Orange is the New Black and American Culture

I’m in the midst of watching season 3 of Orange is the New Black. I’ll probably have something to say about it when I finish the entire season.

The pre-release publicity about it was everywhere last week. It made an impression on me when I realized how diverse the cast interviews were and how many actors have become known because of Orange is the New Black.

Here’s a short essay I wrote on Twitter.

Re: the power of media.

Orange is the New Black Rewatch Binge

June 12 and the release of season 3 of Orange is the New Black is just far enough away to let me rewatch the first two seasons in a cozy binge.

This is what fascinates me: the series starts out with the main story being about Piper, the privileged white woman who ends up in prison. The regular cast members listed are Taylor Schilling, Michael Harney, Kate Mulgrew, Laura Prepon, Michelle Hurst and Jason Biggs. By the second & third episode some of the actors like Danielle Brooks, Uzo Aduba, Natasha Lyonne, and Laverne Cox begin to show up as guest stars.

Actors we’ve grown to love from the show such as Dascha Polanco, Selenis Levya and Samira Wiley were listed in the ending credits. They didn’t even show up as guest stars early in the series.

I’m struck by how much of the story of what’s happening in Litchfield Prison has moved away from the white characters and how the minor actors in the beginning like Samira Wiley have moved up to become regulars.

As viewers, we have become attached to characters that we might never have had a chance to like and respond to anywhere else but in Orange is the New Black. It’s brilliant how Jinji Kohan and the other writers let Crazy Eyes and Big Boo and Gloria and Nicky and Morello sneak their way into our hearts by bringing each to the front slowly. Not to mention Sister Ingalls (Beth Fowler) and Maritza (Diane Guerrero), Watson (Vicky Jeudy) and many others.

A scene from OITNB

After two years, the most popular characters on OITNB are played by Samira Wiley, Danielle Brooks, Lea DeLaria and Laverne Cox. We no longer have to be lead into Litchfield stories by holding hands with someone white. Because of great writing, great acting talent, great personal presence, the most “other” members of the cast have become the default stars on Orange is the New Black. The story and the characters took off like a runaway train with a momentum that has carried us far from the original story in the book by Piper Kerman on which the series was based.

There are still white people in the story. Piper and Alex are still there, Red is still around, Nicky and Morello are still there, all the correctional officers and prison bosses are still there. But Piper is no longer the chief focus. In season 2, when Vee (Lorraine Toussaint) was around, much of the focus was on her and her effect on everyone at Litchfield. We’ll see where things go in season 3, but I’m 100% behind the diversity. I’d love to see one of the Hispanic characters become more known and important.

We’ve accepted the rainbow of characters who inhabit the prison, we care about them all. It’s a act of writing and planning by Jinji Kohan that I admire and respect. Diversity on our TV screens has an effect on the culture. I can’t wait to see how OITNB brings more of it in season 3.

What I’m waiting to see is the day when a black woman or a Hispanic woman or an Asian woman can be the lead character to lead us into a drama like this one.

Some Interviews with Orange is the New Black Cast Members

The cast of Orange is the New Black is busy doing publicity for season 2. There are interviews and talk shows and all kinds of press going on. I thought I’d collect a few of these videos right here for you to enjoy.

If you an obsessed fan like I am, you probably enjoy seeing the cast members being themselves in front of a camera instead of playing a part. Also, it’s nice to see them in street clothing.

This one is from MSNBC and features Lea DeLaria and Matt McGorry. Aww, they’re holding hands.

From HuffPostLive with Dascha Polanco and Lea DeLaria.

A Hey You Guys interview with Jason Biggs and Laura Prepon.

Another from Hey You Guys with Taylor Schilling and Danielle Brooks.

This one is a little heavy on the PR, but interesting.

This is from the Today Show. It’s old embed code, so it may not work on all devices. I apologize if it affects you. The interview included Taylor Schilling, Laura Prepon, Jason Biggs and Uzo Aduba.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Another Today show interview with Laura Prepon.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Katie Couric asked for a second chance with Laverne Cox and had a much better interview than the first time. Here’s a bit of their talk.

