The quintessential ’80s teen heartthrob (Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo’s Fire, Weekend At Bernie’s), Andrew McCarthy has segued into a prolific directing career, working on Orange Is The New Black, Happyish and Grace and Frankie to name only a few. He’s also acting in ABC’s upcoming show The Family, alongside Joan Allen and Alison Pill.

Additionally, McCarthy has made a name for himself as a travel writer – he’s an editor-at-large for National Geographic and in 2012 he published a travel memoir, The Long Way Home.

With season 3 of Orange premiering last week, McCarthy has just started directing season 4, saying, “I love all my children equally, but my head is totally in the Orange is the New Black world now.” Speaking to the pull of the show, McCarthy says, “the blend of drama and comedy–they sneak up on you when you least expect it. It just sort of blends those two and you just have to ride that wave back and forth.”

Andrew McCarthy directs Natasha Lyonne in  Orange is The New Black
“The blend of drama and comedy–they sneak up on you when you least expect it,” McCarthy says, pictured on the Orange is The New Black set with Natasha Lyonne

One of McCarthy’s favorite Orange episodes in his directing portfolio is Low Self-Esteem City, from the second season. in which the show, in signature fashion, rewinds to the backstory of Gloria (Selenis Leyva).It’s like you think know somebody, then you have these crazy flashbacks and think, ‘Oh wow.’ It’s a bit like knowing someone, then suddenly they sit down and play piano and they play beautifully and you’re like, ‘Oh my God there’s a whole other facet of this person I’ve never considered.’ That’s one of the wonderful things about the show.”

For McCarthy, being behind the camera is “a great relief.” He says, “I have every actor neurosis in the world, so if I can’t talk to an actor, I’m in trouble. There’s certain camaraderie that I already have built in with an actor. I walk in with a strike in my favor already because they know I’m sort of one of them. You just want to create an ally and you want to make the environment as good as possible so they can do as well as they can do.”

Of working on Grace and Frankie with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, McCarthy says he thought, “Wow. I hope Jane Fonda doesn’t eat me for lunch.” Fortunately, he says, “they couldn’t have been nicer. As an actor, I can be quite defensive and I never met two more open people to being directed and encouraging and wanting direction than Jane and Lily. It was a huge relief and real joy.”

McCarthy often encounters die-hard fans of his iconic 80s movies. “I have to say, the Weekend at Bernie’s people are always the strangest ones,” he laughs. “You can tell when they’re coming up to you, what movie they’re going to talk about and Weekend at Bernie’s are a very disturbed crowd. But the people you really want to worry about are the Less Than Zero fans. But I have had many people tell me that Less Than Zero kept them off drugs.”