Or­ange Is the New Black’s Tay­lor Schilling is em­brac­ing the quiet life.

ELLE (Canada) - - Celebrity - By Aliyah Shamsher Pho­to­graphs by Max Aba­dian


Cé­line coat, skinny black jeans and a lit­tle black cash­mere sweater, Tay­lor Schilling qui­etly ap­pears be­side me for our break­fast at the Four Sea­sons in Toronto. “This is so nice!” she ex­claims af­ter giv­ing me a huge hug and sur­vey­ing our lit­tle booth sur­rounded by floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows over­look­ing Yorkville Av­enue. I was re­lieved, as Schilling had re­quested that our ta­ble at Café Boulud be as pri­vate as pos­si­ble. I would later come to un­der­stand that this re­quest wasn’t be­cause Schilling was wor­ried about be­ing spot­ted (she ac­tu­ally adores hear­ing from fans); she just prefers to keep things as sim­ple and serene as pos­si­ble. As she set­tles into the cor­ner and folds her long legs un­der her, her re­laxed, cool sen­si­bil­ity im­me­di­ately comes through. It’s a far cry from her role as the high-strung Piper Chap­man on the award-win­ning Net­flix se­ries Or­ange Is the New Black, which re­turns for its third sea­son this month. To­day, Schilling seems more like that fiercely in­tel­li­gent, cu­ri­ous-about-ev­ery­thing friend you can call up day or night for ad­vice—or just to pon­der the na­ture of the uni­verse. Min­utes into our chat, she’s en­thu­si­as­ti­cally dis­cussing so­ci­ety’s ob­ses­sion with celebrity and her own con­flicted take on so­cial me­dia and how it hin­ders her de­sire to live an hon­est and au­then­tic life. h

I think most peo­ple re­al­ize that the images we see of celebri­ties aren’t real, but do you still feel a cer­tain pres­sure to live up to that ideal?

“I’m still rel­a­tively new to the busi­ness—I started just five years ago—but I can see how the pres­sure be­comes in­ter­nal­ized. And know­ing how pow­er­ful it can be, I can’t even imag­ine be­ing out­side of this in­dus­try look­ing in. I love meet­ing the peo­ple I ad­mire and see­ing they’re all hu­man— they have bags un­der their eyes and are deal­ing with their own in­se­cu­ri­ties and strug­gles. I think it’s so vi­tal to keep that con­text in the fore­front.”

I worry there is less con­text be­cause of so­cial me­dia. In real life, you see the lay­ers, but on­line it’s just this patina.

“It takes a lot of brav­ery to be au­then­tic and hon­est and to take that so­cial mask off in or­der to connect with an­other hu­man be­ing. So much of what makes us who we are is smoothed away on­line. And what truly con­nects us is the wrin­kles, not the smooth­ness.”

Par­tic­i­pat­ing in so­cial me­dia is sup­posed to be about mak­ing con­nec­tions, but is it?

“There is some­thing so sad about go­ing on­line and see­ing al­most ev­ery­one shout­ing ‘No­tice me, no­tice me!’ Which is such a hu­man de­sire—to be ac­knowl­edged. But me re­spond­ing to that with some sort of ‘You’re no­ticed, you’re seen’ only per­pet­u­ates the lone­li­ness. Be­cause I’m not see­ing you; I’m not notic­ing you. And who­ever you are, you so de­serve to be no­ticed and val­ued. I feel lucky to have not grown up with the In­ter­net be­cause it forced me to get out, strug­gle and be so messy.”

Is it eas­ier to em­brace messi­ness now that you’re 30?

“I think that’s one of the most ex­cit­ing pay­offs to get­ting older. I spent so long be­ing hard on my­self, but now there’s so much more kind­ness, com­pas­sion and ease. Well, not to­tal ease—but I can see the trend. I can see the up­ward spi­ral.” I love the idea of hav­ing an up­ward spi­ral! “Me too! There are switch­backs, but part of get­ting older is know­ing that that’s okay too. If one were to judge my life based only on what they read on­line or in a mag­a­zine, one would think that switch­backs weren’t okay and that we al­ways have to be mov­ing up­ward. But it’s up, down and all around. We should be re­lat­ing to one an­other over the sub­tleties of life—that’s what makes us hu­man.” On Twit­ter, re­fer­ring to an ar­ti­cle about sur­geon and writer Sher­win Nu­land’s work, you wrote, “Every­body

needs to be un­der­stood.” Why did this phrase res­onate with you?