Thanks for watching. Hope you enjoy this type of post

A First Look at Orange is the New Black, Season 2

This is my overall impression of season 2 of Orange is the New Black. I will talk about performances and high level story lines, without revealing big spoilers. More detailed discussions of particular episodes or events will come later after people have had plenty of time to watch all 13 episodes.

I watched all 13 episodes in two days, and my eyes felt like I’d just finished one of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books when I finally looked up. But the eye strain was worth it.*

The Cast and Credits

The first thing I noticed was who is listed in the main credits. Those people are Taylor Schilling, Uzo Aduba, Danielle Brooks, Michael Harney, Natasha Lyonne, Taryn Manning, Kate Mulgrew, and Jason Biggs. These are the names that show up every week. The cast has been shuffled around a bit, some people have moved up into major roles. Other actors, although very important to season 2, are listed in guest roles or are listed after the main titles roll. Samira Wiley as Poussey is a key actor in season 2, and her name should have been up front, in my opinion.

Fan favorite Laura Prepon shows up in only 3 episodes, but the way the season ends it looks like Alex Vause will be back in full force in season 3. Other favorites who are there, but not necessarily for every episode include Laverne Cox, Lea DeLaria, Yael Stone, Selenis Leyva and many others. All the same officers and prison people are still running the place badly, except Pornstache who only shows up in a couple of episodes.

Vee can't fool Poussey
Vee can’t fool Poussey

Lorraine Toussaint, who comes in as a character named Vee, is in 8 episodes. In those 8 episodes she manages to throw the whole prison into quite a state.

In Praise of Brilliant Performances

There are so many brilliant performances in season 2. This is so much of what Orange is the New Black is: a showcase for brilliant talent that we don’t see anywhere else. While that isn’t true of the well-known Lorraine Toussaint, I want to call her out for her performance. She simply stunned in every way.

The cast who’ve been there all along were marvelous again this season. Taylor Schilling, Uzo Adubo, Danielle Brooks and Samira Wiley gave noteworthy performances. Really, everyone in this cast gives a noteworthy performance.

The Backstories

The backstory on each character is what makes us care so much about the women in Litchfield. This season we got more backstory on Piper (Taylor Schilling), Morello (Yael Stone), Sister Ingalls (Beth Fowler), Taystee (Danielle Brooks), Poussey, Miss Rosa (Barbara Rosenblat), Gloria (Selenis Leyva), Suzanne (Uzo Adubo), Black Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore) and Vee.

The Current Story

When the season begins, Piper is pulled from the SHU and taken to Chicago to the trial of the drug kingpin who was Alex’s boss. The trip from one prison to another provides an opportunity for a guest star, something that doesn’t happen often on this show. The guest was Lori Petty. Jodie Foster came back to direct again this season and she directed the Chicago trip episode.

At Litchfield, important plot points in this season are the dangerous conflict between Red (Kate Mulgrew) and Vee, the tension between the pregnant Daya (Dascha Polanco) and the C.O. John (Matt McGorry), the tension between Caputo (Nick Sandow) and Figueroa (Alysia Reiner), and the problems between Healey (Michael Harney) and just about everyone.

Anything you can do I can do better. I can do anything better than you.
Anything you can do I can do better. I can do anything better than you.

There’s a contest between Big Boo (Lea DeLaria) and Nicky (Natasha Lyonne) that leads to lots of funny lesbianing, but hang in there to the end of the season for the best Pensatucky lesbianing laugh of the year. Nicky has serious challenges to face as the season progresses, too.

You did WHAT?
You did WHAT?

Piper gets involved in tracing down corruption and finding proof of embezzled funds while dealing with Larry (Jason Biggs), Alex, a death in the family and more than one huge betrayal.

Morello and Suzanne
Morello and Suzanne

One of my favorite episodes revolved around Valentine’s Day. It revealed so many deep, meaningful insights. Another favorite was an episode where a good bit of the plot dealt with the fact that most of the women were unaware of their female anatomy and the construction of their lady parts in particular. The few who knew enlightened the others in some pretty funny ways.

