Actor Jason Biggs

The American Pie star talks about his role in the hit Netflix series, Orange Is the New Black.

Jason Biggs has been acting on the screen, stage and TV for most of his life. He began appearing in national commercials at age 5 and, at 13, made his Broadway debut in the acclaimed play, Conversations With My Father. That production helped land him a spot on the serial, As the World Turns, for which he earned a Daytime Emmy nom for Best Younger Actor in a Drama Series. He attended college briefly before deciding to pursue acting again and, although he had a healthy number of credits, was relatively unknown when cast in American Pie, which launched his career and gave him almost overnight recognition. He's currently co-starring in the smash Netflix series, Orange Is the New Black.

TRANSCRIPT

Tavis: Jason Biggs made an indelible mark on the movie-going public with the “American Pie” movies series. He’s now costarring in “Orange is the New Black,” a critically-acclaimed series set in a women’s prison based on a real life memoir by Piper Kerman.

“Orange is the New Black” was just named best comedy series at the annual Critics’ Choice television awards and is considered a frontrunner for the upcoming Emmy nominations which will be announced, as you know, next week.

The show now in its second season, available, of course, for binge-viewing on Netflix. We’ll start with taking a look at a scene from “Orange is the New Black.”

[Clip]

Tavis: Things must be good these days in the Biggs household ’cause the husband’s on a hit TV series; the wife is on the New York Times best seller list. Love that title, “I Like You Just the Way I Am” [laugh].

Jason Biggs: Just the way I am, and then the…

Tavis: Stories about me and some other people [laugh].

Biggs: That’s right. That’s my favorite part of it. Stories about me and some other people.

Tavis: So your wife’s on the best seller list, you’re on a hit series. Life is good.

Biggs: Yeah. We have a new baby.

Tavis: New baby? I forgot about the baby.

Biggs: Yeah. He’s got a new show coming out and he’s on the best seller list. Yeah, I mean…

Tavis: What have you done to deserve all this good fortune?

Biggs: You know, I don’t know. That’s a really good question. I don’t really know. I think I, you know, must have kissed the right butts, I guess, at some point.

Tavis: All jokes aside, though, it is amazing about this business how – and not just this business, but life, period. You know, life ebbs and flows, obviously, and when you find yourself in one of these moments where everything is clicking on all cylinders and everything’s working so well, how do you process that? Your life, the baby, the show?

Biggs: Yeah. It’s actually a really good question because I was actually just talking with Jenny. We’ve been having this sort of conversation a lot lately, but we were just having it this morning about stuff, being aware and taking these moments, whether it’s by yourself or she and I together, and just, you know, really being able to acknowledge and appreciate what’s happening.

For Jenny especially, this is – you know, she’s been working really hard for a really long time and she’s an actress first. And as an actress, she never really got a break, her big break, in the way that I did certainly as an actor. And this, for all intents and purposes, is her big break.

This is her American Pie and I see a lot of similarities for her now, this sort of kind of overnight ascent and sort of recognition and it’s a similarity to what happened to me with the first “American Pie” of 15 years ago. So I can be kind of objective, kind of.

You know, it’s hard because I’m married to her. You know, I’m so close to it, obviously. But there are these moments where I just have to tell her, you know, like just stop, appreciate this now.

You know, because she’s already – you know, we have this crazy thing where, you know, she’s already like, okay, well, the book is doing well. I’m like, baby, you’re on the New York Times best seller list.

She gets the weight of that. She understands it and she knows it’s incredible, but then she goes to a place where it’s like, okay, while I’m on the list, I need to – now I can sell the second one. So now she’s already like what’s the second one?

And now she’s stressed about that. And it’s like that’s good, you know, that ambition and that sort of practical sense of, you know, like business, how this business works. But you really got to stop yourself sometimes and just be like, okay, this is awesome right now.

Tavis: But I would think, though, that the presence of this baby…

Biggs: Has helped center us.

