The cast and creative team of Orange is the New Black kicked off the inaugural PaleyFest: Made in New York event last night to a packed house and sold out overflow room. I was lucky enough to score a seat in the auditorium, and the energy in the room was undeniably giddy. Even actresses Natasha Lyonne and Kate Mulgrew were prone to fits of giggles.
TV and film critic Elvis Mitchell moderated the event and was joined onstage by writer Piper Kerman, whose autobiographical account of her time in a women’s prison inspired the series.
The show’s head writer/co-creator and producer Jenji Kohan was also in attendance as were Orange regular cast members, Taylor Schilling (Piper Chapman), Jason Biggs (Larry), Danielle Brooks (Taystee), Uzo Aduba (Crazy Eyes/Suzanne), Natasha Lyonne (Nicky), Taryn Manning (Pennsytucky) and Kate Mulgrew (Red).
The atmosphere on stage among the cast and crew was one of genuine appreciation and collaboration. Jason Biggs, the only male cast member in attendance, was hilariously self-deprecating and in turn often lovingly made fun of by his cast mates for his longish responses. “Finish it! Finish it,” a laughing Kate Mulgrew called out when Jason tried to explain his experience doing the visitation room scene with Alex (Laura Prepon).
Jenji Kohan, her hair dyed green, explained that she built the flashback sequences into the show to show that these women were “full people, with full lives” prior to ending up in Litchfield. They were also a way for Kohan herself to creatively take a respite from the prison scenes and give us all a chance to “get out and live in the real world.”
The whole cast had beautifully insightful things to say about their characters. It’s easy to forget that acting is a craft, and this cast in particular (many who have strong theatre backgrounds) takes their performances very seriously. They also love their characters as much as we do.
For Taylor Schilling, her character Piper Chapman is learning who she really is behind the mask of her own creation. Piper is forced to “dig deep by necessity.” The actress was fascinated with Kerman’s story. Since the show deviates in many ways from the novel, it allows her to be not “bound to the book, but inspired.” She also finds the continuing transformation of Piper’s character to be “thrilling.”