25 Things You Didn’t Know About Orange Is The New Black
In 2013, Netflix was relatively still in its infancy. One of its flagship shows was a comedy drama about the inmates in a women’s prison: Orange Is The New Black.
It was a hit, with people all over the world falling in love with these criminal tearaways and the goings on inside Litchfield Penitentiary.
Based on the memoirs of Piper Kerman, we follow her fictional counterpart, Piper Chapman, as she navigates through prison life.
Now in its sixth season, and the inmates all moving to new prisons after the riot, the programme continues to go from strength to strength.
We’re celebrating the release of the new season by looking at 25 things you didn’t know about Orange is the New Black.
25. Ryan Murphy almost made the series before Jenji Kohan
If things had gone to (the original) plan, Orange Is the New Black might look very different today.
Piper Kerman’s memoir Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, on which the series is based, was a hot property in Hollywood when it was published in 2010.
Originally, the rights to adapt the book into a series landed with Ryan Murphy, the man behind hit shows including Glee, American Horror Story and American Crime Story.
Murphy made an attempt to adapt Kerman’s story for the screen, but by his own admission he just couldn’t manage it.
“I just could never figure out how to do it”, Murphy told the Hollywood Reporter in 2015.
When the rights lapsed, Jenji Kohan took the reins and made Orange Is the New Black the show we know and love today. Still, we can’t help but wonder what Ryan Murphy’s OITNB would have been like…
24. Laura Prepon auditioned to play Piper
Never mind Ryan Murphy giving his spin on the show – can you imagine Laura Prepon giving her take on Piper?
Originally, Prepon wasn’t up for the part of Alex, Piper’s ex-girlfriend, at all, but Piper herself.
According to Jenji Kohan, Prepon was passed over in favour of Taylor Schilling because she lacked the girl-next-door vibe that was required.
The silver lining, of course, was that Kohan was so impressed by Prepon’s audition that she then began writing Alex with Prepon in mind.
Two more actresses also auditioned to play a character before being cast in different role.
While Yael Stone (Lorna Morello) first auditioned to play Nicky Nichols, Abigail Savage (Gina Murphy) originally auditioned for the part of Prepon’s Alex Vause.
23. Taystee and Poussey go way back
Taystee and Poussey aren’t just best buds on-screen. Off-screen, Samira Wiley and Danielle Brooks are just as close.
What’s amazing is the two actors started their friendship well before Orange Is the New Black.
Wiley and Brooks in fact go way back, having known one another since their college days.
It was in the late 00s that Wiley and Brooks first met, when they were both attending Juilliard performing arts college.
Wiley and Brooks actually met on Brooks’ first day, when Brooks was enthusiastically welcomed to school by orientation leader Wiley.
Wiley and Brooks aren’t the only OITNB cast members to go to Juilliard: Lorraine Toussaint also went there, though she graduated almost 30 years prior.
22. Jodie Foster has directed episodes
Though the Orange Is the New Black cast have been making names for themselves as a result of the show’s success, arguably the biggest star involved in production so far has remained off-camera.
Jodie Foster, Oscar-winning actress of Silence of the Lambs fame, has directed a couple of episodes of the show.
These are season one’s Lesbian Request Denied and season two’s opening episode, Thirsty Bird.
Foster’s involvement with the show started with the book, which excited her enough that she called her agent and informed him that she wanted to direct an episode for the adaptation.
Foster finally got the gig after she heard a friend was working on the show, and asked them to tell Piper Kerman that she was “dying to do something”.
Having acted less in recent years, Foster has turned increasingly to directing. Last year she helmed an episode of Black Mirror, another Netflix original.
21. Natasha Lyonne was supposed to disappear after season one
She’s become a mainstay as Nicky Nichols, but Natasha Lyonne almost didn’t make it to six seasons.
In fact, had things gone the way they were originally supposed to, Lyonne would have disappeared after season one.
When Lyonne first signed up to the role, Nicky was only scheduled to appear for six episodes.
The American Pie actress did, ultimately, see her character upgraded from a recurring role to a series regular, something she’s grateful for.
“I owe a thanks to the show, as I have a really healthy and consistent career going, but I think that character is really an outlet”, Lyonne told the Hollywood Reporter in 2016.
Lyonne is no doubt also relieved the part was expanded, having since become an Emmy nominee and Screen Actors Guild award winner.
