TV show embraces diversity
Prison TV series continues to push the boundaries
Comedy drama Orange Is The New Black is now a global phenomenon, having first hit our screens in 2013. And the series, set in the fictional Litchfield prison and inspired by Piper Kerman’s 2010 memoir Orange Is The New Black: My Year In A Women’s Prison, is back for a fourth season, available on Netflix.
The series has come a long way since we first met central figure Piper Chapman in episode one. Since then, fans have been treated to a big cast of unlikely lead characters.
Selenis Leyva, 44, who plays Latina leader Gloria Mendoza, says: “We’re embracing diversity, not only race but different body types and orientation. This show is a reflection of the world we live in today.”
The first series introduced the audience to Taylor Schilling’s Chapman, an engaged New Yorker sent to prison for transporting drugs a decade earlier. By season four, we’ve moved on quite some way and Yael Stone, who plays Lorna Morello says: “It’s important to note what Jenji [Kohan, the series creator] said all those years ago, that Piper was the Trojan horse. The viewer came in on that first scene, following the blonde, beautiful actress. She introduced us to all these incredibly wild characters that would usually be in the background (of a show).”
So far the first three series have been very different, and series four will carry on in the same vein with writers this time exploring the effect of outside forces on the prison.
“The bureaucracy behind the machine starts to attack the women and their fundamental human rights,” Stone explains.
DARK TIMES AHEAD
At the end of series three, busloads of new inmates were seen arriving at Litchfield, and as Leyva reveals: “We’re going to see over-crowdedness and how other people coming in changes things.”
Lea DeLaria, who plays key character Big Boo, calls this series “excruciating”. “Every season has a theme and this season, the theme is ‘it ain’t pretty in prison’, and you’re going to see a whole load of reasons why,” says the 58-year-old. “Jenji’s totally taking on the American prison system. The privatisation of what’s going on, what that means for these people who are human beings, and how we treat them... Profit over people should be illegal everywhere, it’s just wrong.”
Uzo Aduba, who landed two Golden Globes for her portrayal of Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren, is proud of the show’s diversity.
“Diversity is having seven Latinas all different shapes, ages; six African-American women different shapes and sizes; Asian, white women all different ages, co-existing simultaneously on a singular show. That’s what’s exciting.” Dascha Polanco, who plays Dayanara Diaz credits Netflix for the show’s impact: “There’s a lot more freedom of expression, not only for the actors and creators, but the viewers. You get to watch it wherever and whenever you want, and how you want.” Season four of Orange Is The New Black is available on Netflix
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