Can I tell you how excited I am for the new Netflix original series Orange Is The New Black from Jenji Kohan the creator of Weeds. As you all know, Weeds has been one of my favorite shows of all time and I’ve been looking forward to this series for a while.
Netflix has recently renewed the series for a second season before season one even airs!
Karalee has the opportunity to talk to Jenji Kohan as well as series star Taylor Schilling!
Check it out after the jump!
No fear of the death penalty here.
Netflix recently renewed the prison-based show “Orange is the New Black” — despite it not yet even airing one episode. The new show premieres July 11 and is helmed by Jenji Kohan, the brilliant creator and writer behind “Weeds.”
“It’s very flattering — a wonderful vote of confidence.” Kohan tells MiketheFanboy.com of the early Season 2 renewal. “Netflix has balls. They’re saying, ‘We like it. We believe in it.’ I’m just grateful. I think it’s awesome.”
Though Kohan admits her first reaction to learning the news was not immediate screaming or jumping up and down.
“I remember thinking, ‘I’m so tired,’” she says with a laugh during a recent press call. “But it was quickly followed up by excitement.”
“Orange is the New Black,” based on the popular memoir of the same name by Piper Kerman, follows engaged Brooklynite Piper Chapman, played by Taylor Schilling, who is sentenced to 15 months in prison for her unwitting role in an international drug-smuggling ring. While paying her debt to society, Piper must trade her comfortable New York life, leave her fiancé, and adjust to her new world alongside eccentric and outspoken inmates. The show also stars Jason Biggs, Kate Mulgrew, Laura Prepon, and Natasha Lyonne.
Series star Schilling says she was thrilled at the chance to work with Kohan.
“That blew my skirt up a lot,” she says. “Once I read the script, I was really, really impressed there was a woman who was the centerpiece of her own story and that it was less a role that was in reaction to a man. She is driving her own ship.”
As for how she would fare if sentenced to time behind bars, Schilling says, “I think I would probably be eaten alive.”
While researching for the show, Kohan says they visited prisons, read books and referenced articles.
“We steeped ourselves in prison culture and lore,” she says. “We wanted to be as informed as possible.”
With research in hand and production underway, Kohan and Schilling say they found surprises in myriad places throughout the process.
“I was surprised by how loud prison is. Your ears never get a break from the noise,” Schilling says. “And the lights don’t go off. There’s no rest in that way…I wasn’t prepared for the intensity of being watched all the time.”
For Kohan, she was taken aback by the “oppression of [prison], the sense of helplessness. There’s a system, a bureaucracy that’s arbitrary. I was surprised by the depth of losing your freedom and what that meant.”
Upon reading Kerman’s memoir, Kohan says she “fell in love with the characters in the book…I’m just deeply fascinated by flawed characters — the more deeply flawed, the better. I think underground economies are great places to find them.”
A few more Jenji Kohan gems from the show’s creator and executive producer:
On Regina Spektor performing the show’s theme song: “I begged her to write a song and she said yes!”
On Jodie Foster directing an episode: “When Jodie Foster says she wants to come direct an episode you say yes. It was a total treat to have her on set…She was really great, really smart.”
On how viewers should watch the 13-episode season when Netflix releases them all July 11: “It’s instant gratification…I think people should watch how they want to. It’s their experience and they should choose how to have it.”
On executing a 30-minute show (like “Weeds”) versus an hour show (like “Orange is the New Black”): “I wanted this to be an hour because it’s a big ensemble and I wanted to give everyone time…There’s no change stylistically or tonally because it’s an hour. It just gives us more time to get into the stories and more room for nuance and pretty pictures.”
On input from Piper Kerman, upon whose memoir the show is based: “Most of her comments are technical: ‘This wouldn’t happen, this would be against the rules.’ She’s been extremely respectful of our taking her story and then veering left with it.”
On choosing to feature the male prison guards in a more sympathetic light than the book: “That’s one of [Kerman’s] biggest complaints — that they’re not big enough a—holes. You want everyone to be a full character and no one is just pure evil — hopefully. We wanted more characters, not villains.”
On how she may approach Season 2 differently: “We’re talking a lot about planting seeds that can grow over the course of the season, knowing people might be watching them in bulk — sort of bury some Easter eggs and let people find them later on.”
“Orange is the New Black” premieres on Netflix on Thursday, July 11 at 12:01 a.m. PT.
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