Orange Is the New Black, the popular Netflix prison dramedy, may be nearly three months from the June 6th premiere of its second season, but the cast and creator convened Friday night at PaleyFest to discuss season two, the show’s new character and the effect of the series on people’s perceptions of gender identity and sexual orientation, via The Wrap.
“For the trans community, a lot of people are having conversations that they weren’t having before,” says transgender actress Laverne Cox, who plays Sophia Burset.
“Usually when a 16-year-old boy walks up to me on the street, it was to spit in my face and call me ‘dyke,'” added Lea DeLaria, who plays Carrie “Big Boo” Black. “And now it’s to hug me and say how much he loves ‘Orange Is the New Black.'”
Show creator Jenji Kohan credits the organic way in which the story lines weave issues of sexual identity and orientation into the general plot of upper middle-class woman Piper Chapman’s time spent in a minimum security federal prison.
“It’s not confronted; that’s the whole point,” Kohan said. “It’s not ‘The Very Special Episode about the trans character.’ It’s normalized in this conversation.”
Jason Biggs, who plays Chapman’s fiancé Larry, previewed what to expect of the fractured couple’s relationship next season. “When we left Larry and Piper in season one, their relationship was precarious at best, and for Larry, season two is pretty much spent trying to figure out if the damage that was done to the relationship is irreparable or if there’s something that they can mend there,” Biggs said. “I think it’s hard for him to just give up on it, so season two is spent with that sort of turmoil.”
The cast also discussed the arrival of new character Vee, a “street-wise drug maven” played by Law and Order’s Lorraine Toussaint.
“Jenji has written one of the more complex characters I’ve ever played, and probably one of the more difficult characters I’ve played,” Toussaint said. “I think it’ll be interesting seeing how this character is received, because Jenji has written a character that plays and enjoys the game, and is incredibly engaging and draws people into her — into the big game and has — I have a great deal of fun.”‘
Last year, Kohan said that the new season would focus less on Chapman and more on the cast as a whole. “It’s becoming much more of an ensemble,” Kohan said. “As much as I love Piper and [actress] Taylor [Schilling] and her journey, I think people are interested in everybody’s journey.”
Contrary to earlier reports, Kohan said earlier this year that season one star Laura Prepon will be in most of the new episodes, with League of Their Own star Lori Petty guest-starring in the series.