Pablo Schreiber may be notorious now as George ‘Pornstache’ Mendez in Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, but the actor’s vast resume also includes a Tony nomination for his Broadway debut in Awake and Sing, roles in Vicky Christina Barcelona, The Wire, Weeds, Lords of Dogtown, The Good Wife, Law and Order: SVU and many, many more. He also happens to be the half-brother of Liev Schreiber. Currently appearing in HBO’s The Brink and filming season 4 of Orange, Schreiber took time out of a well-earned vacation to talk to AwardsLine.

You’ve been a working actor in TV for more than ten years, so how did it feel to get this Emmy recognition for Orange?

It was very surprising to me because this year Orange got switched from the comedy to the drama category, and when I saw that happen I thought, ‘there’s no way.’ I sort of wrote it off because most of my stuff is in the comedic vein or at least that season two stuff that I’m nominated for. The return of Pornstache in season two is very strongly comedic, so I figured there was no way I would be nominated in that, and so I kind of put it to bed. Then I was shooting a movie in Morocco and Malta for three months, and the day that I got back, I took a 20-hour flight back, went to sleep and then I woke up in the morning to all these voicemails and text messages. So it was a wonderful little surprise.

John Slattery from Mad Men had a fake replica made of his own mustache to use on the show–what’s the story with yours?

I got offered the role by Jenji (Kohan) because we had worked together on Weeds, conditionally on the terms that the mustache had to look good. We tried on a few different versions and found one that I guess she approved of. This was for season one, and in the first episode you can see it’s really sort of walrus-y and big and bushy. I think through the first three episodes we were sort of adjusting it and trimming it down to fit my face.

Pablo Schreiber in orange is the new black season 2
“I got offered the role by Jenji (Kohan) conditionally on the terms that the mustache had to look good,” Schreiber says, pictured with Orange co-star Kate Mulgrew
Photograph by Ali Goldstein

What were you most proud of about the episode you’re nominated for?

I would say I’m most proud of the writing. When Jenji asked me if I would come back for that season–because when they shot season two I was off doing another project–they asked me to come back for three episodes and I said I would and when I read the material that they had prepared for me I was just…I felt honored and proud to get to do that stuff. You know they as a writing staff write that character so amazingly well and I’m just really happy to get to perform that stuff and I think the reentrance into the prison scene is really great, one of the great entrances of all time. So that’s very little to do with me, they really wrote it incredibly well.

Season three has Pornstache in jail–how’s that going to pan out for him?

I have no idea–that’s really the beauty of this show. I think for me but also for the people that work on it more regularly than I do, is that we’re all discovering what Jenji’s plan is each time we read a new episode. That one (episode) in season three came about because I was busy working on The Brink and I think that Jenji wanted to keep the character alive, and I also do want to keep it alive. So we decided to bring him back for one episode, and when I read it I was actually very upset that they had written him with no mustache, because I felt that was like really kind of signature of the character. Obviously, it’s where the name comes from, so I said, ‘I don’t know about this–kind of sell me on it.’ Jenji said, ‘well I’ll let Lauren Morelli, (who wrote the episode I was in), sell you on it because it’s her episode.’ Basically, picking up his mustache as kind of Samson’s hair, you know, that’s where he derived all his power from, and so when else are we going to get a chance to see him lower than being incarcerated. They wanted to see him at his lowest and that suggests to me that we may eventually get to build him back up, which is fun for me.

You’ve described The Brink as your full-time job and playing Zeke seems like a lot of fun–what drew you to it?

It is a lot of fun. The exposure that came from Orange opened up a lot of doors for me in the world of comedy that had never been opened before, so I wanted to explore that. One of my main focuses as an actor is trying to change people’s expectations of me from role to role. So I wanted to find something as far away from Pornstache as I could, and obviously with dealing prescription drugs I didn’t get far enough away, but at least I don’t have a mustache and there’s no killing or raping involved. That’s definitely a positive.