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A packed house at Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre on Friday night welcomed the cast of Orange Is the New Black for the second night of PaleyFest. Though season two won’t be streaming for viewers until June 6, one could easily have thought the event was the premiere, judging by the rabid enthusiasm of the audience — which included Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos — who watched the crowd swarm the stage for autographs from stars Taylor Schilling and Laura Prepon and series creator and executive producer Jenji Kohan.
During the panel, Kohan hesitantly agreed to answer one question about the upcoming season, whose storylines have been thoroughly under wraps. When asked whose backstories would be revealed in the show’s signature flashback style, Kohan named the following characters: Morello, Sister Ingalls, Taystee, Poussey, Ms. Rosa and a mysterious Vee.
Vee is a new character joining the Litchfield prison in season two, described as a “street-wise drug maven who runs children” and is played by Lorraine Toussaint. Sitting next to her new co-stars, including Natasha Lyonne, Jason Biggs, Taryn Manning, Danielle Brooks and Michael Harney, Toussaint remained tight-lipped, with Kohan monitoring her words from a few seats away, but she did say that “Jenji has written a character that plays, and enjoys it, and is incredibly engaging, and who wants to bring everyone into the big game.” When Kate Mulgrew started to offer more details for season two, Kohan warned her not to say more. Schilling, seated between them, shouted, “I’m very uncomfortable right now!”
The panel discussion also turned to more serious topics, from prison reform to transgender representation to the unprecedented level of fame that a streaming series like Orange can bring for its actors, some of whom went from complete unknowns to huge stars literally overnight. Lea DeLaria, who was seated in the audience until called up onstage to join her castmates, described that very sensation in startling terms: “Usually when a 16-year-old boy walks up to me on the street, it’s to spit in my eye and call me a dyke. But now it’s to tell me how much he loves Orange Is the New Black.”
Although Schilling and Lyonne both told The Hollywood Reporter that they have still not watched the first season of their own show, they do know firsthand the dangers of binge-watching from having done it with Netflix’s other hit series. “I won’t put on Once Upon a Time in America because, ugh, it’s a real commitment, but I’ll watch all of House of Cards,” cracked Lyonne. Uzo Aduba and Laverne Cox both recalled not being able to leave the house for days while they were consuming Cards. Yael Stone had a piece of advice on the issue for her big boss in the audience: “There should be a warning halfway through: ‘Change your underpants.’ ” We’ll see if Sarandos was listening.
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