Why You Should Watch Orange Is the New Black

Did Netflix just create the greatest lesbian TV series ever?

BY Diane Anderson-Minshall

July 10 2013 3:03 AM ET


Above: Piper (Tayor Schilling) arrives at the detention center.

Security around a screening of Netflix’s newest series, Orange Is the New Black, is a tight, cloak-and-dagger affair. If the ensemble dramedy’s producers and cast — Laura Prepon, Taylor Schilling, Kate Mulgrew, Natasha Lyonne, Lea DeLaria, and Laverne Cox, among others — are worried about negative reviews, they needn’t. This new women’s prison comedy-drama from famed Weeds creator Jenji Kohan, which debuts July 11, is not just a fantastic female-centric series that could shift the cultural landscape of television — it could turn out to be TV’s best lesbian series ever. (Yeah, that’s right, I said it, L Word fans.)

The series, based on Piper Kerman’s acclaimed memoir of the same name, revolves around engaged Brooklynite Piper (Schilling), whose decade-old relationship with a lesbian drug-runner Alex (Prepon) results in her arrest and yearlong detention in Litchfield, a federal prison. She leaves behind a fiancé (Jason Biggs) and her upper-middle-class world for orange jumpsuits and a baffling prison culture.

Schilling (who starred in TV’s short-lived Mercy) does right by her fish-out-of-water storyline, but it’s her cellmates who make the series shine. Prepon (That ’70s Show) says she was drawn to the role because of the uniqueness of the character. “Alex is not what she seems to be on paper,” says Prepon. “She has many layers, as people do, and is very well written. I've never played anybody like her. It was an awesome challenge, and my cast was amazing, which made playing this role that much more enticing.”

She rules out method acting — no secret lesbian trysts to report — but there was thought given to her drug dealer with a heart of gold.

“I got into the role by relating to her with my own personal experiences,” Prepon admits. “Alex is a really great character, and she has many layers. She puts on a front, but is actually a very sincere, genuine person. She loved her job as a drug dealer, because it gave her a position of power. When she is in prison, she has to figure out where she stands in the hierarchy of these women, as well as navigate her new relationship with Piper. We get to see her in many situations, where she has to drop her facade and we really get to know who she is.”

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