When Brook Soso (Kimiko Glenn) first entered Litchfield Penitentiary as a jubilant activist turned convict in Orange Is the New Black Season 2, she was loudmouthed and animated, spending her days behind bars protesting the prison's conditions and preaching to whomever would listen. But in the latest season of the hit Netflix series, viewers see loneliness get the best of the friendless inmate, who begins to unravel and ultimately attempts suicide.
On the surface, it might seem like a drastic change for Soso, but her descent into depression has actually "been boiling in her for quite some time," according to Glenn.
"I don't think she ever really is happy," the actor told BuzzFeed News in a recent phone interview. And in looking back, that's clear. Soso has been the character those inside Litchfield — and those watching the series from the comfort of their couches — have loved to hate. The other inmates have ridiculed her for everything from her activist roots to her last name, and in Season 3, things didn't get much better for her.
Soso tries desperately and unsuccessfully to befriend the other prisoners — only to be bullied by Leanne (Emma Myles) and dismissed by her bunkmate and only fellow Asian prisoner Chang (Lori Tan Chinn).
"She's trying to relate to people and trying to speak her mind, and people aren't taking it. And she's all alone," Glenn said. "She's surrounded by people, but no one cares about her. I just imagine how that would feel, and I imagine it would feel horrible."
The other women reject Soso in part because she's "different," as prison counselor Berdie (Marsha Stephanie Blake) tells her, but largely because she has no filter. It's how she voices her thoughts that further alienates her from the others.
"I was surprised that so many people were like, Ah, Soso, shut up. I was expecting that, but I kind of was expecting people to understand more," Glenn said of the audience's response to her character. "I would so agree with [them], but I think it's how she goes about it that is a little inappropriate. She doesn't know when to shut up."
That couldn't be clearer than it is in the scene that leads Soso to lose any acquaintances she had. After some of the Litchfield inmates, Soso included, deem Norma (Annie Golden) a godlike figure with healing powers, Soso gives a rousing speech about what her new leader means to her. And when Leanne, who unfairly excommunicates Soso from the group as a result of that speech, later tries to apologize, Soso bursts into nervous laughter over Leanne's Amish background, humiliating and pushing away a potential companion.
Soso just can't help herself. And as things continue to get worse between her and Leanne, she grows lonelier and lonelier, eventually deciding to try to end her own life, a plot point Glenn did not see coming.
"We just receive the script, and sometimes they'll give us little nuggets of info, but it's really vague," Glenn said. "I was told right before I filmed one of those scenes. And I'm like, oh my god, I can't believe, well, first of all, that they didn't tell me, just because it's important. And also, secondly, I was sort of trying to figure where she was, you know?"
In Glenn's mind, Soso was in a place in which she'd become accustomed to the constant bullying. "Is she getting used to it? Is she just kind of letting it bounce off of her and trying to let it not faze her? Or is it truly getting to her?" the actor said, recalling her thought process when trying to get into Soso's mind-set. "I was almost playing it like things were bouncing off her because it was happening so frequently."
But, as it turned out, things were hardly bouncing off of Glenn's character. Initially, when Soso first admits to inmate counselor Healy (Michael Harney) that she's depressed, she immediately objects to his recommendation to take medication and turns to Berdie for support. But after Berdie is placed on leave, the audience sees Soso take desperate measures — returning to Healy for antidepressants and stealing diphenhydramine from the doctor's office where Healy sends her.
It was only at that moment that Glenn realized something major was about to unfold. "In the real world, she would never do that. She would take St. John's wort. She'd put lavender oil on her temples to calm down or something. She wouldn't take medication," said Glenn. "But I think she was just trying to save her from herself because she was really in such a desperate place."
That scene — and Soso's entire arc in Orange Season 3 — is also significant because it so honestly tackles depression, something that's rarely explored so elaborately in pop culture and something that's rarely discussed among Asian-Americans.
Thankfully, Soso survives the suicide attempt after Poussey (Samira Wiley) finds her unconscious in the library. "Hopefully, that means I'm safe for a little bit — because they tried to kill me off and didn't," said Glenn, who's also excited that Soso has seemingly found a much-needed companion in Poussey.
"I hope she gets friends," the actor added with a laugh. "It'd be really nice to have just a conversation with someone without having someone bite her head off — because I don't think she's actually been able to really just talk with someone normally."
In Season 4, that someone could easily be Poussey, who vouches for Soso when Janae (Vicky Jeudy) questions why she's at their table in the cafeteria. And later, when the inmates discover the lake beyond the prison's perimeter, Poussey takes Soso by the hand, birthing #Poussoso 'shippers and teasing the possibility of a relationship between the two.
But whether or not Soso finds friendship or romance in Season 4, Glenn just hopes the character remains true to herself.
"There are a lot of things I like about her. I think she really tries to stick to her guns and what she believes in ... and I admire that she actually speaks her mind unabashedly," she said. "I think experiences like that can really shape you and help you grow, but sometimes it can really harden you. And I think that I would hope for someone like her to continue being herself."