She’s known to millions of Orange is the New Black fans as inmate Lorna Morello, but Yael Stone takes on a very different role this month in the Syfy miniseries Childhood’s End. The series tells the stories of a diverse group of people in the aftermath of an alien occupation that seems to be the answer to Earth’s problems but turns out to be anything but. In the three-part story premiering Dec. 14 (8/7C), based on Arthur C. Clarke’s novel, Stone plays Peretta Jones, a religious missionary who’s skeptical of the aliens’ motives from the start–but her warnings go unheeded. Stone jumped at the chance to return to her native Australia to film it but she’s back in New York now, working on the fourth season of OitNB, set to debut next summer.
The Gloss: What attracted you to Childhood’ End and the character? It’s light years away from Orange is the New Black.
Yael Stone: The incredibly high stakes that we get to explore in the sci-fi genre, and her strong moral context. I don’t often get to play characters that have rules, rights and wrongs. I generally play in that fluid area. So to have a character that is so deeply focused is different and new to me. Peretta is a very interesting character in that she remains faithful and has a strong moral structure that she’s holding onto, and I think that in itself is a really interesting philosophical question. I find this character deeply fascinating. I’m an atheist. She’s very firm in her beliefs. It’s wonderful to do something that’s so different from yourself. It’s a great way to explore and learn. If you’re not learning something about yourself when you do this job I think you’re missing out. I think it should be illuminating in some way, whether it’s technical knowledge about acting or something about yourself.
Are you a sci-fi fan?
YS: Now I am. My first experience with it was watching Battlestar Galactica on Syfy during Hurricane Sandy. I was resistant, I have to say, but I love the high stakes of sci fi. The questions are so large. From there, I read Asimov’s The Gods Themselves. I have a profound respect for the genre now. I find the issues very tempting, that someone could come down and reverse all of our environmental issues, equalize our justice system and give everyone food and water. Certainly the character I play in Childhood’s End is very wary of the consequences and the philosophical implications. I think we like questions about alien invasions because it’s a way to look at ourselves; we introduce the other and see how we respond. I think that’s the setup that Arthur C. Clarke so deftly plays with.
How has Orange is the New Black changed things for you?
YS: I was working in the theater for most of my professional life. I started pretty young, and I trained for the stage and worked for about seven years. I did film and television in Australia. I was in New York for about four months when I got cast. I was very lucky. But it did feel like a long four months. I’m not a good waitress! It’s been wonderful and it continues to be wonderful. I’m very grateful.
Why do you think it has become such a phenomenon?
YS: I think people relate to the streaming shows a little differently than other shows. That bingeing makes the characters very real.
Was moving here an adjustment at all?
YS: Australia really digests a lot of American culture. People ask why there are so many Australians in Hollywood. Well, you brought us up!
Are people surprised to hear your Australian accent?
YS: Yes, there’s always a little recalibration.
You shot Childhood’s End there, in Melbourne. What was it like to be back home?
YS: Wonderful. Australia has beautiful film crews and talent. It was lovely to reconnect. I’m going to be doing a show in Australia with my husband [Dan Spielman]. We’re playing husband and wife. We’re both theater actors so it’s really exciting for us.