“I have al­ways re­lated to that idea in my work life, but since turn­ing 30 I now re­late to it on a per­sonal level. He ar­tic­u­lated it so beau­ti­fully when he said ‘The more spe­cific I can get about my per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, the more uni­ver­sal I be­come.’”

It’s a beau­ti­ful idea. The more I’m like my­self, the more I’m like ev­ery­one else.... “So good!” And it’s the most ob­vi­ous thing once you read it. What else would the an­swer be?

“I think it res­onates so deeply be­cause it’s the truth. Ev­ery­one knows that. We know when some­one is truly be­ing them­selves. To come away from an in­ter­ac­tion with some­one and know that you re­ally shared your­’s the op­po­site of how I feel af­ter be­ing on­line. I feel re­ally seen when I take that risk to be my­self. But you have to be present for it. It doesn’t ex­ist with a cu­rated self; you have to share all parts of your­self—ev­ery­thing.” And yet, af­ter two years of be­ing the star on one of the most popular shows on tele­vi­sion, no one re­ally knows a lot about you. [Laughs]

“I know!”

Do you feel it’s es­sen­tial for ac­tors to in­ter­act with fans via so­cial me­dia?

“I feel that there is a part of the act­ing world that has got­ten mixed up in the world of celebrity— as if they’re the same thing. If you’re some­one who is in­ter­ested in a cre­ative pro­fes­sion, then you’re also re­quired to cul­ti­vate this celebrity. They are not one and the same. I don’t know if you get more jobs if you have more Instagram fol­low­ers; that hasn’t been my ex­pe­ri­ence.”

That said, do you still feel pres­sure to share more of your­self with the public?

“It has al­most be­come a de­fi­ant thing at this point be­cause I do not be­lieve this celebrity Kim Kar­dashian cul­ture is what I signed up for. I’d rather cre­ate some­thing hon­est than try to cre­ate some­thing for a so­cial-me­dia ac­count. Be­sides, my brain is just way too frag­ile for both. [Laughs] I am sus­cep­ti­ble to what peo­ple think; I think we all are. So it’s just eas­ier for me to not en­gage with it too much.”

So who do you en­gage with? Who has in­flu­enced you most?

“I had an un­ortho­dox high-school ex­pe­ri­ence; I shifted around to dif­fer­ent schools. When I got to col­lege and met Larry Sacharow, who ran the theatre depart­ment [at Ford­ham Uni­ver­sity in NYC], he was the first per­son to say ‘I be­lieve in you.’ At that point, I just needed some­one to say ‘I see you, h


PIPE DREAMS “Piper is a whole per­son. She does things that are un­like­able, but we all do things that are un­like­able. And I don’t think it’s fair to talk about fe­male char­ac­ters in this way; the same types of con­ver­sa­tions aren’t be­ing had about male char­ac­ters. They get to be com­plex and un­like­able and yet some­times they’re still he­roes. Piper’s virtue is in­ter­est­ing, but her pain and fear and frus­tra­tion are equally valu­able.” Cot­ton jean jacket (Rag & Bone, at Holt Ren­frew, holtren­, em­broi­dered tulle skirt (Michael Kors, michaelkors. com), black-gold and white-di­a­mond ear­rings (Diane Kor­das, at Ar­chives,, ster­lingsil­ver ban­gle and ster­ling-sil­ver and zir­co­nia pavé ban­gle (Thomas Sabo, thomass­abo. com) and duchess-satin brogues (Si­mone Rocha, si­mone­ Ile Pouf, cour­tesy of Kiosk De­sign

I get you, let’s go.’ It’s an amaz­ing thing to bor­row some­one else’s con­fi­dence in you; it can change your life.”

