'OITNB' co-star Jessica Pimentel confirms Taryn Manning is a victim of cyberbullying: 'I've witnessed it'

The Orange Is the New Black final season red carpet premiere in New York City was a spectacular homecoming, reuniting lavishly-dressed cast members both old and new to bid farewell to the revolutionary Netflix original series. However, one prominent cast member was noticeably missing: Taryn Manning, who plays the beloved Tiffany "Pennsatucky" Doggett.

Afflicted both in the show and in her personal life, Manning posted a cryptic message on her Instagram early July 25 apologizing to her fellow OITNB castmates for skipping their final curtain call due to being “terrorized by cyber criminals.”

“Wish I could be there. Unfortunate uncontrollable circumstances that no one could help with have made it this way,” Manning wrote in an extensive Instagram post, accusing her “team” of doing nothing to help her.

“No one deserves to have another person single handedly ruin their life to the point they are paralyzed and never leave in fear. I tried to tell everyone. No one cared,” she wrote.

Taryn Manning attends the Netflix FYSEE Kick-Off Event on May 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo: Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images)

After her post gained traction, Manning explained to The Blast Thursday that “cyber criminals” had compromised her laptops, phones, emails and even her finances. Although she has been the target of these cyberattacks for years, Manning said the escalation of the attacks made her feel uncomfortable traveling to New York City for the final season premiere.

Many of the OITNB cast that spoke to Yahoo Entertainment at the final season premiere event said they were unaware of the cyberattacks against Manning — except co-star Jessica Pimentel, who revealed that she had been a “witness” to Manning’s harassment online.

“I’ve witnessed it first hand — I mean I’ve gotten death threats from something my character did, and many of us have. It’s not the first time,” Pimentel, who plays Maria Ruiz, tells Yahoo Entertainment.

Jessica Pimentel attends the Orange Is the New Black Season 7 premiere screening on July 25, 2019 in New York City. (Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Netflix)

“It comes from things that are out of our control, whether it’s our appearance or something that a fictional character did — not even something that you have done personally,” she explains, adding that many artists are “deeply sensitive and emotional creatures,” which often makes actors and actresses hypersensitive to attacks.

“So, if you are already a sensitive person, to be in that position is to be as vulnerable as possible,” Pimentel says. “I don’t blame her. I think she needs to do whatever she needs to do to feel safe and happy.”

Despite just recently discovering that Manning is the victim of an onslaught of cyberattacks, many of her other OITNB co-stars were sympathetic towards the harassment she’s faced, sending messages of love and support from the premiere.

The cast of Orange Is the New Black at the premiere of the final season on July 25, 2019 in New York. (Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Netflix)

Laura Gómez, who plays inmate Blanca Flores, says Manning is a “very vulnerable individual, which is what makes her work so beautiful.”

“Nobody deserves that type of treatment and I really am a big fan of her work and her soul,” Gómez tells us on the red carpet with “Orange Is Forever” emblazoned in the backdrop. Elizabeth Rodriguez, who plays Aleida Diaz, echoed Gómez’s praise of Manning’s acting prowess, adding that Manning was “bigger” than the “petty” cyber harassment.

Others simply supported her decision to put her safety and wellbeing first. “I’m glad that she’s taking care of herself and protecting herself in the way that she has to,”
Daniella de Jesus, who plays Zirconia Cabrera, says. “But it’s really disappointing that you’re making someone feel so unsafe — I think it’s intolerable.”

Frieda Berlin portrayer Dale Soules expressed how sorry she was that the cast could not be with her during this difficult time, and revealed that she knows firsthand how vicious harassment can be. “[Bullying is] a deadly, deadly thing. It almost caused me to kill myself,” Soules shares. Soules was bullied growing up for being poor and having no running water at home. “If it hadn’t been for theater, and it hadn’t been my finding a little place there — I’m almost positive that I would not be here today. So, I feel very strongly about how horrific it is.”

Although the troubling post left many of her friends and fans concerned about the OITNB star’s well-being and mental health, Manning re-emphasized to The Blast and her Instagram that she was not suicidal, but a victim of “cyber terrorism” online.

“The amount of things you can do to hurt someone’s life on the internet is unthinkable,” Manning told The Blast. She also revealed that she was adamant about not taking her own life after her father committed suicide when she was in the eighth grade.

However, this isn’t the first time that Manning has braved an onslaught of harassment. A former friend of the OITNB star began stalking Manning, and was thrown in jail several times for violating Manning’s restraining order.

“If I can have a voice and just try to help people and [let them know] no one’s perfect and we all struggle,” she told Entertainment Tonight at the time. “I have no shame in being honest at all. I always have been.”

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