Steadily building his career with characters that will stretch perceptions and add layers to the human experience, Hunter Emery has had the good fortune to work on the Netflix drama ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. While the prison guards and correction officers are not always perceived to be the good guys in ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, they are just as vital to the story and experiences of the inmates enduring their time in Litchfield Penitentiary. Bringing his perspective and willingness to embrace all types of characters, Hunter has been rewarded with a chance to learn, grow and contribute to a show that has captivated fans across the world. In an exclusive interview, Hunter shares what drew him to the complicated world of ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK and how he has benefited as an actor in pursuit of his craft and dreams.
What was the initial appeal for you about portraying CO Rick Hopper and working on Netflix’s ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK?
HUNTER: Well, when you see a recurring role for OITNB, you jump at the opportunity to audition for it! But after I read the breakdown for the character and the audition scene, I knew the role would be a blast to take on. I still pinch myself every time I walk on set.
How would you describe who Rick is in the series?
HUNTER: I’d say he is a bit of an old frat boy with a good heart but his decision-making is questionable at best. I think he is a little lost too – he was a guy that never really knew what he wanted to do with his life and kind of got stuck.
What do you most admire about him?
HUNTER: I admire that he is willing to make really big personal sacrifices for the people he loves. In the upcoming sixth season you get to know and understand him a bit better.
What is it like working alongside the talented ensemble on ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK?
HUNTER: It’s a privilege. And it’s also like going to an acting boot camp! In my two seasons on the show, I have learned more about being a professional actor than in the past ten years combined. I get to be in scenes with some of the most talented artists working in television today. You can’t help but learn in an environment like that.
Who do you get to work with most in the series and what is that experience like?
HUNTER: Last season I spent most of my time with Brad William Henke, who is one of the most talented and amazing dudes that I have ever met — I’m so grateful that I get to call him a friend. But this season… you’ll have to tune in and see! I can say it has been the most rewarding experience of my professional career.
Any favorite scenes that you can share from working on the show?
HUNTER: Every week, it felt like I was shooting my new favorite scene! The writers and creators showed so much faith in me by giving me new and more challenging material to work with each week. Every episode I was so excited to get back on set and to give it my all!
What challenges did you face in portraying a correction officer and how did you overcome them?
HUNTER: I’m not at the point in my career where I can take a couple months to trail some CO’s around an actual prison — I wouldn’t even know how to arrange such a thing! Instead, I just try to relate to the emotions that come with the situations that Rick finds himself in, and try to find times in my life when I felt similar.
Has your character story in the show left an impression on you in your life? If so, in what way?
HUNTER: In the upcoming sixth season, you really get to peak behind the curtain and see what makes him tick, it’s left me with a real soft spot in my heart for him.
As an actor, what has been the one thing you have taken away from the experience of working on ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK?
HUNTER: Show up every day with an attitude of gratitude. Not every actor gets an opportunity like this and don’t take one second for granted.
What is your proudest achievement working on ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK?
HUNTER: There is an episode, that Laura Prepon directed, where I feel like I did some of my best work as a professional actor. She was so amazing and really empowered me to make strong choices and really go for it!
You also worked on BLINDSPOT. What did you enjoy about working on that project?
HUNTER: Whenever I get to play some tough, ‘bad guy’ character it’s a lot of fun because it’s so far from who I am. Anyone that knows me will tell you that I’m a big teddy bear, so running around as some kind of badass is a good time!
Then you also appeared in “Gone.” What did you enjoy about working on that project?
HUNTER: I got to have my own stunt double! His name was Todd Ryan Jones, lovely guy! He had to shave his head, and I felt terrible for him because he had a beautiful blonde head of hair! Takes a real pro to go bald on a days’ notice. We had such a blast and I really hope we get a chance to work together again.
What has surprised you most about your career so far?
HUNTER: That going bald would be the thing that kick started it! LOL! No, I’m kidding. I’m continually surprised at how lucky I am to get to get up and do what I love. I will never get over that.
At this stage of your career, what do you think you have learned from the roles and projects you have worked on?
HUNTER: I’ve learned that the work never stops and that you never stop learning or trying to get better at your craft. Every day to got to push yourself to be better than the day before.
Then what are the perks of where you are in your career right now?
HUNTER: The perks I benefit most come from behind the scenes. I have the opportunity to keep building a good reputation as the guy that shows up ready to work and who has a lot of passion. Hopefully, I can keep working for a long time because of that.
Has there been any great advice you have gotten about working as an actor?
HUNTER: I can’t remember where I heard this or who I can attribute it to, but someone once told me to “remember that acting is a 60-year career, not a 6-year career!” Reminding myself that I’m in it for the long haul gets me through the tough times.
What advice would you offer to other upcoming and aspiring actors?
HUNTER: You’re never done learning, and make sure that you love it with all your heart because that’s what keeps you going.
Do you have any other upcoming projects that you can share that fans should keep an eye out for?
HUNTER: Yeah! I recently had a blast shooting a guest starring role on CHICAGO PD, (episode 21 “Allegiance”), which aired on NBC on May 2nd.
To see Hunter continue in his role as CO Rick Hopper at Litchfield and where his story goes, be sure to tune in for Season 6 of ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, set to premiere later in 2018 exclusively on Netflix.