And it’s just some­one say­ing, with con­vic­tion, “You’re great.”

“It’s just sim­ple and hon­est. An­other per­son who in­flu­enced me is my younger brother. I switched schools a lot when my par­ents were get­ting di­vorced. We had re­ally sep­a­rate ex­pe­ri­ences grow­ing up, but we have re­cently re­con­nected, and it has been great. He’s some­one who toes his own line and is so gal­lant in the way he nav­i­gates the world and doesn’t re­ally care about what peo­ple think. His pres­ence is re­ally inspiring.”

In an in­ter­view back in 2013, you said, “I’m in­ter­ested when life hap­pens in such a way where you have to con­front your­self.” Were you hint­ing at some of your own ex­pe­ri­ences?

“Def­i­nitely. In high school, my par­ents’ di­vorce was re­ally dif­fi­cult for me; I didn’t have that tra­di­tional re­la­tion­ship with a mother or a fa­ther. I had to map my own course. I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate that now, and I think it has be­come my guiding light. I’m telling you, the mo­ment when we com­pletely let go in the most scary, over­whelm­ing way is when ev­ery­thing hap­pens.”

And then life hands you ex­actly what you need....“

Right be­fore Or­ange hap­pened, I was in a pe­riod of fully ques­tion­ing my­self, and I came to the con­clu­sion that ei­ther I’m go­ing to like what I do or I’d be happy do­ing low-rent theatre in New York City. That bone-deep ac­cep­tance of your life—what­ever it looks like—is when doors start to open and an op­por­tu­nity presents it­self.”

Do you think get­ting older al­lows for greater ac­cep­tance of th­ese mo­ments?

“There is more mus­cle mem­ory to it now. I know that it’s never re­ally a cri­sis but an open­ing. When the slump hap­pens, when the fear kicks in, I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced the cy­cle enough times now to know some­thing glo­ri­ous will hap­pen. It’s like a rip­tide—you just have to wait it out and let it take you back to shore. If there’s any­thing I’ve learned in the 30 years I’ve lived on this planet, it’s that you should swim par­al­lel to the shore, peo­ple.” To read more of our in­ter­view with Tay­lor Schilling and see a be­hind-the-scenes video, go to

Geor­gette-silk blouse (Max Mara,, denim jeans (McGuire, at TNT, tnt­the­, black­gold and white-di­a­mond ear­rings (Diane Kor­das, at Ar­chives,, ster­ling-sil­ver ban­gle (Thomas Sabo, thomass­, white-gold and white- and black-di­a­mond flo­ral lat­tice ring (Yewn, at Ar­chives), white­gold and black- and grey­di­a­mond ring (Del­fina Delet­trez, at Ar­chives), sil­ver­plated brass and mood­chang­ing-stone ring (Jenny Bird, and can­vas and leather pumps (Manolo Blah­nik, at Davids, davids­

Em­broi­dered tulle trench coat (Si­mone Rocha, si­mone­, cot­ton and elas­tane denim shorts (Fidelity, fi­deli­ty­, ster­ling-sil­ver ban­gle and ster­ling-sil­ver and zir­co­nia pavé ban­gle (Thomas Sabo, thomass­, sil­ver-plated-brass and mood-chang­ing-stone ring (Jenny Bird, jenny-bird. com), white-gold and di­a­mond “Triple Satel­lite” ring ( Yeprem, at Ar­chives, and patent-leather san­dals (Stu­art Weitz­man, at Spec­chio Shoes, spec­ For de­tails, see Shop­ping Guide. Stylist, Ju­liana Schiavinatto (; hair, Justin Ger­man (­tene/Bang Sa­lon); makeup, Grace Lee (Plutino Group/May­belline New York Canada); man­i­cure, Rita Re­mark (Essie Canada); set de­sign, AESCHER (; art di­rec­tion, Brit­tany Ec­cles

Cot­ton blouse (Taifun by Gerry We­ber, ger­ry­we­ber. com) and black-gold and white-di­a­mond ear­rings (Diane Kor­das, at Ar­chives,

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