On the popular Netflix series “Orange is the New Black,” Janae Watson is a former track star who arrives at Litchfield Penitentiary the same day as the show’s star, Piper Chapman, in season one. Not surprisingly, Vicky Jeudy, who plays Janae on the show, also enjoys being active and stays in killer shape despite long days of filming.
“I’ve always been enthusiastic about fitness. I actually started with fitness when I was 18 years old,” said Vicky, who is more noticeably bubbly than her character. “I was teaching kickboxing, weight training classes, dance-type of classes, everything. I was that 18-year-old with a back pack, big pony tail, bouncing from class to class.”
In between filming scenes for season five, Vicky took the time to discuss staying fit on the set, diet tips, training for a run in November, her charity work and more.
LISA: Your character has a fitness background. Is it just a coincidence that you do, too, or were you chosen for this role for that reason?
VICKY: It was a big coincidence! It was so funny. When it came time to shoot my back story, the producers asked me if I could run. So I had to send them a video of me running on the treadmill so they could see my form, my stride and the movement of my arms. So it was definitely a big coincidence, but it was a good coincidence — it worked out.
LISA: What are your days like now with filming?
VICKY: It’s pretty long. The other day I was up at 4:00 a.m., and I didn’t get back home until 9:00 p.m.! That’s because we were shooting in upstate New York.
LISA: So because your days are long, I know that you plan your meals somewhat. Tell me a little bit about your process.
VICKY: It requires a lot of planning. As for me, I can’t eat a lot while I’m on set, especially when filming an emotional scene. So I’m usually snacking while I’m filming. It’s usually almonds or I’ll have some green apples. Most of the time I’ll carry my smoothie with me.
Making a smoothie is so easy— I’ll make a big batch at home with my Vitamix blender. I’ll throw in spinach, green apples, berries, whatever I feel like putting in there, and then I actually place it in my fridge for three days. And then I have mason jars, fill up my smoothies and then I keep them in the refrigerator. After three days that’s when it gets a little funky; you pretty much have to throw it out after three days. And then I’ll add some flaxseeds to it, and it becomes actually really filling at the same time. If I want to add protein to it, I’ll usually add a plant-based protein powder.
LISA: Do you follow any sort of special diet?
VICKY: No, not really. I think you need to stick with what works for you. I feel like for me, if I have lots of fruit in my diet, a lot of vegetables, I feel good.
And you know what, there’s nothing wrong if you want to try eliminating high-sugar fruits for a month just to see how your body is and then start to reintroduce it. But I’m definitely not anti-fruit. At the end of the day, it’s balance. Just follow what works for you. What works for you might not work for someone else.
LISA: When you’re on set, are there a lot of unhealthy treats?
VICKY: When I’m on set, it’s a party! We have food all day. We have craft service and then of course we have the main meal. The thing is with “Orange is the New Black” is we have food for everyone. Of course, we do have the unhealthy snacks like chocolate and gummy bears. But then we also have tons of fruit and vegetables, so I feel like they cater to everyone on set.
LISA: Do you have a sweet tooth?
VICKY: I do have a sweet tooth. My favorite thing is gummy bears. That’s why I do have to include fruit in my diet because I feel like it curbs that craving that I have. And you know what, my favorite thing is pizza! I love Waldy’s Pizza on 27th and 6th in Midtown [New York City].
LISA: How often do you allow yourself a cheat?
VICKY: If I have the craving, I’ll just let myself have it. I think it’s moderation. I don’t think you need to eliminate everything. For me in this particular moment, I’m getting ready to train for this upcoming fitness event, so I’ll probably just have [pizza] like once a week.
LISA: That fitness event you are doing is a 5K race in November with Sean Penn’s J/P Haitian Organization, which is important to you since you are Haitian. How is your training going?
VICKY: I’m super excited. I’m pretty athletic, but I was never really into running. As of right now, I have started training this week, so of course right now my diet, it will be a little bit strict for me. There’s a certain body type that I’m going for, and I just need to make sure that my body is in the best shape in order to compete.
LISA: You are very involved in charity work; tell me a little more about that.
VICKY: I’m excited to be working with J/P HRO. I had the opportunity to go to Haiti with them. I am Haitian and of course I still have family members over there so it was great to see my family, but then it was also great to see in terms of what J/P is doing for the Haitian community. The No. 1 thing that I love is they’re helping the Haitian community to be self-sufficient. So right now they have about two hospitals, one school, one community center and … I just think that it’s great in terms of helping the community to become leaders so they train the next generation.
LISA: Is this your first 5K?
VICKY: Yeah, I’m excited! I’m taking my time since this is my first one. I think sometimes people get a little bit too excited or they put too much on their plate, and that’s how you get hurt. I could run faster but I tell myself, you’re preparing for this, you have to take your time, just keep up with your pace— so for me, safety is the No. 1 thing. If I get hurt, that’s not good for the show, and if I get hurt, I can’t compete. So I always think safety first and start off slow.
LISA: How often are you running and how far?
VICKY: For right now, I’m just running my 2 miles every other day. It also depends on if I’m shooting. Right now I also have to train on Saturdays and Sundays because I don’t film on the weekends. And I just never know what my schedule might be. Saturdays and Sundays are a must at this point.
LISA: When you’re filming you probably don’t have that much time to train.
VICKY: I tried so hard the other day, but I was already up at 4:00 a.m. And people don’t talk about sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, you can’t function!
LISA: When you were filming the other seasons, how did you find the time to work out and stay fit?
VICKY: Whenever I wasn’t shooting, then I was at the gym. I love bike riding in Central Park— that’s one of my favorite type of fitness activities. You have a chance to take in the scenery and to people-watch at the same time.
LISA: Obviously, you know what it’s like to have a busy schedule and stay fit. What advice would you give women on finding time to work out and staying fit on a busy schedule?
VICKY: Sit down and really plan out your schedule. Maybe look at your schedule two days ahead of time or maybe look at your schedule from a weekly aspect. The same way that you would plan for your doctor visits or a lunch meeting, you can plan fitness. If you could only fit it for 30 minutes, that’s fine.
I think also at the same time, fitness doesn’t have to be associated with the gym. It could be whatever you’re doing. So if you’re cleaning your house, maybe for the next 30 minutes tell yourself, I am going full speed, sweeping and mopping, and give yourself a time limit. I also think that’s a workout within itself!
If you’re going out with your kids to the park, you can play catch and chase the ball, whatever it is. I feel like it doesn’t have to be only fitness at the gym or running outside. And fitness should be fun. And I think the most important thing when it comes to fitness or achieving the body type that you want is food.
LISA: Are there any other pieces of advice you have for people who are thinking of starting to train for a race or take up running?
VICKY: Make sure you have good running sneakers. Someone told me the other day, and this is a person who runs 60 miles a week, to purchase two different pairs of running sneakers to alternate the days, because you wear out the sneakers pretty quickly. And, personally because I come from a group fitness background and I was teaching probably up to three classes a day, I used to put PolySorbs right in my sneakers because it helps with the impact.
LISA: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Vicky!
Up next, Vicky is set to appear in indie superhero film Armstrong. Visit www.armstrongthemovie.com for more information.