Well folks, we can die happy. We had the thrilling opportunity of crowding into a mass of hungry red carpet goers to interview some of our favorite famous faces from the cast of Orange is the New Black this week, and every single one of them was just as lovely and down to earth as you always imagined!
All your favorite prisoners were dolled up and looking gorgeous for the champagne-soaked reception for the Paley Media Center's PaleyFest panel, some of them to the point of being unrecognizable (wait until you get to the last page; you'll see what we mean). And to address everyone's burning question, no, we didn't get to talk to Taystee — but not for a lack of trying. We asked her one pressing question about her upcoming appearance on Girls as she sashayed by in an amazing printed jumpsuit, but she and her publicist confirmed she's keeping mum on the subject for now.
Hit the next page for some real talk from Taryn Manning, Jenji Kohan, and more!
Did you ever want to just go all-out girly when you weren't in costume?
"Yeah, I definitely love getting dressed up a bit more now than I used to. It's a fun role, though. It's enlightening to play a role where you don't have to wear makeup, it's refreshing.
Would you and Pennsatucky be friends in real life?
"Heck yeah, she rules."
Do you identify with her? She's so polarizing.
"She's sort of everything I want to be and everything I don't want to be at the same time. I love her courage, I love her unapologetic nature, I love how loud and crass she is. I'm actually really shy in real life, the girls will tell you, I'm very reserved. People ask them if I'm crazy, but I'm not! When I go on camera, something happens with me, thank God — otherwise I'd never have gotten the part. But I love her, I think she's fun. People say they wish I was more like her in real life.
I don't think Pennsatucky would make a great interviewee, to be honest.
"Hah, no way! She'd be like 'screw you' and walk away!"
She's kind of a micro-study of all these hot-button issues in the U.S. like rural poverty and drugs, and abortion, and right-wing politics. Did this role change the way you think about any of that?
"Yeah, for sure. She's so convicted. She's not the smartest, but she makes a couple of really solid points. She might not say everything correctly, but she's pretty adamant in her beliefs, and I think she's pretty cool in that way."
What kind of solid points?
"I mean she talks about, when she's in the psych ward, how you don't need drugs, "you just need the Lord." You could simplify that, and see how maybe you don't need pills or doctors for everything, maybe just some faith or meditation or something."
In some ways Piper and Pennsatucky are total opposites. Do you think viewers relate to characters outside of Piper?
"The thing that's great about this show is that there's someone for everyone. I know all these girls are out there in the world, they exist, including Pennsatucky. That's why it's a hit."
So, season two. Are you alive?
"Yes! I'm alive. I can't wait, I'm so grateful as an actor to be doing this, to get to really sink my teeth into something. I trained years for this type of role to come along."
First off, how do you get your hair that amazing color?
"I have this great hair woman in Los Angeles, I'm very passive in the chair. She just does her thing."
In terms of your freedom as a writer, what's it like working for Netflix?
"It's very similar to Showtime, toward the end of Weeds, I had a lot of freedom. Coming off of that, I wanted more, not to go back to being micromanaged. The only stress is getting them all done by a certain date, but beyond that, it's the same process.
Do you think it's a better or worse experience for the viewer, to watch all at once?
"You know, I miss the water cooler talk. I miss having everyone on the same page. On the other hand a friend of mine said it's similar to a novel coming out, people have their book clubs, they read at different times, they discover it years later."
Did you write with that in mind, or did you approach writing differently in any way?
"I really didn't. I just set out to craft episodes. I think this year we're thinking about it a little more in the context of how people watch, though."
A lot of people say that as a viewer, you're forced to enter the show through a lens of privilege, because Piper is the main character. Do you think that's true?
"I don't think it's a problem. We bought this book, it's based on a real story. We're telling that story — but then we got interested in everyone's story. And that's part of what I love; we're meeting all those auxiliary characters. That's just what we came in with."
People relate to Piper in some ways, but she's also very flawed. Was it important to you to make that known about her?
"I think everyone is a flawed character. I don't believe in the heroes and villains model. The joy is to write complicated people who aren't perfect, who aren't making the right choices."
How did you make calls about when to depart from the book, and when to stay true to the reality of Piper Kerman's story?
"It wasn't hard at all. We departed from the book very early on. We really sort of abandoned it after the first episode, and it became its own entity. This is our show; we're going to do what we wanna do. The real Piper still reads every script, we're constantly e-mailing, but we no longer talk about her specific experience or the characters in her book. It's mostly about, you know, are we getting the vibes right."
This show has brought more attention to the plight of women's prisons and the prison system in general in this country. Was there a particular message you wanted to convey?
"My goal is not to deliver a message. I'm not an ideologue per se. What is really important is that it starts a conversation. If people see something in the show that disturbs them or upsets them or makes them disgusted, or they rail against it, that's great."
It seems like more and more people are starting to recognize you from Orange is the New Black instead of American Pie. Does that feel good?
"Oh yeah, it's wonderful. Just being recognized at all is great. But it's been really exciting. When American Pie first came out and peoples' reaction to it was so strong, I had this feeling of being part of the cultural zeitgeist, and people were talking about it, and it was a pop culture phenomenon of sorts. I haven't felt that again until now. People are really talking about this; they're so excited about it. I forgot how cool it feels to be a part of something that you're so proud of, to be part of a community with the fans."
Do you think you'd be friends with Larry in real life?
"Hah, that's a good question. I think he might be a little too uptight for my liking. I certainly sympathize with Larry and I understand him, and his situation and why he does what he does, but I feel like I need him to relax a little bit. Then again, given his situation, I imagine that's quite hard."
How did you perfect Tricia's accent?
"The accent really came from a mixture of the fact that I'm from New Jersey, I have cousins from Long Island, and I've lived in New York for the past two years. I just jumbled it together and hoped for the best. It was supposed to be a Bronx accent but I just kind of threw out whatever I had!"
Are you happy with the final product?
"Absolutely. Just thinking about Tricia makes me want to cry, I miss her so much. She was lovable, to me, I can't speak from anyone else's perspective — I'm biased — but I think she was just a really lovable character and I was sad to see her go."
Who are you rooting for in season two?
"Taystee! I want to see what happens with Taystee. And Crazy Eyes is brilliant of course. And Piper — she's number one in my book, I can't wait to see what Taylor's got coming.
Tell us about the cornrows!
"It was awesome. I would sit in the chair for like 25 minutes before makeup and get it all done; it was fun! Except taking it out of the end of the day, my hair would be huge."
"Some days when we were getting onto the fifth or sixth hour, it was itchy. When people say you pat your head, it's true, I was patting. I loved it though, it was an experience."