Interview: Orange is the New Black Season 2 cast Q&A
Laura Humphreys | On 04, Jun 2014Reading time: 9 mins
Orange Is the New Black has already established itself as another winner for Netflix Original. Based on Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name, it takes us behind bars with the fictionalised Piper Chapman, a waspy girl from Connecticut whose perfect life is thrown into chaos by her lesbian, drug-dealing, border-hopping youth.
The funny-yet-terrifying look at life in a women’s prison has become Netflix’s biggest binge-watching success, with Season 2, like the first, released all-at-once. It’s a formula that has even got to the stars of the show, as they reveal what’s in store from the new season at its London premiere.
“I just zenned out on House of Cards,” reveals Taylor Schilling. “It’s so fun, and you just don’t stop.”
“I like it when the countdown starts,” adds Jason Biggs. “‘Your next episode will start in 10 seconds’, and then I’m like Oh, Shit! You can’t do anything! You can’t hit the pause button!”
Everyone is remarkably upbeat considering the bleak subject matter, which sees Piper go to a new prison. Schilling is keen to stress that this dramatic transfer was something that Piper had to go through.
“It was really exciting to know what was coming, and I felt like it was important for that to happen after where we left her. It was something she had to come through.”
Laura Prepon is similarly happy with the traumatic start to the season, reflecting on her own character’s involvement in Piper’s current predicament: “Jenji [Kohan, the show’s creator]always pushes the envelope and likes to keep the audience guessing. This episode definitely does that.”
Indeed, neither Larry Bloom nor Taystee Jefferson appear in the first episode – “but you can feel us,” says Biggs – with Taystee feeling much missed. Following her release from (and almost immediate return to) Lichfield, she has to confront her institutionalisation, while contending with an outside world that is less welcoming than her prison cell.
But Danielle Brooks hints at dark times ahead for her back behind bars: “For Taystee, I think she lives on after the conversation she has at the end of Season 1 in the library, when she comes back to prison. That’s really running through her head, and she’s trying to get her shit together. Again, the forces of the Universe are not helping her, but this season we are introduced to a new character that stops Taystee from using her old habits of joy and laughter to get through her pain; she’s really having to deal with her stuff. So I think it’s going to be a new colour for Taystee.”
“Larry makes decisions some might see as questionable…”
The whole group are keen to avoid spoiling too much of what’s on the way.
“I guess I can’t give too much away,” jokes Biggs, “but after Larry dies in the third episode… It’s crazy. That’s a lot for Piper to handle, but it leaves the door wide open for Alex, obviously. But I’m still there in flashbacks!”
Even when being serious, Jason insists on preserving the mystery of the programme, and reveals little about Larry and Piper’s future.
“Larry, in attempting to de-complicate things. Is that a word? It is now. But in doing that, things get even more complicated for Larry.”
“Is there any masturbating?” asks Prepon.
Laughing, Biggs remains firmly in his comedy comfort zone, regressing quickly to his American Pie persona and referring to a scene from Season 1.
“We were talking earlier about how I masturbate in everything I’m in,” he explains. “We called it masturbacting. They were saying how I’m a great on-screen masturbactor. And off-screen. But I’m really the only one who can judge that. I’m excellent at it.”
Not letting him off the hook, Prepon pushes him to talk a bit more about Larry’s future.
“Larry makes some decisions that some people might see as questionable. I see it as him trying to take care of himself, but he makes some more decisions that will directly affect his relationship with Piper.”
Piper’s relationship with Larry is not the only thing left unresolved between seasons; her on-off relationship with Alex Vauss had come to a dramatic halt, but their chemistry promises to continue causing trouble in the coming weeks.
“We work really well together, Laura and I,” says Schilling. “We talk about what’s happening to the characters, and we play really well off each other.”
“I don’t go around talking about my vagina all the time!”
Prepon sums up their relationship beautifully: “When we were doing the pilot, our director at the time, Michael Trim, explained our relationship: Alex is the spider, and Piper is the fly. Alex lured her in and they have this tumultuous relationship, but as the first season progressed, you saw those roles shift at times. They have this awesome, push-pull, love-hate relationship that people like watching.”
Prepon is eager to defend the spider-like Alex, though, and thinks that she shares some common ground with her drug dealing alter-ego.
