Here’s new interview of Taylor Schilling with The Independent
From The Independent
r most of the 2010s, Taylor Schilling led the cast of one of the queerest shows on TV. In Orange is the New Black, the unflinching comedy-drama set in a women’s prison, she played Piper Chapman, a bougie New Yorker who ends up behind bars. Yanked away from her life in the West Village selling artisanal bath products, Piper spends incarceration using sanitary towels as flip-flops and hooking up with her on-off girlfriend in the prison chapel. As The New Yorker noted at the time: “There are more lesbians here – butch and femme and of every ethnicity – than in any other series on television.” But Schilling’s personal life off screen? Well, she didn’t see how that was anyone’s business.
“I was dating men, women, all sorts of people at that time,” the 37-year-old tells me over video call from Los Angeles. “But I never was in a long-term, happy relationship, so it never crossed my mind to make it a part of my public life. I was just like, ‘Are we going to go on another date?’” She covers her face with her hands. “It’s so embarrassing! I feel uncomfortable sharing myself for the sake of it.” On Pride weekend last year, when Schilling posted an Instagram story about her girlfriend, the artist Emily Ritz, headlines exclaimed that she had “come out”. “It’s very confusing to me when people are like, ‘When you came out…’ because since I was 14, everyone’s known who I am. I’ve always been exactly who I’ve been.”
Erica is a smart, ambitious performer who has a dirty cackle and reads vampire novels between takes. She was once enamoured of Rand, but these days she’s so fed up with him that she puts an egg timer on the table when he’s speaking. Even so, he’s constantly showing up at her door, crashing on the sofa of the flat she shares with her new girlfriend. Schilling is pleasingly impish in the role – all gold hoops, kohl eyes and playfully raised brow – and she didn’t even have to slap on a mound of prosthetics. Where Lily James and Sebastian Stan would get into hair and make-up at 3.30 in the morning, “I got to be effortless,” she says. “I basically came in and ate a sandwich and went home. I’d flit in and flit out.”
“Erica is such a great counterpoint to Pam,” says Schilling. “She has made the choice to be a sex worker. And she’s saying to Rand, ‘Do not conflate exploitation with my job. What I do is porn. There are consent forms. I’m happy doing what I’m doing. But Pam is a victim of a crime.’”
Talking about being cut from Argo:
Affleck was mortified. “He called me and explained what was going on,” says Schilling. Affleck’s own wife at the time, the actor Jennifer Garner, sent Schilling a letter. “She wrote to me, telling me how beautiful my performance was and how she once got cut from a Woody Allen movie. They handled that like f***ing pros. They were both so loving to me that I didn’t process it as a trauma.”
“Growing up in a very working-class home, every step of the way I felt so excited,” she says. Schilling grew up in Boston, dividing her time between her divorced parents. When she’d started out, she’d had to work as a nanny to pay the bills. “I felt like I was making it. To be honest, if you’re paying your own rent from working as an actor, then my God, you’ve made it.”
Orange Is The New Black
“We had to follow a Waspy white lady into prison in order to shine a light on these women of colour,” says Schilling. Her comments echo those of the series’ creator, Jenji Kohan, who said when the series launched: “You’re not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of Black women, and Latina women, and old women and criminals. But if you take this white girl, this sort of fish out of water, and you follow her in, you can then expand your world and tell all of those other stories.”
While commissioners might not have been ready for stories led by women of colour when the show launched in 2013, a lot changed over its run, which ended in 2019. By the final series of Orange is the New Black, when society had become more progressive, there was a palpable sense of animosity towards Schilling’s character.
“In some ways, that was really hard,” says Schilling. “I felt really hurt. I took it personally and I felt like I was no longer a part of the pack. I think Piper held the projection of a lot of white privilege for the collective that was invested in the show. That’s a vital theme to discuss, but it’s also not the easiest thing to hold… It was so wonderful to be a part of, of course, then it was an interesting experience to observe the change from when we started. It really changed. I definitely observed that feeling of celebration shifting into resentment of Piper. It’s a difficult thing to not personalise that. I started to feel like my job in that show was just as a space-holder, to provide a steady middle so that other people could really shine.”
“It’s a time capsule,” says Schilling. “That moment feels like it was on a different planet, doesn’t it? It was like trying to describe TV to folks that had only had the radio.” Schilling remembers worrying that no one would bother watching her new show, because it was a web series. “There were a lot of conversations like, ‘What is it? How do I watch it?’ People asking me to send a link and not having a clue how to consume it.”
Full interview here