Orange Is the New Black: 5 Things To Know Before You Watch

orange-is-new-black-300Prison comes with a shiv-sharp learning curve. Fortunately, for viewers of Orange Is The New Black, the latest project from Weeds creator Jenji Kohan, we have a few pointers to share.

The Netflix original series (premiering Thursday) follows girl-next-door Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling, Mercy), who once smuggled drug money for former girlfriend Alex (Laura Prepon, That ’70s Show) and now faces 15 months in jail. Before the series bows, keep these five tidbits from the creator and cast on your radar.

RELATED | Taylor Schilling Previews Netflix Drama’s Lessons on Love, Life and Lock-Up

IT’S NOT A DIRECT TRANSLATION OF THE BOOK… | Orange is based on the real-life tale of Piper Kerman, who wrote a memoir of her experience in a women’s prison in 2010. But how much did Kohan rely on that firsthand account? “You know, at some point, we just abandon it,” she laughs. “I love Piper, and I e-mail her all the time when I want to get the facts right. [But] the book, while fantastic, is relatively conflict-free, and we have to make a TV show.”

…BUT IT DOESN’T SKIMP ON DETAILS | Although the show is an adaptation of Kerman’s memoir, the author said many of the show’s little details really do happen in jail – even the weird ones, like Piper wearing maxi pads on her feet while showering. “Those things are, if not literal, then incredibly close,” Kerman admits. “That’s exactly the kind of resilience and resourcefulness that you have to have if you’re gonna make it.”

IT’S NOT YOUR AVERAGE COMEDY | Describing Orange as a dramedy seems too easy. But American Pie’s Jason Biggs (who stars as Piper’s loving fiancee) gives anyone expecting belly laughs fair warning about the show’s “specific tone” of humor. “It’s funny, but there’s also some real intensity and real humanity to the whole thing,” he says.

RELATED | Jenji Kohan Recalls the True-Life Horrors Behind Orange Is The New Black

IT’S A GOOD IDEA TO TUCK THE KIDS IN BED FIRST | Sex, drugs and nudity are cornerstones of the show’s pilot episode – in the first 10 seconds alone! But after Showtime gave her the freedom to be racy on Weeds, Kohan says she thinks “streaming, cable and Netflix” are the best arenas for a “no-holds-barred” approach like the one she takes on Orange. “That’s where I’m gonna go these days,” she laughs.

IT TUGS AT THE HEARTSTRINGS | For every gasp-inducing prison scene that Orange offers, Schilling says the show provides a healthy dose of compassion to balance the scales. “I was really surprised by the strong relationships between the women in prison and the alliances and support they give each other,” she says. “I was surprised by how much they take care of each other.”

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10 Comments
  1. D'Arcy says:

    AVClub gave the show a good review as well – But they make sure to say that it’s a drama, through and through.

  2. Drew says:

    Wasn’t a fan of Weeds, but I will probably give this one a shot. Taylor Schilling was really good in Atlas Shrugged, part 1.

  3. HAQP says:

    Hmmm. So, you didn’t like Weeds, but wasted your money on that Ayn Rand propaganda crap.

    • Drew says:

      You do realize that most of the stuff that comes out of Hollywood would fall into the propaganda category, right? I am not offended by writers having a point of view. I am not scared of anything that might challenge my beliefs. You might enjoy only watching shows or movies that either have no depth or which only parrot what you already believe. I prefer to watch shows and movies (and read books) which ask questions and make points, as long as they are done well. I can hate the message while respecting the messenger.

      Rand had a unique perspective, given her background. What is wrong with that?

  4. amber says:

    I watched all 13 episodes today!!! Awesome show!!! Cant wait till next Season…gonna be awhile I think tho! Great job Jenji!

  5. JAN says:

    Excellent show. Softens the season end of Nurse Jackie and Mad Men a little bit. Constant surprises–I could not predict the story line–and all seem plausible (at least to someone who has never had this experience).

  6. Sasha says:

    It was completely predictable, yet still thoroughly entertaining.

  7. Sterling says:

    Thank was a great series. Can’t wait until Season
    2.

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