20. If you thought the faces in the credits look familiar, think again
If you aren’t a regular Netflix opening titles-skipper, then you might have noticed that some of the faces that appear in the OITNB credits don’t look like those of the cast.
That’s because they’re not. What we see in the OITNB titles are actually the faces of real former prisoners.
Rather than drafting in her actors, Jenji Kohan wanted the eyes and mouths of genuine ex-inmates to set the scene for her show.
Placed in front of the camera, these non-actors were asked by Kohan to think of three things.
These were a “peaceful place”, “a person who makes you laugh”, and “something that you want to forget”, all of which were intended to deliver the facial expressions Kohan needed.
You can even spot the eyes of Piper Kerman, the author whose memoirs the series is based on.
19. The ensemble cast means it’s impossible to squeeze everyone in all the time
As an examination of all the varied life in a modern American women’s prison, Orange Is the New Black has a not-surprisingly huge cast.
OITNB has such a sprawling ensemble that it’s proven impossible to fit everybody in to each episode.
All except one, anyway. As it stands, just one actor has appeared in every episode of Orange Is the New Black to date.
No points for guessing who that is…that’s right, it’s our main protagonist.
Taylor Schilling, aka Piper Chapman, wins with an impressive 78 episodes under her belt.
Second to her is Kate Mulgrew as Red, with 77, with Uzo Aduba as Crazy Eyes in third place with 76.
18. One of the show’s writers divorced her husband to hook up with a cast member
The Orange Is the New Black writers don’t just create drama for the screen – they’re making a little bit of it off-screen, too.
Beginning in 2013, Lauren Morelli has acted as one of the main writers on the series, having been credited as writer on 21 episodes.
Morelli is also heavily involved with OITNB in another way, calling one of the stars of the show her partner.
In 2014, Morelli and Wiley began a relationship, with Morelli coming out as gay the same year.
It happened to be something of a scandal considering Morelli had divorced her husband, Steve Basilone, to be with Wiley.
Still, it all turned out happily ever after in the end: in 2016, Morelli and Wiley became engaged, and the pair married last year.
17. Dayanara and Aleida Diaz are impossibly close in age
If OITNB successfully had you convinced that Aleida and Dayanara Diaz were parent and child, then you have the casting and makeup departments to thank.
In the show, there are roughly 20 years between Litchfield mother-and-daughter pair Aleida and Dayanara.
In reality, the age gap between the two Diazes – or rather the actresses who play them – is much shorter.
Where in the show she plays the 24-year-old Dayanara, Dascha Polanco is actually 35.
Meanwhile Aleida Diaz, thought to be somewhere in her mid-40s, is played by the 37-year-old Elizabeth Rodriguez.
This makes for an age gap of just two years between mother and daughter.
16. Crazy Eyes was only meant to be a small part
Uzo Aduba has won several awards for her portrayal of Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren, but it was nearly not meant to be.
Originally, Crazy Eyes was only supposed to appear in a few episodes at the beginning of the series.
This was before Aduba decided to play Crazy Eyes as “innocent like a child…who acts and then thinks”, unlocking the role’s potential.
Producers and writers loved the character so much, however, that they gave her a recurring part.
What was even more fortuitous about Aduba getting the role when she did was that the actress had ‘quit’ acting when she got the part.
Aduba had decided to quit acting and instead go to law school the very same day she got a call letting her know the part was hers.
15. Character names are different in the book
Though it’s based on Piper Kerman’s memoir Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, the show has often deviated from the source material.
For one thing, some of the names have been changed in the translation from book to screen.
The ‘Red’ that Kerman knew was actually nicknamed ‘Pop’, while ‘Taystee’ was based on an inmate named ‘Delicious’.
Piper Kerman’s name, too, has evidently been changed to suit the show, so the main character became Piper Chapman.
The show also differs from the book in terms of storyline, and has increasingly diverged as time has gone on.
Still, Kerman in spite of this has continued to act as a consultant on the show, adding authenticity even as the show increasingly turns into fiction.
14. Laverne Cox’s twin brother played Sophia pre-transition
When transgender actress Laverne Cox’s Sophia Burset was set for a storyline documenting her pre-transition past, the OITNB team was faced with a problem.
The question was: how to successfully depict Burset as male when Cox was herself post-transition?
Lucky for the show, Cox had a perfect casting replacement just waiting in the wings.
In flashbacks, the pre-transition Burset is played by none other than Cox’s own twin brother.
