Taylor Schilling and series creator Jenji Kohan talk Orange is the New Black, debuting Thursday, July 11 on Netflix
After the successful debuts of Netflix Original Series' House of Cards, Hemlock Grove, and Arrested Development earlier this year, the streaming service is about to launch their fourth program this week with Orange Is the New Black. Weeds creator Jenji Kohan is behind this comedy series, which follows Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), whose life is upended when she is sentenced to federal prison due to her relationship with a drug smuggler (Laura Prepon). Series creator Jenji Kohan and star Taylor Schilling recently held a conference call where she spoke about Season 1, debuting in its entirety Thursday, July 11 at 12:01 AM exclusively on Netflix. Here's what the creator and star had to say.
Taylor Schilling spoke about her last experience on television, the short-lived NBC series Mercy, but how Jenji Kohan's script ultimately drew her to the show.
"I was really excited that Jenji was attached to the project. I had a hard time on TV the last time on television, and so I wasn't sure I wanted to do that again. I really am a big fan of Jenji and I know this is her next thing, so I read it. So that blew my skirt up a lot. Once I read the script, I was really, really impressed that there was a woman who was sort of like the centerpiece of her own story and that it was last - a role that was in reaction to a man and like it just seemed - and she was driving her own - sort of she was like in the center of her own narrative. I was just really excited and I love the idea that it was based on a true story. I read it and really was ready to do anything to be a part of it."
"Four hundred years. It's going on forever. As long as they'll have us, I feel confident that we can stretch this shit out forever. As long as we're interested in these characters and the stories, it's prison. We can make the rules."
The series is based on the true story of Piper Kerman and her memoirs. When asked how much research they did beyond reading the book Jenji Kohan said they immersed themselves in prison life.
"We did tons of research. We went to visit a prison. We had speakers. We have read tons of supplementary material, books, articles. We are constantly e-mailing articles that - when I say "we," I mean the writers in the writers' room. We have dipped ourselves in prison culture and lore and media, and the experience - and people. And we really want to be as informed as possible."
Taylor Schilling also spoke about meeting the real Piper Kerman on the set, and how she became a resource in crafting the character.
"I met her when we were shooting the first episode. And you know, as this show progressed, she became more and more of a resource for me and it was easier to kind of like incorporate some of her. She - what really helped me is listening to like the minutia of experience, you know, like a lot of the sensory details and things like that was pretty cool."
The actress also spoke about the aspects of prison life that surprised her that she didn't know about before signing on.
"Well, a lot of things surprised me. I never thought about how loud prison was. I've never thought about how your ears never really get a break from all this noise and that actually was replicated on our set pretty well. And I never - and I felt like - I never thought about how the lights don't go out so you never really rest in that way. I never really thought about the intensity of being watched all the time."
When asked the same question, Jenji Kohan said she was surprised how inmates kept their humanity intact.
"You know, I just - the oppression of it, just the sense of helplessness and really being part of a system and a bureaucracy that is arbitrary and, you know, losing - I never thought of the depth of losing your freedom and what that meant. And I was surprised and delighted by ways people maintain their humanity and try to survive."