Taylor Schilling & Natasha Lyonne On What OITNB's New Timeline Means For The Cast

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
The countdown to Orange Is The New Black has already begun. In less than 12 hours, we'll be able to catch up with our favorite ladies of Litchfield.
If you remember (and if you don't, here's a reminder), last season ended on a major cliffhanger: CO Dixon, on his knees, staring down the barrel of a gun held by Daya, as a riot erupts around them.
Season 5 picks up exactly where the last one ended, and takes place over three days. That means that we'll get to experience the uprising alongside the characters we've come to know and love. So many questions still need to be answered: Will there be justice for Poussey? Will Pennsatucky finally find peace after her assault? Will there finally be peace between the White Supremacists and the Latinas? How will Taystee ever be okay again? Can Nicky stay sober? Can Piper keep Alex from confessing that she murdered that guard? And most importantly, is it even remotely possible that this riot will end well?
Speaking of Nicky and Piper, Refinery29 sat down with Natasha Lyonne and Taylor Schilling to discuss what's next for their characters, what the unusual timeline meant for them as actors, and they're current TV obsession.
Refinery29: Where do we find your characters when the show returns?
Taylor Schilling: "This is a moment for Piper to kind of experiment with staying on the periphery, and she has got a lot of heat of trying to win prison. I think that’s a thread that she’s developed. That’s who she is, as a person. So, in trying something different, she’s taking a step back from the middle. She’s not in the nucleus."
Natasha Lyonne: "What’s interesting about Nicky this year is that usually we sort of see her battle with self-destruction, and how that’s always trying to take her down. She is able to be in control, and not take it out on herself constantly because there’s too much else to do — at least in these three days. That’s not to say that her normal demons aren’t in play all season, because they most certainly are. Our theme song is 'You’ve Got Time.' It’s these characters figuring out a way to kill time, and what to do with themselves in this trapped situation. This is a situation where they’re oddly, suddenly, in an anarchy. That’s kind of a situation where Nicky can finally find some focus."
TS: "It is just so interesting to see what comes up when people have stakes; when all of a sudden, you have to drown out all the other noise. All of a sudden death, or a riot, or violence shifts everything to perspective."
NL: "Yeah, she’s not just alone in her cot, thinking about herself and beating the shit out of herself, which is Nicky’s go-to reflex with her alone time. She’s very activated by the world around her and the need to be present for it in a way that is true for life. Life is always scarier alone in your house. The fear of getting out of the house is what’s so scary. This is a really active season for everyone. It’s a very high-stakes, intense time."
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
This season takes place over three days. How does that time constraint affect your characters’ arcs?
TS: "I think that it’s a different focus this year. So, rather than fundamental shifts in the core of how someone’s looking at the world, you’re seeing who they are already, and seeing what gets nurtured and what parts of these characters come out in really heightened circumstances, which I think is what makes this a particularly interesting social experiment."
NL: "It’s definitely tricky on some level — because we’re all so spread out and all have our small bits connected to this larger fabric. Maybe under ordinary circumstances if any of us were on every page over those three days, you would finally have that relief of an actor. Of going 'I know exactly where I am in this moment.' You have to figure out where you are on a second to second basis this year, in a way that left very little room for error."
TS: "When you think about that, every minute is accounted for. You really got to be aware. We shot three days for six months. That’s where every hour of this person’s life is accounted for, but that’s not always reflected in the scripts. So, it’s an interesting puzzle to put together as an actor."
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
If I had to describe the show when it first premiered, I would have said "Oh, it’s about this girl called Piper, who goes to prison." Over time, it has developed into something that's so much more than that. How do you see Piper’s role, now, in the cast as opposed to the first season?
TS: "It’s interesting to see the cast in relation to Piper. I think of her, in some ways, as negative space sometimes. You actually need — to be able to make sense of the composition of what’s happening on the inside — you really have to have space in-between, and breath. Her purpose was to lead everyone into this story, and now she can tie things together. It’s an ensemble show and it has been from the get-go."
NL: "I wonder if [that also reflects] the experience of really spending time in prison, versus just going. It’s really like going from a whole world and a whole sense of self to suddenly being a part of the system. The system is numbers. If you look at the statistics of the prison system, nobody is really that concerned with the individual. It’s terrifying."
TS: "[Piper] is not the story we need to focus on right now, culturally. The writers are pretty smart that there are larger stories to tell. There’s more cultural significance [and] social significance."
The show was one of Netflix's early successes, and is synonymous with prestige TV. Are there any great shows you're currently watching?
TS: "The Handmaid’s Tale is brilliant."
NL: "Oh, Big Little Lies!"
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