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TELEVISION Orange Is the New Black cast talk new season, LGBT issues
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2018-08-08

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Orange Is the New Black is finally ready to be binge-watched on Netflix, with a newly released season six. The series is based on Piper Kerman's memoir Orange Is the New Black: My year in a Women's Prison. Thanks to recent events, the current storyline revs up from a minimum- to a maximum-security prison—and loads of brand new characters.

In its first season, it was nominated for 12 Primetime Emmy Award and won three. "Orange" continues to garner more Emmys along with nominations for Golden Globes and Writers Guild of America Awards, and the show has earned a Peabody Award.

The show has done well for humanizing prisoners, thanks to the cast that includes three who came to Chicago to promote it recently:

—Taylor Schilling plays Piper Chapman, and has received an Emmy nomination and two Golden Globe nominations, along with winning several Satellite Awards and a Webby for the show.

She has a vibrant movie career with Dark Matter, The Lucky One and Argo.

—Kate Mulgrew is Russian cook Galina "Red' Rezmikov. Mulgrew started her television career on Ryan's Hope before landing Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek:Voyager. She has an impressive theater background from Othello to Equus and voiced video games along with cartoons.

—Dascha Polanco, as Dayanara "Daya" Diaz, gives heart to an inmate, and this is the actress' first full-time acting job. This led her to play Detective Lori Wieder in three episodes of The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story this year.

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.

WCT: Orange Is the New Black has covered so many topics. Is there one you wish they would but haven't?

DP: I would love one scene of John Bennett coming back and for them to have a closing chapter. That would be epic.

KM: I would like to see homophobia covered with the Russian. It is integral to the Russian character. Red could be tough on homosexuality. She would be talking shit about that all the time, but I haven't so far. I only did it with Laverne Cox with the transgender scene when I said, "Why did you chop off your baby maker?"

I think there should more of that coming from the Russian...

TS: Is homophobia really baked into Russian culture?

KM: It's the law, sweetheart. They haven't brought that up with Red, and I see it all the time in the prison so I think it should be addressed.

TS: I wouldn't even know where to being with storylines for Piper.

WCT: Is Piper Kerman very hands-on with the series?

TS: She was when the show was based on a real person. She was there a lot, but we have gone far away from that for many years.

WCT: Were the other characters based on real people?

KM: Mine is the only one that is dedicated to an original character, whose name was Pop. She was Greek, not Russian.

WCT: Are there any divas on the set of Orange Is the New Black?

TS: I don't think so.

DP: Production or Jenji Kohan wouldn't allow that.

KM: I don't like divas so I won't go there. I don't tolerate that shit.

WCT: Who is the biggest prankster?

KM: I can be a little bit of a prankster. We are all full of mischief. When we start to laugh I am gone!

TS: My giggles are inappropriate.

KM: Remember that day we did 12 takes?

TS: It is not even funny. It's holding up people and is irresponsible and unprofessional.

WCT: Is there anyone similar or not like their characters at all?

DP: I think we are all different and similar.

TS: At this point I can see a lot of differences in most people from their character.

DP: I am super-glam, you know?

KM: They are picking from us with writing the characters.

DP: I am different than everyone else. I am more like my character.

WCT: Have you heard from LGBT fans about the show?

DP: Gay Pride goes crazy for Orange!

TS: I haven't done a lot of Prides. Have you?

DP: I did one in New York City and Canada once.

KM: I don't get invited to any Prides. See? Russian homophobia! [All laugh.]

I think we have done cinematically for the LGBT community than maybe any other television show, as we should.

WCT: What do you want to tell readers about season six?

TS: What did you think of it?

WCT: I loved it. I had issues with season five.

KM: You and everyone else…

DP: What part did you not like?

TS: The whole thing.

DP: I didn't like the makeovers.

WCT: It was slow.

KM: You cannot concentrate a show like that from three days time. That is what you felt on season five. It is just impossible unless you really work on that years in advance. That density requires a certain amount of time.

TS: That is for a movie, not a television show, with a lot time and care.

KM: That is feature-film time.

WCT: I loved season six from the beginning, with Crazy Eyes' musical sequence.

TS: We know how to hook you, Jerry—with musicals!

DP: They cut out the huge end part of modern dance where they lifted me up in the air. I was twirling in the air. They had never lifted me up so high before!

KM: I had a big clown routine that they cut. The season gets scary and dark very fast, though, doesn't it?

WCT: Yes.

KM: What did you think about the betrayals of Red?

WCT: I was concerned about your bald head.

KM: You were concerned? I had to shave it. This is a very expensive wig I am wearing today.

WCT: It is?

KM: I'm kidding!

WCT: Was it hours to get on the bald cap?

KM: No, I don't do anything for hours. It was fast. It was just a wig.

WCT: Dascha, how did you get the part on The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story?

DP: I am actress so I auditioned to play a lesbian detective. It was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Series.

It was great to be part of that because I realized that back then women were not allowed to have leadership roles. If they were then everything was questioned. Seeing her in the moment of trying to solve the crime and people not listening to her because she was a woman and also LGBT. It was something so frustrating.

KM: Great to play, though, right?

DP: It was a great role.

TS: I cannot wait to watch that.

KM: You can binge it. That's not even one bottle of wine!

WCT: How was it having your daughter play you in a flashback on Orange Is the New Black?

KM: It was amazing. I am very proud of her and she was very professional, which I made sure. It was great she got to play my younger self. I think people now realize we look a lot alike. I don't see it, but people always say that.

I think it was great for the show.

WCT: Craziest thing a Star Trek fan has ever asked of you, Kate?

KM: Are you serious? You have no idea! I've been asked to marry them, someone threatened to kill me, another one wrote a 600-page tome about me as a dominatrix with porn, which of course I read with the greatest delight. [Laughs] They have asked for everything and then some. They have crossed over to Red. The loyalty factor is pretty high!

WCT: How do you juggle the movies and what is coming out soon, Taylor?

TS: It is a lot of work and I am really tired all the time. I am happy to do things outside of Orange. I am so grateful to have different places to stretch my wings because there is only so much time.

There's a film called Family and one called Prodigy. With Prodigy, MGM has brought Orion back, who will release it. It is a very exciting horror film. I am the mother with a demon child—scary!


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