27-Jun, 18:46

19:27, October 13 128 0

2016-10-13 19:27:14
Day Out: For Laverne Cox, Life Is a Blur, and So Is New York

Laverne Cox was on the 102nd floor of One World Trade Center, gazing north through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Manhattan’s skyscrapers glinted in the midday sunlight.

“I’ve been missing New York so much,” she said, reaching out as if to embrace the city. “I’m scared of heights, but oh, my God, to get back and to get to see this. It’s like ummmm-mmhhh!”

She waved to the spire of the Empire State Building, saying that it’s near her current apartment, a rent-stabilized place she moved into while still a struggling actress. “I ain’t going nowhere,” she vowed in true New Yorker style.

This striking Emmy-nominated transgender actress and activist, best known for her role as Sophia, a transgender inmate on “Orange Is the New Black” on Netflix, was back in the city for a quickie visit in late August.

She was squeezing in a tour of the One World Observatory — she had been invited for a private viewing — and lunch before flying back to Los Angeles later that day. She’s living there temporarily while filming “Doubt,” a new legal drama in which she stars as a crusading, Yale-educated, transgender lawyer. It’s scheduled to begin on CBS in early 2017.

Ms. Cox, dressed in a slinky black Marciano dress and 6 feet 3 inches in her four-inch Louboutins, was unsure of her flight time, though she knew a car was coming at 4:30 p.m. to deliver her to the airport.

“Girl, that’s my life now,” she said. “All I know is where I have to be next.”

Her life has been a busy blur since her success on “Orange” in 2013, and she’s still on the show. There was that cover of Time magazine in 2014, there is “Doubt,” and she will be rocking fishnet stockings and a spangled red corset as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in a new version of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the 1975 cult movie musical, to be broadcast on Fox on Oct. 20.

“Rocky” showcases her four-octave singing range — “I can sing baritone and soprano” — and her dancing. Ms. Cox earned a bachelor of fine arts in dance from Marymount Manhattan College but said she was much younger then: “I can still do a split, but these days I have to stretch before I do it.”

Friendly and funny, Ms. Cox, raised in Mobile, Ala., answers any and all questions — well, almost all. “Age and weight we don’t do,” she said, explaining that being black and transgender puts enough hurdles in her career path. She believes revealing her age would only add another.

“I’m living this life that is the life I’ve dreamed of my whole life and that most people don’t get to live,” Ms. Cox said. “Now this is very recent and, God willing, I’ll be able to keep it going.”

From 102 stories up, Ms. Cox spotted the Statue of Liberty. She filmed it on her phone while reciting from the poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus in a dramatic tone, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” She’d be posting that on Snapchat, she said, adding, “I’m such a dork.”

After the tour, Ms. Cox shed her heels for flats (“They’re from Amazon.com”) and walked a block to Blue Smoke, a Danny Meyer-owned restaurant. Passers-by did double takes, and a few called out greetings, to which Ms. Cox gave a friendly nod.

The restaurant’s Southern-fried chicken had her salivating, but instead she ordered deviled eggs (“That’s mostly protein”), hush puppies, a shrimp sandwich and an unsweetened iced tea. “When I was under 21, I could eat whatever I wanted and not gain a pound,” she said. “After transitioning, when I stopped producing testosterone, I just filled out, and I kept filling.”

Over lunch, she whipped through topics.

Yes, she’ll be voting for Hillary Clinton in the election and considers much of Donald J. Trump’s rhetoric racist. “It’s not a dog whistle; it’s a bark,” she said. “And I think Republicans are trying to use trans as a wedge issue, the same way they used gay marriage in the last election.”

Yes, her post-“Orange” celebrity has improved her love life. “The trans thing — fame mitigates that for a lot of the men,” she said. “It makes them more willing and open to dating me than they might have been before.” (She currently has a steady beau.)

The waitress brought a dessert menu, but Ms. Cox waved it away. Not without some reluctance, it seemed.

“If you could eat as much ice cream as you want and not get fat, and not get high cholesterol and diabetes, I would never have sex again,” she said. “I would just curl up every night with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream, and I would be good.”