Free to Be: Orange is the New Black
Emmy Magazine Feature Preview: From its prison setting, Orange Is the New Black is swinging open the doors to bold, new images of women on television. No wonder streamers are practically chaining themselves to the set.
When its second season drops on June 6, that most radical of Netflix’s original series, Orange Is the New Black, will set itself further apart from what we’ve come to know as television — and not just because it’s delivered by digital streaming.
Orange rocked the industry in its first season by bringing to life women rarely seen on television: women of many races, sizes and ages; women who abuse drugs and smuggle drugs; women who’ve crossed the line to commit fraud, armed robbery — even murder. In short, women in prison.
But it did so with kick-ass comedy and an embracing empathy, leaving binge viewers begging for more.
When it resumes, the series will devote even more attention to the diverse characters who surround its blonde, blue-eyed protagonist, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling).
“We are absolutely focusing on a wider range of characters and giving other people in the cast more time,” executive producer Jenji Kohan says of the upcoming season.
As she speaks, the television veteran — who favors cat-eye glasses and Easter egg–colored hair — is locking picture on the final episode of season two at the show’s Hollywood production hub.
Kohan created both Weeds — Showtime’s edgy saga of another female lawbreaker — and Orange, which she adapted from the memoir by Piper Kerman, a Smith College graduate who served 13 months on a federal drug charge and now works as an advocate for women in prison.
From the outset, Kohan has described the Piper character as “the gateway drug” to exploring the lives of the ladies at the fictional Litchfield Penitentiary.
When Netflix renewed the series — a move that came even before its launch last July — that was license to go deep.
“The writers’ room exploded with all the stuff we had wanted to talk about that we couldn’t fit in before,” Kohan says. “We dug in and have just kept going at a steady clip...”
On the Cover: Cast of Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black photographed exclusively for Emmy magazine by Steve Schofield/Creative 24 at the Poodle Parlor in Los Angeles.