was on Orange in the New Black Season 6 Episode 3, “Look Out for Number One.” These were the first scenes Jordyn saw and were the ones that she had to use to inform her performance.
“It was like the writers just handed me all these pages of fun. I felt like they’d be spying on my life and everything I wanted to do, especially with that kickball scene. I thought, ‘Are you kidding me, we’re going to play kickball? This is amazing,’” Jordyn said.
The first scene that Jordyn shot was the kickball scene where Carol attacks Barb and starts the great C-Block vs. D-Block conflict that becomes one of the main narratives of Season 6. Jordyn has some fond memories of shooting that scene, which was also her first day on set and included some pleasant company.
“It was pouring rain, and it was the first day on set, and we had a very early call time,” Jordyn remembered. “I was in the van at pickup location with a whole bunch of stuntwomen that were going to set, and the writer Hilary [Weisman Graham] was in our van.”
“[Hilary] was just as excited as I was, and all the stuntwomen were excited. They seldom get to work all together, because there are not a million roles on each TV show where you have ten stuntwomen,” she noted. “So, they were all happy to have this reunion and play around in the mud, and stab things. It was great. It was contagious, and so much fun!”
“Looking back, I think when we were shooting episode 10, I was talking to some of the crew on set, and they were like, ‘That was such a great day.’ It shouldn’t have been. It was pouring rain and cold, but I don’t even have a memory of it being rainy or cold because I was just having way too much fun,” Jordyn said.
Jordyn plays Young Carol Denning, but in the present day storyline, Carol is played by Henny Russell. While filming these scenes, Jordyn had no information about where her future counterpart would factor into the current Orange is the New Black timeline.
“I only ever saw my sides, so I had no idea what was written for Henny to play with or how she fit in in the Orange is the New Black timeline,” Jordyn explained.
At the beginning, director Erin Feeley gave Jordyn some feedback on the size of her reactions. Once they got that down, it was fairly easy to keep it consistent throughout the performance. But the crew was also open to the choices Jordyn wanted to make regarding the character.
“Erin gave me a little direction at the very beginning, which was just kind of to get the size of it. Partially because we were in a wide shot, so the size of it for what was needed for the beginning of that scene. But they just turned me loose, which was a lot of fun,” Jordyn explained.
The Denning Sisters have acquired quite a following since Orange is the New Black Season 6 dropped on Netflix in June, and Jordyn has been surprised by how much the fans have gravitated towards Carol’s unpredictable and yet childlike nature.
“I’ve been surprised by how much people love her,” Jordyn said. “I think that one of the reasons that people love her so much is [that] she’s unapologetic in the world, and in her life, even if it’s with horrible things. I know I for one, am tired of apologizing for being who I am, and I think that maybe that’s why people like her so much.”
One of the pivotal points of Barb and Carol’s relationship stems from a story about a glass of ice that was introduced on Orange is the New Black Season 6 Episode 10, “Chocolate Chip Nookie,” and later used to bring the story of the warring cellblocks to a conclusion on Orange is the New Black Season 6 Episode 13, “Be Free.”
During the course of Season 6, each sister claims the story is hers, but Jordyn didn’t know the final conclusion when it was introduced.
“I didn’t think it was either of our stories, but I thought that maybe I was just making it up, and that Barb also was making it up, and that we were fighting over something that was completely made up,” explained Jordyn.
“It wasn’t until Episode 13, that we realized that we had stolen it. That surprised me. It was great, and it was brilliant that they had Henny and Mackenzie [Phillips], still, like actually believe that it had been each of their stories.”
“So much time has passed, and just the kind of people that they are, they’d taken this on as their own sort of identity, and were holding onto this stupid lie that neither of them realized that they had stolen anymore,” said Jordyn. “I thought that was brilliant, and fun—and heartbreaking—that transition, that edit, of us laughing and together—and then that hard edit of them dead on the floor was heartbreaking.”
Jordyn is currently looking for her next project, but she keeps busy with her writing partner and creative friends. They produced a short film called The Session, which took 1st Prize at the Montreal World Film Festival.
“We’re always writing and we don’t have anything set in stone, but we have a couple of scripts for short films that are sort of mid-process of being worked through,” said Jordyn. “It takes a while to get something solidified the way that you want to do it before you start actually doing it, so we will see.”
Orange is the New Black might be over, but Jordyn spends a lot of her time being creative when she isn’t working.
“When I’m not acting, I’m working at becoming an actor, or training, or working on my craft,” Jordyn shared. “I spend a lot of time, especially in the summer, taking workshops, writing with groups of friends, attempting to be creative within my community of artists that I know. We’re kind of always striving for the creativity.”
“When I really, really need to unwind, I take care of my pets, and I like to cook, and read, and binge-watch television like everyone else,” said Jordyn.
She’s also currently watching the HBO series High Maintenance. “It’s so very New York. It’s a great show,” she said.
“I’m waiting for the new Game of Thrones, like the rest of the world,” Jordyn admitted. “I always feel like, ‘Ah, I have to wait a whole year for this to come out again, but what if I die and I don’t get to know what happens at the end of Game of Thrones? That would be a tragedy.'”
You can catch Ashley Jordyn in Season 6 of the Netflix Original Series Orange is the New Black, now streaming.
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