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 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 Natasha Lyonne (“Nicky Nichols”) and Yael Stone (“Lorna Morello”) talked about their expectations for the show, when they realized just how much viewers were talking about it, how the success of Season 1 affected the vibe on set for Season 2, how humbling it is to strip their vanity away with the prison wardrobe, and the beautiful journey their characters took together in Season 2. Check out what they had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
YAEL STONE: I didn’t actually sign on. I just turned up that day, and they were like, “Hey, why don’t you be this girl in the truck?” And I was like, “Cool!” And then, from there, it was crazy! It was the best decision I ever made.
NATASHA LYONNE: I don’t think any of us could have anticipated it, but it’s been an incredible ride. It’s been so rewarding. We’re just all so proud of it and so proud of the work. And Australia is still looking for a missing person, so just don’t print Yael’s address.
When did you start to realize that the show was getting the reaction that it’s gotten?
STONE: I saw a poster, and that’s when I realized that it was a real show. That was enough for me to be like, “All right, we made a real show. They made a poster for it and everything!”
LYONNE: It kept escalating. It was all of these moments of, “Wow, this thing is an event!” Both Yael and I were put on Twitter by Netflix, and that whole thing is wild because then it comes directly to your phone and you can see how much people love it. It’s a tricky thing, social media, ‘cause it would have one believe that their world is potentially much more significant than it is and that all anybody is doing is talking about Orange is the New Black, all day. But in fact, I know from following other people on Twitter that that’s not the whole truth. But it is uncanny to have your phone blowing up, every five seconds, with people who love this thing. It’s a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling. I understand why people enjoy being a part of something that is well-liked.
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?
STONE: A little. When we were making Season 1, we were like, “Oh, we’re alone in this little cave of wonderment, having a really fun time playing with each other.” With Season 2, we couldn’t ignore the fact that people are definitely watching this thing. We also have a responsibility to rise to the challenge and not disappoint people. So, there was a sense that we really need to do this show proud and, at least, maintain the standards of Season 1.
LYONNE: I previously hadn’t realized we were living in this magical cave of wonderment that Yael described, and I wish we could go back there. But back then, in the cave, none of us knew what we were making. We were all really dedicated and focused and doing our best. We loved the writing and loved the show, and were having a great time with each other. It was challenging and good and special, but we had no idea what the outcome would be. What was weird about the second season, where I really clocked it, was that the extras started looking at us when we’d walk in the room. That was a very weird reality check, and it was clear that was going to present a new challenge. I don’t know how the actors all function, living in their imagination, with all of these different levels of, “Okay, this is my reality in prison. I’m not on a set on a TV show. There are no cameras watching me. There’s nobody in video village watching. That’s not a hair and make-up person touching me. Those aren’t memorized lines that I’m saying.” There are so many levels of delusion, and that presented an additional level of delusion that we had to deal with. You had to tell yourself, “None of the other inmates are staring at me and are excited for me to speak.” That was a new challenge that was also a reality check of, “Oh, shit, this is a big show!” If the extras in the cafeteria care that we’re doing a good job, certainly they’re going to be caring at home. We better fucking suit up and show up.
After spending so much time in the prison wardrobe for Season 1, were you thankful to get rid of it for a bit, or did you actually start to miss it?
STONE: I like the feeling of comfort. I can wear the pants above my belly button, which I always feel really comfortable with, when I do that. That’s how Lorna always likes to wear her pants. When I started back for Season 2, it was such a relief to have my pants above my belly button again.
LYONNE: It’s a good, humbling, shocking reminder, seeing yourself back in the wardrobe. We were coming off of, “Oh, my god, this show is such a hit. Let’s go to a bunch of things and be professionally dressed up.” And then, we went back to work and it was instantly humbling and grounding. You remember who your character is and that this is not a show about vanity. There’s no way to make that something it’s not.
LYONNE: It is not about your outsides on this show. That’s just the way it is.
Your characters have a beautiful relationship in a place that’s pretty ugly. What do you think these two characters mean to each other?
STONE: I feel like we’ve gone on a really big journey for Season 2. There’s been less emphasis on physical interaction, and it’s been taken more towards connection. I think that they’ve had some really big challenges that they’ve weathered through this time, and they come back together at the end saying, “I fucking need you! You’re not just a plaything. You’re not just a distraction. I need help, and you’re the person I’m coming to.” I think that’s a very beautiful thing.
LYONNE: We came to an interesting conclusion earlier today, with this idea that Nicky is really saying to Lorna, “This is your reality now. You’re in this prison. Spend time with me here. This is your life. Enough of your fantasy life and this business of Christopher. This is your reality now, and I’m the one that’s here for you.” The road that they’ve had to task has been so gonzo and so obsessive and compulsive, between the stalking and the orgasm competition. But, that it led them back to each other and a deeper intimacy is a nice thing.
Orange is the New Black is available on Netflix.