Photo by ISA WIPFLI for Refinery29

Photo by ISA WIPFLI for Refinery29

While viewers are impatiently waiting for the second season of Netflix’s breakout hit Orange Is the New Black to return this Friday, fan favorite Uzo Aduba recently chatted with Improper Magazine about how she won the role of “Crazy Eyes” and that one time she wanted to change her name.

Although most people are just now catching on to Aduba’s skills, the Boston native is a veteran theater actress and a classically trained opera singer whose success has been years in the making.

“There’s no way to predict what’s going to catch fire. I knew it was a great show all along, but no one can dream of something like this, and I’m just happy that people love it as much as we love making it,” Aduba told Improper Magazine.

“People expect me to be Crazy Eyes on the subway, with the knotted hair and the jumpsuit, and they seem really surprised to find out what I really look like. You can see when people realize it’s you.”

Though many actors regularly change their names to appear more marketable, Aduba said the thought never crossed her mind when she entered the business because her mother had already set her straight.

“My family is from Nigeria, and my full name is Uzoamaka, which means ‘The road is good.’ Quick lesson: My tribe is Igbo, and you name your kid something that tells your history and hopefully predicts your future. So anyway, in grade school, because my last name started with an A, I was the first in roll call, and nobody ever knew how to pronounce it. So I went home and asked my mother if I could be called Zoe. I remember she was cooking, and in her Nigerian accent she said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘Nobody can pronounce it.’ Without missing a beat, she said, ‘If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.’”

We love it!

Do you have a ‘unique’ name? Did you ever think about changing it?

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  • Mary Burrell

    She is very pretty and a great actress, love the character. it is a great show. i enjoy it.

  • Somebody

    Her mom’s advice was spot on, love that.

    I have a unique name. Though it’s English, can be found in the dictionary, and throughout literature, folks mispronounce and mispell it regularly. I love my name and never wanted to change it. I love names that tell a story and build character.

  • IO505

    I also have a unique African name (well unique in the U.S.), but most call me a shortened version. I’m proud to have a name that stands out because folks are forced to remember me by it even if they can’t pronounce it. lol It can also be a conversation starter, albeit an awkward one in some cases. In Uzoamaka’s case, most with her name are just called Amaka for short which isn’t difficult to say. Yay for “different” names.

  • ALM247

    Wow, they did a great job with her makeup/styling. She looks so beautiful here. I didn’t recognize her at first.

    She’s apparently a very good actress if she is classically trained and still able to play a character that is so different from her training.

  • LOL! spot! these days i use Llhuillier – if i can say it, you can say my name correctly.

    and Uzoamaka is actually easy.