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Uzo Aduba: In Treatment

Jul 9, 2021

In Treatment and Orange Is the New Black actor Uzo Aduba shares that when she was growing up, she and her sister learned a secret language— their brother, on the other hand, missed the lesson. This, of course, leads to years of inside jokes and secret conversations, much to her brother's annoyance. She talks about how playing a therapist— In Treatment's Dr. Brooke Taylor— has opened her eyes to the other side of therapy. Then, the actor plays a round of Trivia Golf, showing off her knowledge of everything from opera to The Real Housewives.

Heard on Fenway Bark And The Litter Box Disco.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

It's time to welcome our special guest. She's an Emmy Award-winning actor for her character Crazy Eyes on "Orange Is The New Black" and her depiction of political trailblazer Shirley Chisholm on the FX series "Mrs. America." She currently stars in the HBO series "In Treatment." Uzo Aduba, welcome to ASK ME ANOTHER.

UZO ADUBA: Hi. Thank you for having me.

EISENBERG: I read that, growing up, you and your sisters had, like, a secret language...

ADUBA: Oh, yeah.

EISENBERG: ...That used to really annoy your brothers. What was that secret language?

ADUBA: Yeah. It was called, I think - like, it's like - it's almost like a pig - gibberish is really, like, what we called it, gibberish. And my sister and I, I remember, at a - we were at a doctor's appointment. You know, my mom would bring all of us, you know, at the same time, just, like, one after the other. Go. And we were just - we spent the whole time, while we were the two in the waiting room, practicing with each other to really master it. And we did. And, like, we did it without, like - while our brother was in there. And he, like, came out. And we had it, like, locked down. And he never got to learn it and hated it.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) He missed the lesson. He missed the lesson.

JONATHAN COULTON: (Laughter).

ADUBA: Yes.

EISENBERG: And I guess, you know, as you are telling this memory, I imagine that you don't use it anymore, your sister's...

ADUBA: No, we do. We can still...

EISENBERG: Oh, you do.

ADUBA: (Laughter) We can. We can. We can - not often, but we definitely for sure, for sure.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

ADUBA: Like, it's actually key when we're around our family members because you couldn't - like, if you were out in public, Igbo, our family's native language, like, works, but if you're around your family or other Igbo speakers, it definitely does not work. So, like...

EISENBERG: Right.

ADUBA: ...If you're around, like, aunties and uncles and you want to say something that you don't want them to hear, gibberish comes in, like, immediately perfectly.

COULTON: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF DOG BARKING)

EISENBERG: Is your dog OK? Oh, yeah.

ADUBA: My dog is going to town. I didn't even factor in the Fenway of it all. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry (laughter).

COULTON: No, not at all. My dog was barking a little bit earlier, so it's good. It's a dog party.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOG BARKING)

ADUBA: He may be like - he's like, an interview? I said I was booked.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: What's your - what's the name of your dog, by the way?

ADUBA: His name is Fenway Bark.

EISENBERG: Oh, Fenway - (laughter).

COULTON: Fenway Bark.

ADUBA: Fenway Bark. I'm from Boston. Let me get him because he is going to town. I'll be right back.

EISENBERG: OK.

ADUBA: Hold on.

COULTON: All pets should have first and last names. Fenway Bark. Fenway Bark.

EISENBERG: (Laughter) Inspired.

COULTON: (Vocalizing).

EISENBERG: Yes, I believe she will return. In the meantime, I can look at these beautiful cabinet doors on your kitchen.

(LAUGHTER)

ADUBA: Thank you.

EISENBERG: And you currently star in "In Treatment." Now, this show has had a different iteration in the past, and this is the brand new version of it. And the show follows your character. You are a therapist, Dr. Brooke Taylor. And three of Dr. Brooke Taylor's patients - I got to say, over the course especially of the last year, I have thought a lot about how my therapist is doing because...

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Seriously - because, you know, I'm just like, I'm sure we're all coming to you with the same thing.

COULTON: Yeah.

ADUBA: Yeah.

EISENBERG: You know, and there's - your character kind of talks about that within the show.

ADUBA: Oh, no doubt. Well, I mean, I think my experience in doing this show was realizing, firstly, these are just people, too. You know, they are not all-knowing. And I had not considered, I guess, with the same weight before that the hour before me, someone was here.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

COULTON: (Laughter).

ADUBA: The hour after me, someone was here, right? And tomorrow and the day after that - and I wonder why they take the whole month of August off, you know? It's like that kind of, like...