Originally the plan was for a reluctant Cox to “play a man again”, but M Lamar, Cox’s artist-musician brother, stepped up, despite him never having acted before.
Cox later said of her brother, after his OITNB appearance: “I’m really grateful that I got to share a little bit of this show and this moment with him”.
13. Season 5 leaked when producers refused to pay a hacker’s ransom
In 2017, Netflix was victim of a hack. Unfortunately, Orange Is the New Black became one of the targets.
Prior to the release of OITNB’s fifth season, a hacker referring to themselves as The Dark Overlord claimed to have obtained episodes 1-10.
The hacker then threatened to release all the episodes unless Netflix paid a ransom.
When Netflix declined to pay, The Dark Overlord made good on their threat and leaked season five.
As yet, the Orange Is the New Black hacker hasn’t been found, but as it turns out their plan may have backfired anyway.
It emerged after the leak that the hacker had actually successfully increased demand and audience interest in the show, rather than sabotaging it.
12. The cast and crew like to reference their own work
Orange Is the New Black might go to some heavy places, but that doesn’t mean the cast and crew aren’t having fun behind the scenes, riffing on the work they’ve done before.
Kate Mulgrew, who plays Red, also played Kathryn Janeway on the sci-fi series Star Trek: Voyager.
In one episode, Nicky says to Red “I thought I was like your Spock.” Red replies (ironically) that she’s never heard of him.
OITNB creator Jenji Kohan also got in the referencing game with episode ten of the debut season.
At one point in the episode, Larry can be seen watching Weeds. This happens to be another creation of Jenji Kohan.
In addition, former Brat Pack star Andrew McCarthy directed four episodes of series two, and gave himself a cameo in the form of a cut-out. How meta.
11. The first scene the actors ever shot was the pilot shower scene
Actress Laura Prepon plays Alex on the show, whilst Taylor Schilling portrays main character Piper Chapman.
One of the first scenes that the pair shot together for the series was the shower scene from the pilot.
The scene, as fans will know, involved the two actors getting naked and simulating sex.
Despite the fact that both actors were on edge, once the cameras started rolling – and the pair found they could be comfortable around one another – things reportedly fell right into place.
The two were relieved to find that they had a natural chemistry, disarming what could have been an awkward situation.
Such was the pair’s chemistry, after one take Schilling turned around to Prepon and said “Thank God it’s you!”
10. Sesame Street made their own version of the show
In 2017, the popular kids’ show Sesame Street decided to make its own child-friendly parody of the hit prison series entitled ‘Orange is the New Snack’.
The main character was a blonde muppet named ‘Piper Snackman’ who starts at a new school (not penitentiary).
Newcomer Snackman makes a splash when she introduces her friends to a delicious new snack: the orange.
Sesame Street’s creators even composed a variation on the show’s theme song, which was renamed ‘You’ve Got Time [for Snacks]’.
Many spoof versions of the real show’s most popular characters were introduced, including ‘Googly Eyes’, ‘Forlorn-a’ and ‘Mr Mustache’.
There’s a very different kind of punishment in store for the muppets who misbehave, which involves being sent to the SHU (which is actually a giant shoe).
9. Lorraine Toussaint defied her contract to do her sex scene topless
Many actors make the decision to insert a no-nudity clause into their contracts when joining a series.
Lorraine Toussaint did just that before she became a cast member on Orange Is the New Black.
Toussaint played Yvonne ‘Vee’ Parker on the show, a ruthless psychopath who was happy to manipulate anyone for her own gain.
However, Toussaint later broke her own rule and decided to do one of her sex scenes completely topless.
Apparently, Toussaint defied her contract to go topless because she felt that it was a truer reflection of her character to do so.
Toussaint’s decision was arguably even braver considering the actress knew she was putting in extra dedication for a show she would be leaving after one season.
8. Taylor Schilling badly injured herself whilst filming a sex scene
The series is well-known for some of its steamy sex scenes, and lead character Piper Chapman has had her fair share of them in the past.
Unfortunately, they’re so intense that they can sometimes get a little bit dangerous for the actors involved.
During the production of season three, actress Taylor Schilling badly injured herself whilst filming a sex scene.
As she was taking off her shirt, Piper’s prisoner name-tag caught Schilling on the side of her mouth and left a small gash.
As a result, filming had to be halted for over an hour so that producers could ensure that the injury wasn’t too severe.
They managed to keep rolling in the end, but viewers will notice that the gash left by the tag can still be seen in the final cut.
