NEW interview and photoshoot of Taylor Schilling with ‘The Improper‘
Jonathan Soroff: Orange Is the New Black was one of the first Netflix series to really blow up. What do you attribute that to?
Taylor Schilling: I think that it was an intersection of factors. The way people were watching TV was changing, and our show provided stories that we were culturally very hungry for. Those two things colliding, I think, created something that really exploded.
Show you binge-watch? OK, that’s a tough question, because for the past two years, I haven’t been able to watch anything without falling asleep. I’ve been so tired for two years. But actually, there are two shows. The Fall, with Gillian Anderson, and then I just watched the documentary series about the religious group in Oregon that clashed with the locals, Wild Wild Country. I was really into that.
NEW interview and photoshoot – Taylor Schilling on the cover of Vulkan Magazine
“We just came back for season seven of OITNB,” Taylor tells us from her home in Brooklyn where she just wrapped a day of shooting. “We started filming August 6th and we generally finish in six months, so we should be done in February.” Having just returned to work after a well deserved break, she can easily be forgiven for still daydreaming about her time off. “To be honest, I’m kind of still in vacation mode. It’s always a shift to come back and film, but this season feels different because Piper is out of prison.”
Windy City Times: Do viewers ever confuse you with your character on TV?
Dascha Polanco: They think I am my character and call me by her name. They don’t even know my real name.
Kate Mulgrew: Yes, lots of times. I get “Red” or “Captain Janeway” all the time. Make up your mind!
Taylor Schilling: I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think they confuse me with my character. When they say “Piper,” I don’t think that they are concerned I just busted out of the prison gate.
When did you find out that Piper was getting out of Litchfield?
I believe it was in the same conversation with Jenji about the wedding, halfway through the season, and I wasn’t surprised. She said we’re getting married because Piper is getting out and it’s something that you [Alex] know that she wants. But you kind of know these things are coming. You hear different things and when I’m directing, I know what I have to set up and what’s to come. I knew that Piper was going to get out at some point, and I assumed it was going to be the last episode.
How do you feel about her release in terms of where it can move the show? And do you think it pushes the endgame forward?
Well, the endgame is there. As of now, season seven is our last season. So, the endgame is clear. But the reason that it bums me out, obviously, is because I love working with Taylor. She and I love working together. We’ve been working together for six, seven years now and she’s a wonderful scene partner. We were just together the other day and she was saying, “This sucks. I’m out of prison. When am I going to do scenes with you!” (Laughs.)
Through the glass, in visitation?
Seriously! So, that’s a bummer. That’s obviously the main bummer, because I’ll miss her. But our writers are great, so they will always come up with something. These characters are so well-crafted, especially now. When you get to do a show for this long, you can really craft characters that are full, multidimensional people. And at this point, you’ve been with these women for six seasons, so our writers can just have so much fun playing with all these storylines.
For Schilling, whose character ended the season with mixed feelings about her newfound freedom, the one thing she seems confident about is how Piper feels about Alex.
“I think that’s the love of her life,” Schilling tells THR. “I’m not quite sure what that means all the time, but I think there comes a point in life to either commit to partnership or to not. Either one is totally valid, but it seems to me that Piper decided to commit to a life lived in tandem with Alex and to just work through the stuff with another human. So, I’d love to see her continue that on in perpetuity, to stick with it.”
“It feels like we’ve already come to a place where gay marriage is no longer a political statement,” says Schilling. “Where it’s a fact of life for many people and that there are now much more vulnerable populations and other members of the LGBTQ community, like the transgender community, that need to be made visible and have their voices amplified. So while, on some level it’s always the case, the beauty of it is that, to me, it seemed less like a political statement and more of just a continuation of the storyline — which is probably in and of itself the biggest political statement that can be made.”
She adds, “And that’s to the credit of many, many, many people who have been tireless advocates. It’s to the credit to where things have changed since the show started.”
Warning: Spoilers for season 6 of Orange Is the New Black below.
Taylor Schilling is on the top floor of The Standard Hotel, in a room overlooking the East Village. Clad in a robe, gold under-eye masks in place, the actress is arranging a dog sitter—she lives in Brooklyn so it wasn’t too hard to get here, she says, as a nail artist asks her to untuck her feet for a swipe of polish. If this were another celebrity, I might comment that this is the most undone I’ve ever seen her—chatting casually with her hair untouched and no makeup on. But for Schilling, this is actually more glamour than audiences might be used to, considering her work for the past six seasons as Piper Chapman on gritty Netflix series Orange Is the New Black—a show that helped change the landscape of television and made Schilling a household name.
Six seasons—that’s six years. “That’s the predominant thought running through my mind every time I think about the show right now,” the 34-year-old actress says with quiet awe. “Six years. It’s so hard to wrap my head around that.”
When did you find out that Piper was getting out of prison on early release?
I actually knew far into shooting last season that Piper was going to be getting out at the end of season six. So, I’ve known that for a while and I had to keep it a secret. But I knew that’s where we were headed — I sort of had an inkling. I don’t quite know why, but I did. And then everything started; she won the [PolyCon, the corporation that owns Litchfield,] lottery so she was able to get out.
As the actress who has played this character for six seasons, what were some of the emotions you experienced when finding out that Piper is leaving prison, and that everything is about to change?
It certainly is an end of an era. Orange has been such a huge chapter in my life, personally and professionally. I’m so grateful to have been able to play this part of Piper. I’m excited to let Piper go and put her to rest beautifully, as I’m sure Jenji will do, and let her kind of live on in her own world, when that time comes. As her time at Litchfield is coming to an end, it’s just about reflecting upon how grateful I am to have participated in something that has brought so much visibility to the prison system in our country. How much needs to be fixed, how much is broken and how no one is immune from its reach, but there are certainly particular populations of people in this country that are being used and abused in ways that need a voice. So I’m really grateful that that’s an element of this show, because it feels like it’s given me a platform for my own activism. Moving forward, there’s a lot to be grateful for.