Orange is the New Black Season 2 is about to be available for binge watching on Netflix (June 6, we can’t wait!) The cast is varied and amazing, and one of the most compelling characters is Sophia Burset, a transgender inmate played by Laverne Cox. In her backstory episode in Season 1, called “Lesbian Request Denied,” which was directed by Jodie Foster, Sophia is seen in her pre-transition phase as a man. It’s not a Louie episode where people playing the same character change willy-nilly, the pre-transition Sophia looks exactly like her. This was possible because actress Laverne Cox has a twin brother, musician M. Lamar. Sometimes he even gets mistaken for her.
Last July he tweeted this photo of the siblings photographed together for the first time in ten years:
My sister @Lavernecox and I photographed together for the first time in over a decade.I am the evil twin. pic.twitter.com/pIotPNyVuo
— M Lamar (@M_Lamar) July 19, 2013
According to Laverne, they initially tried to “Butch” her up to play the pre-transition Sophia, firefighter Marcus Burset who stole credit cards to finance the surgeries and hormones, but it didn’t work, so Jodie Foster started looking for an actor. That’s when Laverne suggested that her twin brother play her, even though he’s not an actor. They didn’t actually get to spend time to together on set because they shot on different days, but it’s still a pretty powerful experience for the siblings. “I love my brother so much … in so many ways, he’s been my moral compass over the years. Like, I run things by him and he’s … we’re twins, so we’ve literally known each other our entire lives,” she said to Yahoo TV. “And there’s a wonderful bond that we share, and there’s a tremendous amount of respect that we have for each other as artists and as human beings. So I’m really grateful that I got to share a little bit of this show and this moment with him.” In 2012 Laverne and M. Lamar discussed sexuality, queer, and transgender issues in depth with The Huffington Post.
Laverne: When I tell people about my twin brother and his sexual orientation, I say, “Well, he doesn’t like to be called gay. Queer is closer but not really. He’s in a long term relationship with a man and open about it.” How would you describe your sexual orientation or would you? M. Lamar: Well I think the most important thing about me is that I am an artist! I have been writing a requiem for the last year and a half about the middle passage that I am doing at The Cathedral Church of Saint John The Divine. So for me it’s all about what one does as opposed to what one might be oriented towards doing. So as far as your question is concerned, I find it a bit reductive. I guess I don’t believe in sexual orientation. I believe in sexual practice. From my experience sexual practice varies from situation to situation, so to speak — in your terms here it feels like lying. I just don’t believe in sexual orientation. I realize that it’s part of a political agenda with gays, LGBT’s or whatever. And I realize you are a part of that political agenda, trying to push these various sorts of things. But I just want to speak to the truth of my experience. The truth I believe is outside orientation and it’s about behavior and ultimately sexual freedom outside of a label and, of course, being a practicing artist — living one’s life as art.
Laverne is currently covering this week’s TIME magazine for a story about being transgendered, which she knew she was from a very young age. “I tell this story about third grade. My third grade teacher called my mom and said ‘Your son is going to end up in New Orleans wearing a dress,'” she says. “Up until that point I just thought that I was a girl and that there was no difference between girls and boys. I think in my imagination I thought that I would hit puberty and I would start turning into a girl.”