dascha polanco oitnb
source: Instagram

Dascha Polanco may be the star of the award-winning Netflix show Orange is the New Black, but it wasn’t too long ago that she was holding down three jobs while trying to attend nursing school part-time.

In fact, she never actually thought she would be a true working actress. That is, until she landed the role of Dayanara Diaz, the inmate who falls in love with a prison guard, only to end up pregnant.

Polanco remembers the exact moment she got the call telling her she had landed the role. She told The Cut,

“My manager called me while I was working a desk job at a hospital. I remember I was in my lab coat, it was freezing. Once I got the call, I wasn’t cold anymore.”

She added,

“Honestly, I didn’t tell anyone that I was actually in a show. And when I did mention it to some people, it was like, ‘Oh, it’s just a Netflix thing.’ They didn’t take it seriously. But for me it was, like crying nonstop because I didn’t know what was going to happen. For me to be excited is one thing but for a manager to be excited is different. So I was thinking to myself, ‘this has to be bigger than what I thought.’”

And even after she started on set, she didn’t realize quite what she had gotten herself into. She continued working various jobs even after landing the gig and remembers asking coworkers what they did as well, only for them to tell her that they were, of course, purely actresses.

“That was a moment of self-realization for me. I never thought that was possible; and from that moment I knew I could be a professional actress for the rest of my life.”

Now that OITNB is entering its fifth season (it premieres June 9) and the show is Netflix’s most-watched original series, Polanco just how special the show truly is.

“To have such raw talent on such a big platform was something that never existed before. It was a show for all women — some experienced, some not — and gave me the opportunity to show that I am equally as talented as anyone else out there.”

When she’s not busy on set, Dascha Polanco is trying her hand on-stage in the show Tell Hector I Miss Him.

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Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to started Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, and Tiger Beat. She’s currently obsessed with Vanderpump Rules, lipstick, and her kitty Tom.