Danielle Brooks gets emotional when she starts talking about the final season of Orange Is the New Black. After seven years, she's saying goodbye to her character, Natasha "Taystee" Jefferson — and she's doing it her way.
"I actually wrote a song," Brooks said in an interview with Refinery29 at an event for the Wells Fargo Propel Card. "It's called 'Seasons.' I tried to get as many of the girls' names in the song [as I could], and as many of the memories from the show in the song. It just might appear somewhere.”
Listen carefully at the end credits of the finale, and you'll hear an extraordinary and raw version of Brooks' song. "The last day, I sang 'Seasons' to the entire cast and crew. At least 200 people," Brooks said.
"Seasons," newly released in an EP called Four, in is an ode to the family Brooks made on the set of Orange Is the New Black. "We've spent seven years together. That's longer than high school or college!" Brooks said. "We were there for each other's weddings and baby showers. Life has changed for a lot of us. But we've stayed very tight." Brooks recently announced a big change in her life: She's pregnant with her first child.
So, it's fitting that the song plays over the end credits, during which the show's sprawling ensemble cast tearfully says goodbye to the audience, and each other.
For any longtime Orange Is the New Black fan, "Seasons" poses a challenge. Can you figure out the song's many inside references without breaking into tears? The song is one long ode to Orange. "Eyes red and crazy" is a shout-out to Red (Kate Mulgrew) and Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren (Uzo Adubo). Nicky Nichols (Natasha Lyonne) has a line: "We scraped up all our Nickels." Gloria's hooch gets a nod, as does that transcendent lake scene in the season 3 finale.
Most poignant, perhaps, is Brooks' reference to her character: "Too tasty to let you go." And yet, Brooks did let Taystee go. The final season filmed in Orange Is the New Black history was Tasytee on the phone with Judy King (Blair Brown), explaining her idea to give micro-loan to recently released inmates.
"I ended the whole series on the phone, without a scene partner. All the writers came. Some of the cast stayed to finish out the night. To me, the most touching moment was the end. Getting to celebrate it together and getting an intimate moment to take in what we created," Brooks said. "It ended with Taystee."
Taystee's season 7 journey is a tough one. Trapped in a system that cares more about convenient narratives than the truth, Taystee remains saddled with a life sentence. After months of suicidal ideation, she finds fulfillment in helping other inmates prepare for the future on the other side — the future she'll never have. She tutors for the GED program, teaches a financial literacy class, and sets up the micro-loan program. It's a bittersweet ending, but Brooks tells us not to despair.
"They will be okay," Brooks says of the show's characters — Taystee included. "They're still in the game."