Taryn Manning is demented and engagingly funny in her role as ‘Pennsatucky’ in the hit television dramedy Orange is the New Black. Here, our STEPHEN CHRISTOPHER catches up with everyone’s favorite snaggle-toothed meth-head-turned-Bible-thumping inmate.
Taryn Manning rings me from her apartment that sits in a very quiet Manhattan neighborhood. She’s standing—all 5-foot-2-point-5 of her—on her front stoop in the nearly 80-degree New York heat because “the reception inside sucks, but
fortunately, it’s not too muggy out.” She’s wearing jeans and a Supra hoodie, and Penguin, her loyal Cavalier King Charles Spaniel–Maltese mix, is sitting beside her. “She’s the apple of my eye and goes everywhere with me,” Taryn says in her low, gravelly voice. “Such a good little traveler and so well behaved.”
A huge animal activist, Taryn is a softie when it comes to contributing to animal charities. One in particular is Best Friends. “I really respect that organization because the money actually goes toward the animals. I’m always donating to charities where they take care of animals that have been displaced by natural disasters. Right now, my best friend, Tara Jane, and I are also in the process of starting our own animal charity organization.”
Ever since the critically acclaimed Netflix dramedy ‘Orange is the New Black’ became everyone’s favorite new show, Taryn’s Q rating has soared off the charts. Her character, Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett, is the snaggle-toothed, meth-head-turned-Bible-thumping inmate who draws on Jesus to somehow miraculously, and even to her own surprise, heal some of the other prisoners. Her performance is dementedly engaging and funny.
Taryn’s the first to admit the correlation between the spike in demand for her music gigs and her newfound TV fame. “I just got back from a performance in Scottsdale. It’s been nonstop. —I’m really exhausted.”
Taryn Manning was born 35 years ago in Tucson, Arizona, and her parents divorced when she was only two months old. She respects her mom for never keeping the kids from their dad. “Every summer and every Christmas my brother and I would go visit my dad, who was never in the same state. I remember always having to meet new people.” Tragically, when Taryn was only 14, her father committed suicide. “School had always been a good experience for me. I was a happy child who even got named Class Clown two years in a row, but when my dad died, I went from being happy to putting my head down on my desk and just wanting to sleep. When he passed, I focused on my passion—my love for ballet, jazz and tap—it kept me out of trouble. My mom was so supportive. She’d scrounge up all the money she could to put into honing my talent. That’s why I’m so grateful for her. She sacrificed everything for me.”
In 2003, ten years before Miley Cyrus even thought about climbing aboard a wrecking ball, Taryn rode on one at an auto-wrecking yard in her video debut for her band’s song ‘The Wreckoning.’ Mere coincidence? Taryn’s song hit #1 on the Hot Dance Music/Club play chart, and Billboard magazine recognized her band, Boomkat, as the #5 Hot Dance Club Play Artist for the year. The band, formed with Taryn’s brother, Kellin, was signed to Dream Works Records. Music from that debut album, Boomkatalog, also appeared in movies including Mean Girls, Crossroads, The Hot Chick, 8 Mile, and The Italian Job. In June 2008, Boomkat’s second album, A Million Trillion Stars, was released.
Taryn made her film debut in the romantic drama Crazy/Beautiful. She followed that up with a role as one of Britney Spears’ two best friends in the 2002 film Crossroads. She appeared in 8 Mile as B-Rabbit’s ex-girlfriend, Janeane, and in Peter Kosminsky’s White Oleander. She had supporting roles in the films Lucky 13 and Debating Robert Lee, and appeared briefly in Anthony Minghella’s Civil War melodrama Cold Mountain and in the romantic comedy A Lot Like Love.
It was at the premiere of Crossroads that Taryn recalls her most embarrassing moment. “We were at the premiere of the movie in Britney’s home town in Louisiana. I hadn’t done many red carpets, and I arrived before Britney. So I’m walking on the carpet in my beautiful dress when all of a sudden the fans start going berserk. Well, one of the overzealous security guards decides he’s got to get to Britney and aggressively throws me to the ground, and I start crying hysterically. My manager told me they let that guy go on the spot. At the time I was mortified, though it’s kind of hilarious now.”
Taryn humbly assesses her dancing, acting and musical abilities: “I’m really grateful for being given the talent and the drive to achieve my dream of doing what I love—and being able to make money doing it. I’m beside myself that it’s all come true.”
Art Direction: Stephen Kamifuji
Stylist: Amy Astar
Makeup: Erin Ayanian / CloutierRemix.com
Hair: David Keough / CelestineAgency.com
Manicure: Kait Mosh / CloutierRemix.com
Stylist Assistant: Guido Morales
Production Assistant: Emily Hassard
Location: Special thanks to the Avalon Hotel, Beverly Hills