Tavis: There you go.

Biggs: A million percent.

Tavis: It’s gotta contextualize everything.

Biggs: It totally does, yeah, in a very real way. It definitely does. But, you know, admittedly, we still need reminding, you know. We still need to remind each other, you know what? This is amazing and appreciate it and you don’t know what’s going to happen in a week or in a year or with your second book or with my third season or with the next show. You just don’t know.

Tavis: But we do know this. We believe that the Emmy nominators may be generous to you all in a few days with some good nominations.

Biggs: I certainly…

Tavis: To your mind, what is it about this show that has so struck a chord? I mean, it’s resonating.

Biggs: Well, I think – gosh, I think it’s a lot of things. I think part of what makes it so interesting is you have a world that is very unique, that is unlike any other world on television certainly, this world of woman’s prison.

And you take these characters that, on paper, would seem to be, you know, not necessarily the most likable of characters. They are prisoners. They have ostensibly done something wrong to be in the situations that they are in.

You know, before anyone has watched this show, I think it’s safe to say for the most part there’s a stigma associated with prisoners, you know. So it’s hard to, you know, relate, certainly.

So what I think has been so incredibly captivating, certainly for me, you know, I’ve watched those prison scenes and I watch these characters. And part of it is the diversity of the cast as well and these amazingly beautiful, diverse women characters that we have in there.

But part of it is you find yourself relating to these people, these women, that you never thought you were going to relate to and they’re humanized, you know, in a very engrossing and like, you know, really incredible way.

And those flashbacks, that device that’s used to where we go back and we learn about these characters before they got to prison, it really is a stroke of genius because you find yourself really invested in these characters’ stories.

Tavis: What do you make of the way that Netflix and this whole binge-viewing thing has just changed the way we do TV?

Biggs: It’s genius. No, it’s genius. And I think that’s part of it too. The Netflix model is brilliant for a couple of reasons. One, it gives the viewer control. It’s empowering, it’s freeing, it’s liberating, it’s we want to make our own decisions as viewers.

But also, it feels, because you can watch it in its whole, it feels more like a 13-hour movie. It’s more epic in scale and that affects the way we film it as well. So the character development is different and more organic and paced out. Everything about the way we shoot it is different and about the way it’s written.

You know, it makes for – I just think the timing was right too. That’s part of it. Like this show is good, but the Netflix model is good. It’s a perfect combo at this time. That’s what people want.

Tavis: Timing is everything.

Biggs: Timing is everything.

Tavis: So in 30 seconds, give me your best tease for why we should tune in to see what happens to your character, without giving it away.

Biggs: Okay. Well…

Tavis: Tease it up.

Biggs: My character – you know, I’m very biased. I happen to sympathize a lot with Larry and his sort of dilemma, his situation. I feel like he’s having a hard time being on the outside and he’s struggling.

He makes some decisions like he did in season one that will continue to affect the relationship with Piper in a very dramatic way. I won’t say for better or for worse, but definitely will affect it.

Tavis: Very nicely done and you absolutely said nothing, so thank you.

Biggs: Okay, good [laugh]. Believe me, we are like Netflix robots. We’re so trained.

Tavis: I see, yeah.

Biggs: We’d get in so much trouble.

Tavis: They trained you well. You teased it up, you teased it up and you said nothing.

Biggs: Perfect.

Tavis: Which means we’re all gonna tune in to Netflix and binge to see what does in fact happen on “Orange is the New Black” starring one Jason Biggs. And I suspect, again, in a few days, they’ll be getting some good Emmy nominations. But congratulations on a great series.

Biggs: Thanks, Tavis.

Tavis: That’s our show for tonight. Thanks for watching and, as always, keep the faith.

Announcer: For more information on today’s show, visit Tavis Smiley at pbs.org.

[Walmart Sponsor Ad]

Announcer: And by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.

Last modified: July 8, 2014 at 9:50 pm