Part of an actor's job is to find the humanity in the character he's playing — no matter how awful that person is. For James McMenamin, playing prison guard Charlie Coates on Orange Is the New Black is a taxing and confusing role. Coates seemed like a pretty decent guy when we met him in season 3 of the women's prison drama, but that quickly changed when he raped Tiffany Doggett, a.k.a. Pennsatucky, played by Taryn Manning. (Coates returns for season 4, but we won't spoil his storyline.)
McMenamin talked to BuzzFeed about how he grapples with portraying a predator. "It’s tough to even talk about this sometimes," he admitted. "I portray a man who committed an assault." The actor tries not to view his character as a one-dimensional villain, though. “It’s certainly easy to judge Charlie Coates based on this one facet." Instead, McMenamin tries to find depth in him. "If I judge the character as being [entirely] evil or wrong, there’s nothing for me as an actor there to explore."
He went on to say that "[on] some levels, I bet Charlie Coates is a nice guy... That’s as far as I’m willing to go." Of course, he's not denying that his character “made a horrible, horrible mistake that may be unforgivable." When trying to empathize with a correctional officer who raped an inmate is part of a day's work, you know you've got a tough job.