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

COULTON: Yeah.

ADUBA: ...A thing that it's like, they have to hold space for every single person who comes in here.

EISENBERG: That's all they do.

ADUBA: Yeah. Yeah (laughter).

EISENBERG: All right. Uzo, we have a little ASK ME ANOTHER challenge for you.

ADUBA: OK.

EISENBERG: Are you ready?

ADUBA: Born ready.

EISENBERG: So this game is called Trivia Golf, and we're going to give you a category. Let's - you know, for example, TV shows that have won the most Primetime Emmy Awards. And then your goal is just to give me the answer that you think is closest to number one on the list.

ADUBA: OK, got it.

EISENBERG: So if it's, like - in this case, it would be "Saturday Night Live" has won the most Emmys. That would be, as they say, a hole-in-one.

ADUBA: (Laughter) Got it.

EISENBERG: And because you have a good competitive spirit, you will be competing against our very own Jonathan Coulton.

COULTON: Uh-oh.

ADUBA: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: He is at a slight disadvantage because you have the upper hand. All the questions were written about your interests.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: So I'm hoping that your interests align with mine in some respects. Otherwise...

ADUBA: And me as well.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: You have invested in a professional women's soccer team.

ADUBA: OK.

EISENBERG: Soccer is the No. 1 most popular sport in the world, with 4 billion fans, according to the world atlas. But we want to know, what sport do you think is the next most popular sport in the world? Uzo, you go first.

ADUBA: I'm going to say rugby.

COULTON: Rugby. Interesting.

EISENBERG: Very good. Very good. Jonathan, what's your guess?

COULTON: It's very hard to think about this not with an American's perspective, of course, because that's where I live. But I don't know...

ADUBA: (Laughter).

COULTON: Rugby - that's a good one. I mean, baseball is played around the world. But cricket also - cricket...

ADUBA: That was the other one.

COULTON: I'm going to say cricket.

EISENBERG: OK. Well, turns out Jonathan stole that one. Cricket is the...

COULTON: Oh, come on (laughter).

ADUBA: I was...

EISENBERG: Yeah, cricket is the second most popular sport in the world with 2.5 billion fans. Rugby is on the list at - it's actually the ninth most popular with 475 million. And in between that, there's ice and field hockey put together. As a Canadian, I think that's not good, but whatever.

COULTON: (Laughter) Put together.

ADUBA: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: And then tennis, volleyball, table tennis...

COULTON: Really.

EISENBERG: ...Then basketball, then baseball, rugby and golf. Uzo, you are - you've told us that you're a big tennis fan, and we know American women's tennis is great...

ADUBA: Yes.

EISENBERG: ...Because there are stars like the Williams sisters. But on the other hand, an American man has not won a major singles tournament since 2003. So which American man has won the most Grand Slam singles titles?

ADUBA: I feel like this is going to be someone, like, from way back, like...

(LAUGHTER)

ADUBA: ...In 1928 - like, something like...

COULTON: (Laughter).

ADUBA: Singles champions - but I'm inclined to say Pete Sampras, the great Pete Sampras.

EISENBERG: Pete Sampras - all right. Good.

COULTON: I used to follow tennis, but I haven't in recent years so I actually don't know many of the current tennis players' names. So I'm going to go a little further back. I'm going to say - this is a classic - John McEnroe. I'm going to say John McEnroe.

EISENBERG: All right. Uzo, Pete Sampras - yeah, No. 1. He...

COULTON: No. 1.

EISENBERG: No. 1. Fourteen - he won 14...

COULTON: Wow.

EISENBERG: ...Times throughout the 1990s, and his last win was the U.S. Open in 2002.

ADUBA: Wow.

COULTON: Wow.

EISENBERG: And John McEnroe - on the list, Jonathan, at No. 4. Actually, yeah, he's tied with William Larned, who won in the early 1900s...

ADUBA: OK.

EISENBERG: ...John McEnroe...

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: ...Between (laughter) 1979 and 1984, and Richard Sears, who won in the 1880s. Uzo, you watch the Bravo reality franchise "The Real Housewives."

ADUBA: Yes.

EISENBERG: OK. So...

COULTON: (Laughter) For the record, I do not.

ADUBA: OK. OK.

COULTON: So we'll see how this goes (laughter).

ADUBA: Hopefully we can convert you to...

(LAUGHTER)

ADUBA: I've been following the church for 13 years. But...

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: OK. Perfect. So Vulture published a subjective list...

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: ...Of a hundred most memorable moments of the American franchise.

ADUBA: I love the subjective tag (laughter).

EISENBERG: Yeah. So according to them, which version of the show had the most memorable moments?

ADUBA: Which show had the most memorable moments? I'm going to go with Atlanta.

EISENBERG: Atlanta - OK. Jonathan, what do you think?

COULTON: I really have no idea here. I don't even have in my head an accurate list of what cities have been done. So I'm just going to pick one...

ADUBA: (Laughter).

COULTON: ...Pick a city at random and hope they did a series there - Miami.

ADUBA: They did (laughter).

COULTON: OK.

EISENBERG: Great. Great. All right.

COULTON: Meet me halfway there.

EISENBERG: Jonathan, Miami is No. 6...

COULTON: Hey; I got on the list.

ADUBA: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: ...With two memorable moments, according to Vulture.

COULTON: Oh, two. OK. All right.

EISENBERG: It had two. Atlanta is tied for second place.

ADUBA: OK.

COULTON: There you go.

ADUBA: Is No. 1 New Jersey?

EISENBERG: Number - actually, New Jersey is No. 4.

ADUBA: Really?

EISENBERG: But it...

ADUBA: I'm so fascinated now.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: But New Jersey has 12 memorable moments, but it includes what is considered the No. 1 memorable moment.

ADUBA: The table (laughter).

EISENBERG: That table flip.

ADUBA: (Laughter) That's why I immediately regret it. I was like, those first couple of years had a lot in there. Then I was like, this might be one. OK. So Atlanta is tied for two with what?

EISENBERG: Yeah, so - with Beverly Hills - Atlanta and Beverly Hills. But No. 1 - New York.

ADUBA: New York.

EISENBERG: I mean...

COULTON: Oh.

EISENBERG: This is Vulture, remember. This could very biased.

ADUBA: (Laughter).

COULTON: Yeah, right. Right.

EISENBERG: But 24 memorable moments. OK. And just - this is the last one. Just because you're a trained opera singer, we can't usually ask questions to just everybody.

ADUBA: OK.

EISENBERG: But you're a trained opera singer. So which opera do you think has had the most performances worldwide since 1996? And this is according to...

ADUBA: (Laughter).

COULTON: Oh, boy.

ADUBA: That's a specific year marker (laughter).

EISENBERG: ...Operabass.

ADUBA: I'm going to go with "The Marriage Of Figaro" or "Le Nozze De Figaro."

COULTON: Yeah. I'm going to just say "La Boheme" - I'm going to say.

ADUBA: Oh, that's also a good one. That's a good one, too.

EISENBERG: OK. Yeah. Jonathan, "La Boheme" - No. 1.

ADUBA: Wow.

EISENBERG: By Giacomo Puccini.

COULTON: Wow (laughter).

EISENBERG: "The Marriage Of Figaro," though, not bad - No. 4.

COULTON: Yeah.

ADUBA: OK.

EISENBERG: Well done, both of you, and, Uzo, such a joy. Uzo Aduba is the star of the new season of the HBO series "In Treatment." Thank you so much for joining us.

ADUBA: Thank you for having me. You guys are great. I love joining you.

EISENBERG: Yes.

COULTON: A lot of fun - thank you.

EISENBERG: That's our show. ASK ME ANOTHER'S house musician is Jonathan Coulton.

COULTON: Hey. My name anagrams to thou jolt a cannon.

EISENBERG: Our games were written by our staff, along with Emily Kramer, Ashley Brooke Roberts and senior writer Karen Lurie with additional material by Cara Weinberger and Emily Winter. ASK ME ANOTHER is produced by Nancy Saechao, James Farber and Rebecca Wood with Gianna Capadona and our intern, Zach St. Clair. Our senior producer is Travis Larchuck. Our senior supervising producer is Rachel Neel, and our bosses' bosses are Steve Nelson and Anya Grundmann. And thanks to our production partner WNYC. I'm her ripe begonias.

COULTON: Ophira Eisenberg.

EISENBERG: And this was ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EISENBERG: Next time on ASK ME ANOTHER, from "RuPaul's Drag Race" and the Broadway stage, it's Peppermint. She'll give us some behind the scenes "Drag Race" tea and tell us why the drag name Peppermint turned out to be not the best choice when it comes to search engine optimization. So join me on NPR's ASK ME ANOTHER, the answer to life's funnier questions.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.