From Weeds creator Jenji Kohan, Orange is the New Black tells the heartbreaking and hilarious stories of the women at Litchfield Prison. In Season 1, Piper Chapman’s (Taylor Schilling) wild past came back to haunt her, resulting in her arrest and detention in a federal penitentiary where she finds unexpected conflict and camaraderie amidst an eccentric group of inmates. In Orange Is the New Black Season 2, shocking revelations and new arrivals shake up the lives and relationships of the prisoners, in ways they never could have imagined.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, co-stars Kate Mulgrew (“Galina ‘Red’ Reznikov”) and Lorraine Toussaint (“Yvonne ‘Vee’ Parker”) talked about how they realized the level of popularity of this show, getting to explore the past and present of the relationship between their characters, that it’s great to work wearing a uniform, sneaking bits of glamour in, the expectation level that they have to live up to know, and how they each felt about the way their Season 2 storylines wrapped up. Check out what they had to say about Orange is the New Black season 2 after the jump, and be aware that there are major spoilers.
KATE MULGREW: It was fascinating because we didn’t know, until we were in it, that we were doing it. We were not given the backstory, so we encountered it, in the moment. That gave it the sense of urgency, immediacy and authenticity.
LORRAINE TOUSSAINT: And it was all so fun. Kate and I knew each other in another incarnation, so the reuniting was easy because we didn’t have to act very much. The reuniting wasn’t loaded, in any way. It was genuine. I was genuinely glad to see her. That was nice.
MULGREW: That’s the whole thing. When you’re working with someone whose talents you’re absolutely sure of, you can relax and you can take flight, and that’s what we did.
How did you start to realize that the show was getting the reaction that it’s gotten?
TOUSSAINT: When I joined the cast, I didn’t realize what a huge hit it was until I started telling people in my life, “I’m doing a season of Orange is the New Black,” and they would go ballistic. I was sitting in the dentist’s chair with a mouth full of stuff and they were like, “So, is Crazy Eyes really crazy?” And then, I actually started testing it with my friends and family, just to see their reactions. It always shocked me and, frankly, frightened me a little bit. I never knew that some of the people in my life were those kinds of fans. They were rabid.
MULGREW: People love Red, and that’s what I hear. When they call out my name, it’s either preceded by or followed by, “We love you, Red,” or “Red, we love you.” It’s certainly that way, among a certain faction of women. The response has been terrific.
After spending so much time in the prison wardrobe, were you thankful to get rid of it for a bit, or did you actually start to miss it?
MULGREW: I want to wear it, all the time. I love a uniform. I love that, with every part that I have to wear a uniform. It’s so freeing. You’re in the pants and there’s no conversations. You’re stripped down. Vanity goes out the window. The make-up takes a minute and 30 seconds, and you’re done.
There really is no chance for glamour on this show.
MULGREW: You can sneak it in. In the first season, (director) Jodie Foster said that they had to see me getting into the shower and that I couldn’t get into the shower in my robe. So, I ran to wardrobe and said, “Give me a red lace bra.” And that’s what you see.
Did the success of Season 1 change the vibe on set for Season 2, knowing that you have an audience that will be there watching and there’s a certain expectation level now?
MULGREW: Yeah, we’ve been down the mountain and now we were ready to shush. The first time you go down the mountain, it’s tricky because you’re forging new pathways for yourself. The second time you know the trail and you have fun. You cut loose and you shush it.
TOUSSAINT: I don’t know if I was satisfied. I’d like to think that she isn’t dead. She was so vile that it’s hard to see where that could be redeemed, in any way, shape or form. But, it is Jenji Kohan. I’m glad to say goodbye to Vee, and yet there is a part of me that mourns her passing. That’s all I can say, really.
MULGREW: I think it ended well for Red. She can still walk and talk, although she is severely damaged. And she ended up with Sister Ingalls. Red forced her to eat, and she forced Red to tell the truth. It was a great wind-up for me.
Orange is the New Black is available on Netflix.