WARNING: This article contains spoilers for season 4 of Orange Is the New Black.
Lori Petty (Lolly Whitehill) had no idea who Lolly was, and she didn’t expect to find out that “she was going to be a paranoid schizophrenic. That’s just how they wrote it. So they more they wrote it, the more I did it.”
Petty also explained that she could deduce some of what was going on in Lolly’s head when she had dialogue that was fixated on the NSA and the DEA. The more they gave her, the more she ran with it.
Petty also holds a surprising take on Counselor Sam Healy, portrayed by Michael Harney:
“I thought Healy had a lot of empathy with these women, and maybe it crosses the line a little bit. He’s like a compadre where he’s maybe supposed to be more of a boss. But I think the two of them [Lolly and Healy] had a real special connection where maybe he saw his mother or maybe he saw himself in her. I don’t know his process, but I know Healey really connected with Lolly, so I think his first instinct was, ‘Of course you didn’t kill a man.'”
Despite the fact that Petty had asked to be on Orange Is the New Black, she never feared being killed off. When the Huffington Post asked Petty if she thought her character would die by the end of the season, Petty said, “No, my ego’s too big to think that. You can’t kill me! You already killed what I think is one of the greatest actors on our show, Samira Wiley. You can’t kill everybody in the house!”
Petty knows that Lolly is doomed in the system “[b]ecause they [individuals will mental illnesses] don’t belong in prison! That’s why prison can’t handle them. They belong in all those places that Ronald Reagan closed–they belong in mental health institutions.”
Petty further expanded on the issue of inadequate care for those with mental illnesses:
“I live in Venice Beach, and we have the hugest homeless population. I can’t even explain it to you. But I’d say about half of them are kids that want to be homeless and they’re just messing around and having fun. Good for them, whatever. But the other half are people who are mentally ill or addicted to substances, which is also something that should be helped medically and not with punishment. Alcohol and drugs are made to be addictive, like cigarettes. You don’t call someone who smokes too much a cigaretteaholic. They’re addicted to cigarettes. And then there are people who have terrible mental illness who self-medicate with alcohol and drugs because, to make the voices shut up, you’ve got to be really drunk. These people are so underserved and kicked to the curb, and there should be more hospitals where people can get help. There should be showers. We have toilets down here that the homeless people are welcome to use, and they spray them down every night. They’re very nice toilets, actually—I’ve used them. But they need homes, and they need to be in the hospital, not in jail. From what you see from Lolly, she didn’t do anything. She doesn’t deserve prison. She deserves a hospital where she can get help.“
Petty sees a bright future on the show. Having directed movies like Poker House in the past, she says she’s added her name to the list of future directors, and she’s hoping for the best.
For more of this engaging and insightful interview, click here.