In Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black,” Adrienne C. Moore brings humor and heart to the role of prisoner Cindy “Black Cindy” Hayes, who memorably undergoes a religious awakening in season 3.
Off-screen and out of the orange jumpsuit, Moore also demonstrates heart: She volunteers with the New York City-based The 52nd Street Project (a program that matches Hell’s Kitchen kids with professional actors) and Naked Angels’ 3T (a program that matches NYC student writers with theater professionals), as well as with Los Angeles-based Hope for Paws and the ASPCA. It was through Hope for Paws that she adopted two puppies, Lola and Mowgli, despite her busy schedule (and despite having just redecorated her home).
In this edited interview with writer Bethany Wynn Adams, Moore shares what drives her work both onscreen and off.
You were president of Northwestern University’s gospel choir and minored in both history and religion. How does your faith or spirituality inform your work as both an actress and an animal advocate?
I think as beings, human and animal, we are all spirit. Whether we believe in a higher power or not, the human body is made up of both spirit and flesh. So naturally, I always like to come from a place where I ask, “Where is this character at emotionally? What is their spirit/essence like?”
When I was going through Cindy’s conversion journey in season 3, I was also working on an off-Broadway play, “Ethel Sings,” about the story of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg [U.S. citizens who were executed for spying in 1953]. I played the Angel.
I found myself at a place where both characters, Cindy and the Angel, were going through very similar journeys. They were discovering this idea about who God is. And in the end, they both learned, as Cindy so eloquently states (props to Jenji [Kohan] for writing this episode), that we are here to “do God.”
As an animal advocate, I know without question that animals and humans have a profound connection through spirit. No example better shows this than an experience that I had with my dogs. I was first fostering them for a few days, helping out at Hope for Paws.
The weeks-old pups and I were hanging out, and I was watching them play and wrestle. At that moment I thought about my father, who recently lost his battle with cancer. It’s been difficult to cope, and there are moments where I find myself crying. For some reason watching them play and wrestle made me think about my dad and how happy he always was—maybe because I was looking at how happy they were.
But anyways, I started crying, and Lola and Mowgli stopped playing, looked up at me and then ran over and crawled into my lap, up to my face and literally began licking all the tears away.
Whether they knew why I was crying or not, their spirit understood that I was sad, and their way of showing love toward me in that moment was by licking away the tears. You can’t deny that was the spirit operating in that moment.
What inspired you to volunteer for animals?
A little-known fact about me is that if I wasn’t an actress, I probably would have studied veterinary medicine. As kids growing up in Nashville and Atlanta, my brother, sister and I were always out in our backyard or creek or at the local YMCA. We would always find animals, whether they were snakes, crawfish, birds … whatever animal was out and about. I grew up having cats, dogs and the occasional fish as a pet. So, quite naturally, growing up, I wanted to work with them, but life happened and I became an actress.
Since I’m not a veterinarian or marine biologist, I can use my voice as an actress and as a person of some influence to spread a message of having love and compassion and respect for all animals. They deserve a safe place in this world just as much as we do. We need animals.
Do you think living in NYC makes you uniquely positioned to make a difference?
I love living in New York City. I think it has a vibrancy and an energy that’s so alive and magnetic that living here, I feel as though I can accomplish anything. Like the lyrics to the great Frank Sinatra song about NYC, “if [you] can make it here [you] can make it anywhere.”
What made you decide to adopt?
I was thinking about whether adopting an animal would be feasible with my lifestyle and work schedule. I met one of the ladies who works for Hope for Paws, and she suggested that I try to foster a puppy for a day to see how I liked it.
The day before she brought Lola to me, she texted me and asked if she could bring one more puppy. I said “Of course,” and the next thing I knew, two puppies showed up at my doorstep. And when we had that moment where they both jumped in my lap and licked away my tears, that solidified our fate together.
I knew I couldn’t let them go, and I didn’t want to let them go. So I made plans and brought them back to my home in New York.
How are your new furnishings holding up with two puppies?
The dogs are faring quite well in my home. They do have a bit of a fetish for the legs of my chairs and table, so I’m constantly trying to keep them away from that, but I’m also constantly finding chew marks on my chair legs.
Do you have any tips for new rescue dog parents?
The best advice I could give for a new animal owner is the first piece of advice my dog trainer gave me when I brought Lola and Mowgli to him when they were 9 weeks old. He calls it the “4 C’s of Dog Training”: Compassion, Clarity, Consistency and Communication. You must understand and have compassion for them, because they are trying to learn and adjust to your world. Be clear in your training. Your commands must be firm and concise. Consistency is key when training your dogs.
I am training Lola and Mowgli to be therapy dogs, and I want them to be able to go into hospice care, hospitals and cancer treatment centers. It’s something that I would’ve wanted my father to have. Hospice care centers can be very isolating at times, and what better way to counter the isolation than with animal therapy?