Mackenzie Phillips Talks Addiction & "Orange Is The New Black" Role

By Victoria Kim 08/01/18

“It was like, ‘Wow, I used to live this way.’ And now I get to act it out, and then walk away free and recovered. That in itself is magical.”

Mackenzie Phillips shooting a scene from OITNB with Natasha Lyonne
Photo credit: JoJo Whilden/Netflix

Actress-turned-recovery counselor Mackenzie Phillips plays Barb, one of the “Little Debbie Murderers” on the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black.

The One Day at a Time star, who beat drug abuse in the limelight and is now owner and director of Breathe Life Healing Centers in Los Angeles, said it was an “exciting challenge” to play Barb, who is “dying with untreated mental-health and substance-use issues.”

“When I found out that [the character] was someone that struggles with a serious using problem, I was even more excited about it,” Phillips told People.

Phillips has been in and out of rehab “more than several” times, and appeared on Celebrity Rehab in 2010. She’s now using her experience to help others.

“I wanted to be on the forefront of this fight. I want to break the stigma. I want to be a part of hopeful healing,” she told The Fix in a 2016 interview. “I am enthusiastic and I am passionate about doing what I do today.”

Phillips is grateful that she had access to treatment for her drug use—she acknowledged that many people, like her character Barb, do not. “I’ve had access to the best behavioral health care for my own addiction over the years. But someone who’s in prison or someone who doesn’t have the resources or the good insurance that I have, doesn’t have the opportunity,” she told People.

A comprehensive treatment program is important to sustaining one’s recovery, she added. “So when you just take the substance out of the picture, all the behaviors are still in place and the only thing missing is the drug of choice. So real recovery comes through other channels, rather than just stopping using.”

Phillips’ extensive experience with drug use came in handy on set. She described one instance where she had to revise a scene that didn’t ring true: “Being the expert drug snorter, I was like, ‘No, no, no, that’s not the way she should do it. Let’s cut the straw at an angle,’” she told Vanity Fair. “It was weird. It was like, ‘Wow, I used to live this way.’ And now I get to act it out, and then walk away free and recovered. That in itself is magical.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr