The cast of Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” took the stage at the Dolby Theatre Friday night as part of the 31st anniversary of the Paley Television Festival. Led by series creator Jenji Kohan, notable cast members in attendance included recent Golden Globe nominee Taylor Schilling, Laura Prepon, Kate Mulgrew, Natasha Lyonne, Jason Biggs and Season Two newcomer Lorraine Toussaint.
Much of the evening’s discussion centered around the almost all-female cast showcasing actresses of all ethnicities, sizes and sexual orientations — a first for television. Of the 14 panelists, only two were men: Biggs and Michael J. Harney (“True Detective“).
Scroll down to discover the eight secrets we learned about “Orange is the New Black” from this wild and often hilarious discussion.
1. Cooking in the dark
Mulgrew’s character of kitchen cook Red is a fan favorite, but after filming two seasons of the show, Mulgrew still has no idea what her character did to wind up in prison. Kohan admitted that she knows Red’s secret and even wrote it down on paper at one point, but decided not to use it in a script… yet.
2. Why so many flashbacks?
Kohan revealed that the many flashbacks we get in each episode serve a dual purpose. Yes, they allow us to see the various characters in another light pre-incarceration, but they’re also important from the production standpoint because it allows the writers, actors and crew members moments of respite from the all-too-realistic prison sets.
3. TV in the era of binge-watching
How does the presumption of an audience binge-watching the entire season affect the way scripts are written? Kohan admits that she now doesn’t feel obligated to try to force all of the show’s characters into the same episode, especially if they don’t naturally fit into that specific story. With binge-watching, the audience likely won’t even notice if a character is missing from an episode or two because they’ll be back on screen within a couple hours, as opposed to a couple weeks.
4. Jason Biggs, meet the rest of your cast
Despite all working together on the same show for two years now, Biggs shocked the crowd by admitting that he’d only met some of the other actresses a few times prior to that evening’s panel. His scenes are primarily shot with Schilling, and only occasionally does he get scheduled before or after scenes with the other actresses.
5. Alex is back
Despite early reports that Prepon wouldn’t appear in Season Two because of a scheduling conflict, her character Alex will be definitely be back… though for how many episodes remains to be seen. Prepon said that she was incredibly moved by the supportive fan reaction when her status on the show was in flux.
6. Mystery woman
Joining the cast next year as someone named Vee, Toussaint was coy about her new character but hinted that she would shake up the prison storyline dramatically. Her character is presumably a new inmate with drug connections who runs children, but she couldn’t reveal much more than that. Toussaint said that Vee is one of the best roles she’s ever played in her career.
7. Cultural acceptance
Surprise panelist Lea DeLaria (who jumped onto the stage from her seat in the audience) brought the audience to tears when she talked about her personal life as a lesbian and how the show has helped change perceptions. Before the series, people would call her sexist names and spit in her face. Now, people give her hugs and tell her they love “Orange is the New Black.” Laverne Cox agreed, saying that the series forces people to have conversations about the trans community they never would have had before.
8. Set secrets
The show’s prison sets are actually filmed in a defunct children’s psychiatric center in New York. The cast finds it incredibly sad that a former center for children can so easily double as a prison set.
Now that we know “Orange is the New Black” will be competing in the comedy races at the Emmys, cast your votes below for Best Comedy Series using our easy drag-and-drop menu.
Season Two premieres on Netflix June 6 at a smart Emmy time. Excited about its return? Sound off in the comments section below!