'Weeds' Creator Trades Marijuana Green for Prison Orange in New Netflix Series About Ladies in Lockup
Taylor Schilling in a scene from Netflix's
For Jenji Kohan, following up her popular Showtime marijuana-mama comedy, "Weeds," with "Orange Is the New Black," an hourlong women's-prison dramedy based on Piper Kerman's best-selling memoir of the same name, was a "no-brainer."
"I was looking for something to jump onto because I'm not good when I'm not working, and although I didn't think it would happen this quickly, I couldn't pass this up because it had everything for me, starting with very fascinating characters with interesting stories to tell," the show creator told Yahoo! TV exclusively in late June at a Santa Monica junket for the 13-episode Netflix series that premieres today. "The book was a great character piece, and I fell in love with the world and these women. I knew it would make the perfect launching point for a series because of the fact that we had this gateway drug into the world in this white middle-class girl next door. I can't sell a show on black or Latino prisoners, but if I walk in with her, I can suddenly tell all of their stories."
The white girl in question is Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a privileged Brooklynite with a budding toiletries line, a self-absorbed family, and a hapless fiancé (Jason Biggs), whose decade-old relationship with drug runner Alex (Laura Prepon) comes back to haunt her. After she's convicted of sporadically carrying cash for the international ring, she's sentenced to a 15-month-long detention in a federal penitentiary alongside a variety of feisty, eccentric, and sometimes dangerous inmates, including the ex-girlfriend she suspects turned her in. It's inspired by the book's author's incarceration and her trouble navigating the baffling culture behind bars.
"I was so excited to play such a fish outta water who goes through such a deep evolution. At first, she says and does all the wrong things, doesn't know all the rules, pisses off the wrong people, attracts the wrong people because there's a giant learning curve," Schilling said. "It's really fun to be put in such deep water. Even more fun was the fact that I wasn't alone. It's rare to see one fully realized female character in a script, and yet there is space in this one show for women of all different shapes, ages, sizes, colors, orientations, all on their own heroine's journey."