“I’ve never smuggled drugs across international borders!” she laughs. “But one thing about Alex is that she’s a total badass, and she’s very true to herself. She’s a straight shooter and she’s very open in her communication, so that’s something I hope I have in common with her.”
Brooks feels the same about Taystee.
“I don’t go around talking about my vagina all the time!” she jokes. “But I do have the bubbly spirit that she does. I like to walk around singing, making jokes. But I think Taystee was similar to me in Season 1. In Season 2, it was challenging, because I wanted to help Taystee, you know. I want to tell her ‘Don’t do that! That’s not right!’ but I couldn’t. I found the differences between us more in Season 2.”
Piper’s flaws, meanwhile, are something Schilling is quite circumspect about: “I really like how Piper doesn’t stop trying. She just doesn’t give up. I like that about her. And I like that she isn’t always very likeable, that she’s pretty flawed. My favourite thing about Piper is the chance to touch on all those different elements of somebody.”
Biggs, on the other hand, worries that Larry can be too nice for his own good; a trait that he has had in real life in the past.
“I think Larry has a real White Knight syndrome. He wants to take care of everyone else first. On paper, that’s ostensibly a good thing, but if you don’t take care of yourself you can build resentment and I think that’s what happens to Larry. He puts Piper and everyone else first, and he’s not taking care of himself, and when he doesn’t take care of himself he makes some pretty crazy decisions.”
It’s all very well them identifying with their own characters, of course, but who is their favourite inmate?
“I feel like that’s a bit like asking someone to choose between their children!” cries Schilling. Brooks, though, has no problem with her answer.
“I really like Chang [a character who barely speaks]. I love her. There’s just such a mystery to her. And I really hope Jenji develops her character in the future.”
The depth of the characters is one of Orange’s best features. It doesn’t shy away from the complexities of prison life, and the background of every character is different.
“One of the log lines on the show is ‘Every Sentence has a Story’,” agrees Prepon. “All these women might be incarcerated, but they aren’t all terrible people. They are there for different reasons. Danielle’s character tries to go on the outside, but can’t because she’s totally uncomfortable. She comes back in to prison because that’s a place that she knows. Yoga Jones just made a really terrible mistake. And other people are there because they should be. There’s not just one blanket view – they’re all inmates, they’re all terrible. Jenji didn’t set out to do some kind of social commentary on the penal system, but it does raise awareness, which is a great bi-product of the show.”
“Jodie Foster made it not scary at all.”
Season 2 is also notable for the talent behind the camera as well as in front. One of the most exciting additions to the crew is Jodie Foster, who directs several episodes.
“When she came I had literally one line!” complains Biggs. “I got jipped!”
“She’s amazing,” says a still-starstruck Shilling. “She’s an icon, in every capacity. As a director, producer, and a writer – and actor, obviously. But she came onto the set one day, and Jason and I were working together, and I was like ‘Jodie Foster is sitting right there. Are we all aware of this?! But she took this really great, big thing, and made it not scary at all.”
Prepon agrees. “She’s a really great actor-director, and she’s all about the arc of your character, and where you’re character’s going. Once you get past the thing of ‘Holy Shit! It’s Jodie Foster!’ then it’s smooth sailing. She’s incredible.”
“I masturbacted in front of her!” adds Biggs.
Foster may return for more time behind bars too, suggests Prepon: “I’m sure she’s going to direct many, many more episodes in Season 3.”
Foster’s involvement is yet another indicator of Orange Is the New Black’s A-list credentials. The show is already a well-established part of the Netflix catalogue and one of its most highly-anticipated upcoming releases, but its success and broad appeal has come as a pleasant surprise to Biggs, who up until now was best known for American Pie.
“The thing that I have noticed is people want to talk to me about something else, for the first time since American Pie came out. This is now the thing that people approach me about or people comment on. It has also changed who want to talk to me. There has been a real cross-section of people who respond to the show, who want to talk to me about it. With American pie there tends to be a particular demographic, but it’s different for this.”
While there may be drama on the way and Episode 1 sees Piper transferred to another jail, Taylor Schilling is quick to reassure fans that the opening chapter (in which only the only returning actors are Schilling and Prepon) is not representative of what is to come.
“Don’t worry! There is a lot more of everybody else,” she promises. “They will all come back!”
Thank goodness for that, because the ladies of Lichfield Prison have been much missed.
Orange is the New Black, Season 2, is released all-at-once on Netflix UK on Friday 6th June at 8:01am.