Lauren Morelli talks about ‘Orange Is The New Black’ season 5 with THR
The Piper and Alex flashback and engagement was a gift to original fans. As you expand your cast with every season, what are some of the challenges with telling these new stories while still staying true to the original ones?
The thing we say in the room all the time is that we have this really incredible base of characters that we’ve been with since season one and I think they serve as a touchstone, both for us and for the audience. So coming back to them, for me at least as a writer, feels really comfortable and a little bit like a breath of fresh air. It allows you to push further. We know who Alex and Piper are and here they are falling in love and getting engaged — and now episode 13 is going to be an action movie. (Laughs.) It’s the push and pull where you can remind people that this is the show that people have fallen in love with while also not just doing the same thing season after season. But the celebration is always short-lived. You get about 30 seconds of them being happy!
What is the significance of those 10 women standing together — Piper (Taylor Schilling), Alex (Laura Prepon), Red (Kate Mulgrew), Taystee (Danielle Brooks), Black Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore), Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba), Nicky (Natasha Lyonne), Gloria (Selenis Leyva), Frieda (Dale Soules) and Blanca (Laura Gomez) — in the season’s final moment?
It’s a really interesting mix of characters. It was one of the first times in the show, aside from Poussey’s death in the cafeteria, where things sort of transcend racial tribes. Having these leaders more or less of the various racial groups come together felt really important. It felt like this riot is about all of us. And we also had to make sure those were the people who, either circumstantially or because of their emotional journeys, had a real reason not to just run out. Once the prison is being stormed, why aren’t you surrendering? You better have a pretty good reason not to surrender.
Even Taylor Schilling said Poussey’s death rocked the invincibility she feels for Piper on this show. Are any of the characters fair game moving forward?
That’s probably a Jenji question. But I can say that going back to this ethos that exists on the show, because of Jenji, it’s always been to paint a realistic portrait and the realistic portrait really goes back to season one with Trisha’s [Madeline Brewer] death. Women die in prison because they are not getting the care that they need. And women get transferred, which happens on the show. Jenji is such a renegade in the best way and that really reflects itself in her storytelling. I think she’s really ready to take big chances, as you’ve seen in the last five seasons.
Kohan said in a recent interview that she “hasn’t made a final decision” on if season seven will be the series’ last. Have you talked about an endgame?
We’ve talked about endgames since season one, actually. With this show, from the beginning, the one question you always get is: “What are you going to do about Piper’s sentence, since [the real Piper] was only in there for 13 months?” So it’s been hanging in the air from the beginning, which I think has sort of required us to have a sense of: What will that look like? When will we get there? And, how will we get there? That isn’t to say that plan is set in stone at all, but I think Jenji definitely has ideas as to what the shape of that is.