Speaking to PEOPLE at the Opportunity Agenda's Creative Change Awards, Cox discussed her activism and gave a hint of what fans can expect from her character in the show's upcoming second season, which premieres June 6.
"We see different sides of Sophia that we didn't see in season one," she explained. "She's more carefree."
Sophia's story lines in the first season often revolved around her relationship with the show's ostensible lead, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), as well as her battle with prison authorities over her hormone medication. The second season, Cox says, will broaden this focus.
"We've seen Sophia as a confidante, but now we see her as a teacher and as a friend. We see the depths of her other relationships."
Though she's the subject of a recent TIME cover story on transgender activism, Cox says she doesn't particularly try to play Sophia as a trailblazer.
"That's for other people to decide," she said. "I'm just an actor who's happy to be working."
And working she is – Cox says she's "exhausted" from all the projects that have popped up in the wake of Orange Is the New Black's success. She's producing a documentary called Trans Teen for MTV and in the process of writing a memoir for Harlequin.
Her passion project of the moment is Free CeCe, a documentary she made about the campaign to free CeCe McDonald, a transgender woman jailed for killing a man in what she claimed was self-defense.
Sabelo Narasimhan / The Opportunity Agenda
Still, she credits her role on Orange Is the New Black for creating awareness of the trans community's struggle.
"What's really heartening for me is when cis [non-trans] folks come up to me and say they never even thought before about connecting with someone who was transgender," Cox said during a panel discussion alongside McDonald.
"There's something about the way Sophia is written [through which] they found themselves connecting and feeling empathy for this character."