'Orange Is the New Black's' Jenji Kohan Details Her Frustrating Negotiations to Get Actors Naked
The showrunner talks about deviating from source material, side-boob riders and the limitations for sexuality on Netflix: "We have some male frontal nudity this season, but I don't think it's going to be erect."
There's a lot to be said about Orange Is the New Black -- but when showrunner Jenji Kohan took the stage at Wednesday's Hollywood Radio and Television Society lunch, the conversation kept circling back to nudity.
It doesn't help that she was joined by Masters of Sex's Michelle Ashford (and Bates Motel's Carlton Cuse), but Kohan's frank discussion of sex and nudity on her show earned the biggest reaction, by far, from the industry crowd.
"I love graphic sex, the more sex the better," she said. "Very often it's convincing the actors to get naked. … You hope everyone will just be cool about it, and then they're not. There's a lot of convincing and making people feel comfortable."
On top of navigating nudity reluctance, Kohan mentioned the contractual limitations that arise when clothing-free scenes come up. "Very often, there's a very specific rider," she said, "only side boob or only this cheek. … The extras, God bless them, are the ones that have it all out there -- and it's only an extra $10 a day for full nudity."
Netflix, she added, is thus far not giving her many boundaries -- though there was one. "We have some male frontal nudity this season," she said, "but I don't think it's going to be erect."
As for her late Showtime comedy, Weeds, Kohan described another penis-related obstacle: a scene in which one actress had to handle a sex toy. "We could show the dildo and we could show the lube," she said, "but we couldn't show her applying the lube to the dildo."
It wasn't all sexy talk. The veteran TV writer talked about her frustration, the expectation of free content, tax incentives moving production out of Los Angeles and learning to live with Netflix's all-at-once release model. "I miss having people on the same page," she said. "I had to stop seeing it as traditional TV."
Kohan also addressed deviating from the source material of Piper Kerman's memoir.
"Piper herself wasn't very comfortable with this very fictionalized account of her own life, so it became its own animal," she said. "She's the godmother of it, and she's the source of it, but it's become its own show. Piper is great for technical advice, she's also very involved in the post-prison advocacy world."
Orange Is the New Black returns for its second season on June 6.