You shared your audition story [Prepon first read for the role of Piper before creator Jenji Kohan tailored Alex for her]. During your chemistry read with Taylor Schilling (watch here), they said the match was made. What do you remember?
As soon as I met Taylor, I totally got it. Such a wonderful actress who has this softness to her, but also through the years, you really lean into her strength. She was just perfect for Piper. Then as soon as we worked together, we knew this was going to be great. And you can only hope for that type of thing to happen. It’s rare — I’m telling you, it’s rare. After having the good fortune to do this for over 20 years, it’s rare when you have those moments of that special connection and we have that.
Major spoilers for how it ends + NEW still after the jump
JEN EUSTON, CASTING DIRECTOR People were passing. That first season was a lot of begging. Nobody knew what this was. Piper was the hardest role to cast. Jenji said she needed a unicorn and I had nobody. I was looking for Piper the entire pilot and didn’t end up casting her until two weeks before.
HERRMANN We met with Katie Holmes and Kate Hudson.
EUSTON I had been tracking Taylor Schilling the whole time we were reading people but she was on vacation. I finally got her in and sent her best readings to Jenji. I said, “I found her.” And Jenji said, “You did.” [Editor’s note: Taylor Schilling was not available for interviews and did not respond to emailed questions before publication.]
HERRMANN There was a naturalism to Taylor that is undeniable. And the match was made during the chemistry read between Laura Prepon and Taylor.
LAURA PREPON (ALEX VAUSE) A lot of the girls read for other characters. When I read Alex, I was like, “This makes way more sense.” When Taylor and I read together, it was that X-factor you can never explain. When I left I thought, “That was awesome and special.” I got the call and moved to New York three days later.
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.