“I am pretty scrappy”Taylor Schilling talks about working on season 3 of the hit Netflix show Orange is the New Black and whether she could survive in prison herself.
The success of Orange is the New Black turned Taylor Schilling into the female face of Netflix, popping up alongside Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood as one of THE must-watch shows on the Internet streaming platform. With season 3 about to start on June 12, The Red Bulletin met up with the actress in Berlin to talk about what’s in store for her character Piper Chapman, and how well the blonde bombshell would fair in prison – beware, this lady knows how to handle herself.
THE RED BULLETIN: We see Piper abuse her power to get Alex back into prison at the end of season 2, how has prison changed Piper as we head into season 3?
TAYLOR SCHILLING: I think that Piper is more aware of herself, and she has a broader idea of what she is capable of. So her sense of self is much more finite. When we started the show she had a much more boxed in idea of who and what she was, and now she’s sort of stretching her wings and experiencing her own power in a different way.
It seems as if Piper is getting harder and more prison-wise by the end of last season, does she have the potential to become a leader like Vee or Red in the future?
For sure, I think she’s starting to see herself in a new way, and let go of old ideas of what is right and wrong. She’s really assimilating to the prison environment and learning how to take care of herself in a new way. I think the sky is the limit as to how far she can go.
Could she ever be as dangerous as Vee?
Why not? I don’t think that is outside of the realm of possibility for her at all. As she learns to protect herself and is spreading her wings and realising that who she was before she came into prison is such a tiny aspect of this infinite being that she is. It’ll be interesting to see where it all goes, I don’t think she knows how far it will go herself, and now she is testing that. We’ll see where it lands.
What has been the most challenging thing about shooting season 3?
Hmm, challenging is a hard word (laughs.) There was a certain lightness to season 3, and a real glee, which I found in Piper. She was starting to see herself in new ways, and there was an excitement to that.
Were you under more pressure this time given the popularity of the show?
I don’t think there was more pressure, but it was certainly a different experience to go from being an insulated little group where nobody knows who we are or what we are doing to being so much more expansive. That is very different. But I think that adds to it, you can really feel the excitement of the fans. When we first started shooting season 1 it was kind of like we were in our own little rabbit hole where no one knew what we were doing, and now there is a sense of the outside world, certainly when we’re at work anyway. It’s really invigorating to know that people want to see what we’re doing and that people have liked what we’ve done before.
How has the show been received by actual prisoners? Have you spoken to inmates about the show?
Yes I have, not people who are currently incarcerated, but I’ve talked to some people who have done time and watched the show. It is really heartening to hear people talking about how the community, the social strata and even the physical surroundings really mirror their experience, even the guards! I have had a lot of conversations with people about the guards and their experiences are very similar to what is happening on the show. So it is really heartening to know that we are doing something that is ringing true with people who have really had that experience in the American prison system.
Do you think you could survive in prison yourself?
(Long pause) I am pretty scrappy (laughs.) I think I would figure it out. It would be miserable and very hard but I’d survive. I just hope I never have to find out, please, I hope I don’t have to find out! But I have a feeling I would get by.
What do you think is the one thing you wouldn’t be able to live without in prison?
If I had to go away without saying goodbye to the people that I love, that might do me in. I might not be able to survive if I was plucked, without any warning from my life, I don’t think I could stand that.
So you say you are quite scappy, which character would you not want to get into a scrap with?
Oh god, so many! But I think Pennsatucky is such a wild card (laughs.) I would not want to get into too much of a row with that one, but frankly there aren’t many who I’d like to get into a fight with.
You went from a relative unknown to the female face of Netflix almost over night, how unexpected was the success of the show?
Well it’s funny because, inside of the experience, I never felt like I was an unknown (laughs.) I was like “I’m known by my people!” But what I love to do is the work and I love these moments of flight that I have when I am working on a story that I love. That’s really what has been emblematic of this experience – having that creative satisfaction regularly in my life. That’s kind of how it’s shifted my life – having this sense of having something that I love to do and being able to do that regularly.
What do you personally think makes this show so successful?
I think that there is a core of honesty and I think that it is written with such a clear intention to portray the characters honestly. I know as a viewer that when I am watching something that crackles with truth or something that I can recognise as honest then it really compels me. This is something that the show does; there is no veneer or a shellac of Hollywood or perfection of what a woman is, or pasting over societies cracks. Jenji [Kohan] our show creator is really exposing things, and I think that there people can identify with that.
What was the feeling on set like when you first walked on? Did you know that this was going to be something special?
I had no idea! By that point I had done things that I thought were going to be successful but really weren’t [most of her scenes were cut from Argo, which went on to win an Oscar. She also and had a film with Meryl Streep shelved] so I didn’t really know. What I did know was that there was a sense of community and a collaborative nature to this cast that was extraordinary, and something I hadn’t really touched on in TV, more so in theatre. It felt exciting, the story so was so compelling and yeah, it did feel special!
The show is both funny but also tragically sad at the same time, do you find drama or comedy easier to do?
I certainly had an idea of me being more suited and comfortable in dramatic waters before this show, and that has changed kind of single-handedly with the work that Jenji has given me to do. I have found a lot of joy and release in the comedy that I have been doing. But I certainly don’t feel like I have that comedy bone. I did The Overnight, that comes out in June with such great comedy actors, and it is just “ratatatat,” like they were playing chess and they were ten steps ahead of you because they knew what they were doing. I thrive more on the situational, both in drama and comedy, when the story stems from the situation rather than creating it on my own.
It seems as if nudity and sex is becoming more and more normal in television today, what’s the strangest part of doing nude scenes for OITNB?
Well it is so vulnerable. I think nudity is difficult. I have two parts of me, one part of me can just dive off into the deep end and feel pretty comfortable with it once I am in it - sort of a cavalier sense of just doing it - but on the other hand it can be very scary and I need to know how thing are going to play out. I need to know whether the story can withstand such a bold choice like physical nudity, but once I trust that, and I trust that the scenes really have a relevance to the story, then I don’t have a problem. But that’s the rub, that can be really difficult for me - understanding the story and understanding why nudity is absolutely essential.
How will you be watching season 3? Bingeing or taking your time?
Hmmm, I really don’t know. I imagine it will be over time simply because of the time constraints of my life, but I certainly would love to have a day where I could just like, watch them all. I would not mind that!
When was the last time you binged?
I haven’t really, it’s just not my rhythm, I just have to move after a while, one or two episodes at a time are usually my limit. If I had a goal or a reason for work then I could definitely do it!