Stir cra­zies

The Netflix prison drama is back — or­ange you glad?

Empire (UK) - - PREMIERE -

all it a com­edy, call it a drama. Hell, call it a dram­edy, but ei­ther way Or­ange Is The New Black is ar­guably Netflix’s most binge­able orig­i­nal se­ries. over the past three sea­sons, we’ve seen nice-girl Piper (tay­lor Schilling) go from wide-eyed noob in litch­field Prison to a crim­i­nal king­pin (rul­ing an em­pire sell­ing in­mates’ used panties to web pervs — it’s that sort of a show).

along the way, the show has been praised for its un­flinch­ing por­trayal of is­sues such as gen­der iden­tity, racism and rape. last sea­son turned a spot­light on the US prison sys­tem it­self, as a for-profit cor­po­ra­tion took over litch­field with pre­dictably hor­ren­dous re­sults. and it looks as though Sea­son 4 will turn that screw even harder. on our tour of the set, Em­pire clocks that the al­ready-cramped beds in the sleep­ing quar­ters have been re­placed with bunk-beds — sug­gest­ing more new in­mates. “there’s gonna be new blood — and that’s gonna make blood boil!” Se­le­nis leyva, who plays leader of the latina clique Glo­ria, whis­pers to Em­pire. and even though she’s got a smile on her face, it’s hard not to be­lieve her.

We come to an over­crowded cafe­te­ria, where the at­mos­phere is rowdy and re­laxed. dozens of beige-clad women (or­ange is rel­a­tively scarce) are watch­ing, weirdly, The Wiz, but it’s here where the show’s true power hits home. the nearly wholly fe­male cast is pow­er­fully di­verse, in age, eth­nic­ity and sex­u­al­ity ( you’ve never seen a women’s prison shower scene like the ones in this show). ac­tresses who spent ca­reers play­ing wives and girl­friends are now cen­tre-stage, and hav­ing a blast. “We don’t stay in our dress­ing rooms. We all pile into one and talk about J-lo, or what food makes us gassy,” laughs leyva.

With three more sea­sons newly or­dered — tak­ing us up to Sea­son 7 — it’s clear that this is one or­ange that won’t run out of juice. But given Piper was ini­tially serv­ing a 15-month sen­tence, that is some­thing the show will have to re­vise if Schilling’s go­ing to stay the course. it seems Sea­son 4 may be tak­ing care of that.

“She’s still push­ing at her lim­its,” says Schilling. “this sea­son she’s go­ing to break through to the other side.” Sounds like Piper might be about to break. the litch­field re­demp­tion has been post­poned. SARAH MOR­GAN

Or­ange Is The new Black sea­son 4 is on netflix from June 17.

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