Speaking of the group of people you connect with in prison, Stone also said, “You’re locked away, you search for a family, you create a family, you find a mother [nods to Kate Mulgrew, who plays mother-like character, Red], you need that.” Mulgrew added, with a mischievous grin, “The mother doesn’t have a lot of sex.”
Alongside the lesbian love affair between Prepon and Schilling’s characters, the series also features a transgender character in Sophia, played by transgender actress Laverne Cox, who said you just need to listen to the audience to know what they want to see. “So many networks are just terrified to take any kind of risk especially because of wonderful places like Netflix where people can go and watch TV differently,” she said. “Being at a place like Netflix is like ‘Let’s try it! This is cool!’ It’s a crazy thing in this business but listen to the people, listen to what the folks want.”
And while Cox talked about the show starting a conversation for the trans community, Lea DeLaria, who plays Big Boo on the series, said OITNB has done the same for the butch community. “I can’t believe what’s happened for me in my life,” the actress/comedian explained. “I’ve been this out person for a long time but usually when a 16-year old boy walks up to me on the street it’s to spit in my face and call me ‘dyke.’ Now, it’s to hug me and tell me how much he loves Orange Is The New Black.”
DeLaria added that, to this date, she’s also signed 44 screwdrivers based on the actions of her character in the show. (And, yes, she did question why people are walking around carrying screwdrivers!).
Noting that the majority of the panelists were women, the question arose about the diversity in the cast and Schilling said, ““Every time I hear this questions asked, and it’s come up more and more, it’s because of you. You decided to write this,” the actress said, gesturing to Kohan. “All of this stuff was in your brain at one point, which is pretty remarkable. To bring a book to an audience is pretty wild.”
That said, of the diversity issue and the question still coming up, Kohan, who is not gay but is the sister of television producer David Kohan (Will & Grace), asked, “Why is this such an anomaly? These are great stories and great characters and great women…?”
Prepon commended Netflix for being wise enough to see the opportunity for bringing something different to a television series. “People were scared to go there and do the things that we’ve done on the show,” she said, “and it’s awesome and from the audience response we see now that you guys are ready for this. And I think some people are scared to go there but we’re proving, no, people want this type of show.”
Danielle Brooks, who plays Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson, shared that she thinks the show has connected with the audience because it reflects back on them. “It’s also about telling honest, truthful stories,” she said. “There are women out there who are like Taystee and that, to me, is telling a true story and giving voice to those who do not have a voice and I think that’s what we’re doing.
The second season of Orange is the New Black returns June 6 on Netflix.