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How Uzo Aduba's breakout role on Orange Is the New Black influences her starring turn on In Treatment

Three-time Emmy Award winner Uzo Aduba plays therapist Dr. Brooke Taylor on the HBO reboot of In Treatment.

The three-time Emmy Award winner plays a therapist on HBO's reboot of In Treatment

Three-time Emmy Award winner Uzo Aduba plays therapist Dr. Brooke Taylor on the HBO reboot of In Treatment. (Bell Media)

After winning three Emmy Awards, Uzo Aduba has taken on her first lead role in the HBO reboot of In Treatment.

Aduba stars as a therapist named Dr. Brooke Taylor, taking over the chair from Gabriel Byrne who anchored in the original series that ended 10 years ago.

"I was drawn to the idea of, what is the life of a therapist?" said Aduba in an interview with guest-host Ali Hassan on CBC Radio's Q.

"As the characters unpack themselves, I realised [the creators] did such a great job in isolating the different ways in which mental health exists."

Most episodes feature Dr. Taylor in session with one of her clients — over Zoom and in her home, thanks to the pandemic — having conversations that range from a teenager exploring her sexuality to a white collar criminal reckoning with his mistakes.

As Dr. Taylor walks through her clients's lives, she's also dealing, imperfectly, with the loss of her father.

"I understood what it meant to lose track of your pain," said Aduba.

"This idea exists that the therapist knows everything and we know nothing, and we are the ones needing to be fixed. The truth of the matter is everyone, including Dr. Brooke Taylor, can benefit from being part of healthy conversation."

Playing a mental health professional is a far cry from the role that earned Aduba her first two Emmy Awards. For seven seasons, she played Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren — a kind-hearted prison inmate who struggled with impulse control and unhealthy attachments — on Netflix's Orange Is the New Black.

WATCH | Aduba in a scene on Orange Is the New Black:

While playing Dr. Brooke Taylor, Aduba said she sometimes finds herself thinking about Suzanne.

"In the beginning I thought: I wonder what Suzanne's life would've been like if she'd had Dr. Brooke Taylor?" Aduba told Hassan.

"I also would think about trying to be as gentle with the people who come into the office as I wanted people to be with Suzanne."

She almost quit acting

Aduba said "it sounds crazy" looking back, but she had decided to quit acting on the day she landed her breakout role on Orange Is the New Black.

While she had found success in theatre and on Broadway, she was getting turned down by television and film productions.

"I had been auditioning for the very first time in [film and television] and I had never really seen anyone like myself in that space — maybe Whoopi Goldberg. And I kept getting told, 'No, no, no, no, no,'" said Aduba.

"I just thought, you know what, there is no place for me at this table."

Then Aduba got the call that Netflix wanted her to guest star on their new "web series" (at the time, the streaming giant hadn't yet released any original programming).

"It changed my life," she said.

Aduba continues to carve out a path for herself in Hollywood, winning a third Emmy Award for her portrayal of Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to run for president of the United States, in Mrs. America.

The actress also stars in the Amazon Prime series Solos.

Her Twitter bio declares, "Growing up, I never thought there was a seat for me, so I've decided to build my own table. Come. Pull up a chair."

In Treatment is out now on Crave in Canada.

WATCH | Official trailer for In Treatment:


Written and produced by Jane van Koeverden.

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