I’m a ukelele player. I was highly amused by the C.O. (Joel Garland) who played a banjo ukelele while making up songs about nuns and bad mothers. Ukes forever!

The finale was written by Jenji Kohan. It wrapped up some problems, it opened up new problems for next season, and was a terrific way to end the season. It left us wanting more, it satisfied with poetic justice, and it left me convinced that season 3 can’t come soon enough.

*In one scene, Tastee recommends Outlander to Poussey.

Dream Actress Pairings

The other day Sarah Shahi tweeted a pic of her and Amy Acker working together on Person of Interest.

I heard about xanaxrxtop.com xanax on a radio programme last year. I suffer from serious lethargy/fatigue during the day and it sounded like a good drug. I ordered a pack of 30 from this online pharmacy, it took a couple of weeks to arrive but the effects were brilliant.summer sky and there were no side effects, bar a little initial anxiety during the first couple of days of use while I got accustomed.

Sarah Shahi and Amy Acker: I think that’s an interesting combination of stars. Two people that you might not ever expect to see work together and there they are, working together. Look at some of the combinations we are accustomed to seeing – Samira Wiley and Danielle Brooks, Anna Silk and Ksenia Solo, Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander, Ellen Pompeo and Sandra Oh – once we get to know the characters the choices seem inevitable. But up until the moment they were cast and the contracts were signed, all the choices were open.

It made me think about dream actress pairings.

Let’s play casting director!

If you could pair up any two actresses to star in a new movie (or TV show) who would you pick? For our movie let’s say the two are not related but instead are friends or coworkers – or lovers. They are strong, smart, and the lead actors in whatever drama we imagine for them.

My Picks

ashley judd and jennifer beals
Ashley Judd and Jennifer Beals

I’m picking Ashley Judd and Jennifer Beals. Here are my reasons.

  1. As far as I know they’ve never appeared together. Teaming up with someone new is the point.
  2. They are both in their 40s, so the movie doesn’t have to be a “let’s find true love and mate for life” kind of romantic comedy.
  3. They are both in their 40s, but that doesn’t rule out love stories if the movie needs to include that kind of story. It just shouldn’t be the only thing going on.
  4. They are both kick ass. Ashley proved she can do the action stuff in her TV series Missing. Jennifer kicked butt in her TV series Chicago Code. So if the movie is about catching bad guys, these two can handle it.
  5. They are both smart. I’d like to see a story where two leading women characters get to do something  smart and clever. If it was a political drama or courtroom drama they could be smart and savvy and make long lines of dialog sound meaningful.
  6. They are both terrific actors who are under appreciated in the awards department.
  7. I like them both and will watch anything they do.

I could go on naming combinations of actresses I’d like to see work together as lead characters, but I want to hear your ideas. Who do you think would be an interesting pair-up?

Do the Tastee Twist with Danielle Brooks

tastee twist

You have four days to make your video and get it up on Instagram to enter this brilliant Orange is the New Black dance contest. Danielle Brooks, Tastee herself, is going to judge and pick some favorites.

Start dancing!

Images ©Netflix.

Season 2 Casting News for Orange is the New Black – Updated

The latest from Netflix about season 2 of Orange is the New Black is that Lorraine Toussaint was added to the cast as a prisoner named Vee. Lorraine Toussaint was a regular on Body of Proof, Friday Night Lights and Saving Grace, but I love her most of all from Any Day Now. Any Day Now was set in 1960’s Birmingham, Alabama during the height of the civil rights movement. If you haven’t seen it you should look it up and watch it.

Danielle Brooks

Netflix also announced that Danielle Brooks, who plays Taystee will be a regular. Danielle Brooks is fresh out of Julliard. Her career is off to a solid gold start with OITNB and Taystee.

Taryn Manning

Taryn Manning is promoted to being a cast regular as well. The announcement is a bit of a spoiler alert, since it means that Piper didn’t do as much damage to Pennsatucky at the end of Season 1 as we might have thought.

Update 2/1/2014

The news about casting for season 2 announced recently is that Lori Petty from Tank Girl has a part in Orange is the New Black. The name of her character and what part she’ll play in the show isn’t explained yet.