'Orange Is the New Black' Cast Talk Season 2 Backstories, Relationships and Racial Clashes
The ladies of Litchfield walked free in New York City on Thursday night for the season-two premiere of the critically-acclaimed series Orange Is the New Black -- with only Jason Biggs and Vicky Jeudy opting to wear the bright color of Netflix title on the Ziegfield Theatre's black carpet.
Dressed most vibrantly was none other than series creator Jenji Kohan, pairing a graphic dress with her signature blue-hued hair. With her daughter on her arm, she told The Hollywood Reporter that her season-two strategy was simple: more of everything from season one, including the ideas that were cut solely for time's sake. "No one wants to have sophomore slump! Expectations got so high, it's terrifying," she said. "But when you're in it, you're in it, and the worry about the pressure is a luxury … the perpetual motion makes you put the other stuff on the back burner. I'll have a nervous breakdown soon, but I don't know when that's gonna happen!"
As leading ladies Taylor Schilling and Laura Prepon shared a hug upon arrival, Natasha Lyonne laughed about how the series has impacted her daily life: "Now I can literally leave the house in my pajamas and my hair as crazy as I want, and no one's surprised!" she told reporters, just before greeting Rosie O'Donnell on the carpet. "It's like, 'I saw that Natasha in person, and boy, she looks just like she does in prison!'" Laverne Cox, who is the first trans woman of color to have a starring role on a major scripted series, said of her newly emerged platform, "It's a lot of pressure, and I'm lucky to have a lot of amazing support and people in my life who remind me that I'm enough, and I'm doing enough. Unfortunately there's a lot of injustice when it comes to trans people in this country, and I can't fight all those battles, so I have to remember who I am and what my role is. We all have our role to play in making lives better and the world a better place, so I'm trying to do what I can."
Other onscreen inmates teased their upcoming criminal backstories that will be revealed this season. Beth Fowler noted that Sister Ingalls' crime is based on the headlines of Megan Rice, the 83-year-old Catholic nun who was sentenced to prison after breaking into a nuclear weapons plant. "I went to a small Catholic women's college because I intended to enter to convent, so I knew the life," she said of playing a nun, noting that "there will be a lot of revelations" to come for her character. Barbara Rosenblat said of Miss Rosa's crime, "It won't all be doom and gloom, that's for sure, which is a nice thing," yet Alysia Reiner teased that she was shocked by Natalie Figueroa's wrongdoing: "I thought I was a good girl!" Danielle Brooks told THR that she's most excited to see the episode featuring Yael Stone's Lorna – besides those of her own hilarious character Taystee and onscreen bestie Poussey, played by Samira Wiley, to whom she gave a big hug on the black carpet between interviews.
Stone commented that season two is driven heavily by the clashes between the prison's racially divided cliques. "A lot of the conflict comes from acknowledging that those divides exist, throwing them up against each other and seeing what happens," she said, adding that it almost divvies up the cast on set by default. "It's interesting, you find yourself separated into racial groups because that's when you're shooting – you're doing it with all the other white girls! But we know each other really well and spend a lot of time together backstage and at events."
Nearly the entire cast was in attendance, including Uzo Aduba, Michael Harney, Lea DeLaria, Jessica Pimentel, Adrienne Moore, Jackie Cruz, Diane Guerrero, Emma Myles, Selenis Leyva, Abigail Savage, Lin Tucci, Tamara Torres, Nick Stevenson, Maria Dizzia, as well as OITNB alum Madeline Brewer, who is now on Netflix's Hemlock Grove. Taryn Manning happily spoiled the big season-one cliffhanger, telling THR of Pennsatucky: "I am alive!" (Kohan said that OITNB's sudden endings resemble '70s filmmaking practices, and is something she'd like to make her signature sendoff: "I think it keeps people coming back and pressing that 'next' button.")
What else is ahead in season two? Biggs told reporters of his continuing Chapman challenges, "It's really hard to move on when he wanted to be her rock, ostensibly, from the beginning … and I don't think he realized just how much was going to be required in order for him to survive on the outside, and keep his own head above water. Season two, he makes some more decisions that will continue to affect their relationship in a very interesting way."
There's also much more between Litchfield's secret couple: Dascha Polanco said of her pregnant inmate Dayanara's fate, "I'm really grateful – Jenji and the writers, the way they've put it together is the way it's supposed to be, and I accept it and embrace it. The fans are gonna be super excited!" while Matt McGorry, who plays her secret beau, officer John Bennett, added, "As an audience member, the thing that satisfies is not always the thing that draws you in and makes for interesting storytelling. There's definitely tension.… It's a stressful situation – you do get to see points, of course, of tenderness and love because there's a lot of that between them, but pregnancy is a stressful period of time anyway, from my understanding of it, and being in prison and having to keep it under wraps doesn't make it any easier."
Season two introduces a handful of new faces, including inmate Vee played by Lorraine Toussaint; corrections officer Mattias Gallego, played by former New York City police officer Alan R. Rodriguez; and a new character played by Lori Petty, a troublemaker introduced in the first episode – "She's bad, she's in jail so she's probably bad! She's probably good at heart" – a guest role Petty specifically called the show to play: "That's how you get jobs!" Also in the first episode is a peek at Piper Chapman's past, with 12-year-old Clare Foley featured as the anti-hero in the flashback: "You see Piper as a daddy's girl, and some of her friends being naughty, but she's trying to be good," she said.
Also in attendance was show writer Lauren Morelli, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison author Piper Kerman, Olympian bobsledder Jazmine Fenlator, and House of Cards actors Sebastian Arcelus and Sakina Jaffrey. Girls' Jemima Kirke joined in for the afterparty held at Hudson Commons.
When THR asked Kohan what she thought about OITNB's Emmy entry as a comedy, she shrugged, "It ultimately really wasn't my decision, and I hate the categorization [process], honestly. I wish there was an hour category and a half-hour category, because we get screwed either way [as a drama or a comedy]. We're really hard to label, that's another thing I can't waste headspace on. Put us where you want, and if you like it, great.… The same thing happened with Weeds – 'You're not funny enough, you're not serious enough.' You kind of fall through the cracks as a mutant."
To kick off the screening, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos introduced vp original programming Cindy Holland, who compared season one's humble premiere party with just the cast, crew and their families at the New York Botanical Garden with the night's packed and cheering Ziegfield Theatre. Kohan also told the enthusiastic audience, "It has been an incredible whirlwind. Someone once told me that the entertainment business is like a pie-eating contest where the prize is more pie, and I'm drowning in pie, but it's the most delicious pie! And now that I'm saying this, it sounds like a euphemism for vagina. I'm drowning in that too, and I couldn't be happier!"