“Orange is the New Black” star Taylor Schilling is the wildcard in this year’s Best Comedy Actress category at the Emmys, where she has third-best odds behind reigning two-time champ Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”) and perennial also-ran Amy Poehler (“Parks and Recreation”).
She faced enough of a dilemma as to what episode to submit to Emmy voters back when Netflix had intended to submit her series as a drama. Should she favor an episode with more screen time or single impactful moments? Now, she must also decide how much she wants to showcase her comedic capabilities.
While the series walks that fine line between drama and comedy, her character Piper Chapman is primarily a dramatic role. So, selecting a comedic performance might prove to be a challenge. Let’s help her out by taking a closer look at three options.
“I Wasn’t Ready” (Episode 1)
Synopsis: Piper begins her life in prison for a crime that she committed 10 years earlier. Flashbacks show us moments from Piper’s life that are essential to understanding who and where she is now.
Standout scene: The episode ends with Piper screaming after she learns that the woman who implicated her is in the same prison. This revelation comes in quick succession to Piper’s discovery of a used tampon in her breakfast. While this may not be the most difficult scene for Schilling to play, it punctuates how overwhelmed Piper feels throughout the episode.
Analysis: This is the pilot episode, so voters will not miss anything if they are not regular viewers. It is extremely Piper-centric, as she appears in every scene of the fifty-minute episode, easily giving her the most screen time of whoever is nominated in the category, as the others will be from half-hour shows. With the episode’s nonlinear structure, Schilling gets to play Piper at different stages in her life, offering her plenty of opportunities to vary her portrayal. She cries four times, is topless just as often and even wears a disguise in some scenes. However, some consider it the weakest episode of the season.
“The Chickening” (Episode 5)
Synopsis: Piper sees a chicken in the prison yard, so the inmates set out to catch and cook it.
Standout scene: Piper is supposed to be taking a business call at the end of the episode, but instead opts to chase after the chicken in the yard. The ridiculousness of the storyline, coupled with the yard’s no-running rule, leads to lots of physical comedy.
Analysis: Schilling has just 25 minutes of screen time. “The Chickening” is the most comedic episode of the season and that it is the only reason to submit it. However, it is unlikely to turn off voters by being too dramatic as some of Schilling’s other options might.
“Fucksgiving” (Episode 9)
Synopsis: After being falsely accused of lesbian activity, Piper is placed in solitary confinement. She resolves to keep her head down going forward once released, but instead has sex with her old girlfriend.
Standout scene: Piper lashes out at the correctional officer who placed her in solitary when he comes to visit her, defending her bisexuality and slamming his character.
Analysis: Schilling only has 14 minutes of screen time, but an impactful speech can often win an Emmy, as it can feel important and inspire more passion than a performance that is consistent but never explodes. In addition to the aforementioned monologue, Piper understandably begins to lose her sanity while in lockup: she is tearful, regretful and terrified. Being the only character in most of these scenes puts Schilling’s acting on full display.
What of these episodes do you think has the best chance of winning Schilling an Emmy? Or perhaps you think another — such as “Bora Bora Bora” (Episode 10) in which Piper gives an impromptu speech to juvenile delinquents about what she has learned about herself in prison or the finale “Can’t Fix Crazy” (Episode 13) in which Piper’s paranoia reaches its apex and she literally has to fend for her life — would be better submissions.
Vote in the poll below and then cast your ballot for Best Comedy Actress using our easy drag-and-drop menu.