7. Red’s nickname has three potential sources
Galina ‘Red’ Reznikov, portrayed by Kate Mulgrew, is one of the most popular characters on Orange Is the New Black.
Fans have often wondered where Red gets her nickname from, though. There are three potential sources.
The most obvious is that Reznikov’s nickname could simply refer to her striking red hair.
It could also apply to her Russian heritage, with a ‘Red’ being a citizen of Soviet Russia.
Others meanwhile have suggested it’s a reference to the character ‘Red’ from The Shawshank Redemption.
The Morgan Freeman character was, of course, well known for his ability to smuggle in contraband.
6. Alysia Reiner’s favourite part of the show is working with the Women’s Prison Association
It’s not uncommon for hit shows to take time out for charity work, and Orange is the New Black is no exception.
Alysia Reiner, aka Natalie in the show, has said that this is one of her favourite aspects of working on the series.
Reiner really enjoyed getting the opportunity to work with the real-life Women’s Prison Association in New York.
Reiner and her fellow OITNB actresses volunteered to make up backpacks for inmates.
The cast also met with some of the children of female prisoners currently serving time.
They also spent time painting a new building which would be used to house women awaiting discharge in collaboration with the charity ‘Habitat for Humanity’.
5. Jason Biggs references American Pie in the pilot
Jason Biggs will always be known to fans of a certain age as Jim Levenstein in the American Pie franchise.
Even now, in the wake of Orange Is the New Black, Biggs is still best-known for the comedy movie series.
The actor decided to own the association when he made a reference to his old character in the show.
In the pilot episode, Biggs’ Larry Bloom mentions two events from his character’s past.
According to Bloom, these events involved both a webcam and a regrettable penis shaving incident.
Fans of the franchise will recognise that both of these incidents occurred to his old character Jim in American Pie!
4. The American flag pin on Boo’s suit is always upside down
Boo is known in the series for wearing a flag of the stars and stripes on her uniform.
However, what you might not have noticed is that it’s always placed upside down!
This might land her in trouble because the American flag is only supposed to be upside down in times of real crisis – like the riot and its aftermath.
Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer got into hot water last year when he appeared at a conference wearing his US flag pin upside down.
But where Spicer likely just made a mistake, the pin’s placement in Orange Is the New Black is probably more deliberate.
Maybe it’s some sort of comment by the writers on modern US society! Or maybe Boo is just a rebel.
3. One of the Real Housewives is serving time in the Danbury Federal Correctional Institution
Any fans of The Real Housewives of New Jersey will know that one of the stars of the show, Teresa Giudice, was sentenced to 15 months in a federal prison for fraud.
She was inside for a total of 12 months before being released early, and served her time at the Danbury Federal Correctional Institution.
Orange Is the New Black fans will know that this the same facility that the show is based on (this is where author Piper Kerman was imprisoned).
The connection between Giudice and Orange Is the New Black doesn’t end there.
Funnily enough, Giudice once appeared in an episode of Mercy in 2009.
And who was the lead star of that series? Taylor Schilling, of course, star of OITNB.
2. Jason Biggs, Natasha Lyonne and Deborah Rush have already worked together before
Though Orange Is the New Black has introduced the world to a lot of fresh-faced actors, not all members of the cast are strangers to Hollywood.
Some of the cast, in fact, have worked in the same high-profile circles before.
The actors Jason Biggs, Natasha Lyonne and Deborah Rush have all already worked together on the American Pie franchise.
Lyonne featured in a total of three American Pie films: American Pie (1999), American Pie 2 (2001), and American Reunion (2012).
She starred alongside Jason Biggs, who has appeared in every American Pie movie to date.
Rush was in American Wedding (2003) and played a similar role to her character in the TV series as Biggs’ future mother-in-law.
1. Nobody knows why ‘Crazy Eyes’ acts the way that she does
After her introduction in season one, fans quickly fell in love with the quirky character ‘Crazy Eyes’.
It’s still unclear six seasons later, however, why exactly Crazy Eyes acts in the way that she does.
Fans, ever keen to pick apart and solve the mysteries of their favourite TV shows, have their theories.
Fans believe Crazy Eyes suffers from a combination of mental illness, autism, and some kind of intellectual disability.
She probably, judging by her behaviour these past seasons, also has a range of social and emotional issues.
However, the writers of the show have not confirmed what exactly causes her behaviour.