Orange Is The New Black has been a hit for Netflix ever since it debuted in 2013. The based-on-a-true-story prison dramedy follows Piper Chapman as she serves a sentence at FCI Danbury, a women’s prison inhabited by a diverse and colorful group of fellow inmates. To tide you over until Season 6 drops, here are 42 binge-worth facts about Orange Is The New Black!
Orange is the New Black is based on Piper Kerman’s 2010 memoir of the same name, written about the time she served at FCI Danbury, a minimum-security federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut.
Kerman served time in 2004 in FCI Danbury for her involvement in a drug ring years earlier. In 1993, when Kerman was 24 years old, she flew to Belgium with a suitcase full of cash to deliver to a West African drug lord.
The show was created by Jenji Kohan, who read Kerman’s book after a friend sent it to her. Kohan is known for creating the hit show Weeds.
Kerman serves as a consultant on the show, making sure the show accurately portrays life in prison and pointing out any inconsistencies or inaccuracies. The fictionalized story of the show deviates heavily from Kerman’s actual life experiences, but the representation of what it’s like in a women’s prison is very close to life!
Kerman has spoken about the similarities and differences between real life and fiction on the show. She told NPR, “What that means is that when you watch the show, you will see moments of my life leap off the screen, such as Larry Bloom's proposal to Piper Chapman, (which) is not so very different from the way my husband, Larry Smith, proposed to me.”
Not everything is true to life. Kerman told Mother Jones: “I did not ever spend time in solitary, but they chose to make it an important part of the first season, and I was really happy to see that.”
Piper’s fictional counterpart, Piper Chapman, leaves her husband and proposes to her ex, Alex. In reality, Kerman and her husband, Larry, are still together. He wrote about his experience of seeing his life dramatized onscreen in a blog post on Medium in 2014.
Some elements of the show seem serendipitous: one of the filming locations for Orange Is The New Black is located on Old Orangeburg Road, Orangeburg, located in Orangetown, New York.
The opening sequence of the show features close-ups of real former inmates, plus a cameo from Kerman herself. Kerman’s face and blue eyes are shown blinking.
History’s most fascinating stories and darkest secrets, delivered to your inbox daily. Making distraction rewarding since 2017.
The cast is large and well-developed: no character appears in every episode, not even the character of Piper Chapman herself.
Kohan has said that the character of Piper was meant to represent a kind of “trojan horse”, allowing the viewers access to a new world, so that the stories of characters who might not be represented on TV could be told. Kerman told Mother Jones, "The show has the opportunity to put many different women's stories into the spotlight. That was sort of the most exciting thing."
Actresses Taylor Schilling (Piper) and Laura Prepon (Alex) had instant chemistry, and it’s a good thing, because the shower scene in which they kiss was the first scene they ever filmed together. Prepon told Metro Weekly, “We literally did one take of that, and she looked at me and was like, “Thank god it’s you.” I’m like, “Girl, thank god it’s you.” Because we were so comfortable.”
Taryn Manning, who plays Pennsatucky, told Vanity Fair that the costume department went the extra distance in the underwear department: “We wear, like, court-ordered granny panties […] They’re almost like sports bras, and they flatten your boobs. So everyone just has, like, a uni-boob.”
The episode title is stated at some point during each episode. Sometimes it’s said aloud, but other times it’s represented visually—like when the words “Trust No Bitch” were shown scratched into a character’s arm.
Orange Is the New Black has garnered 16 Emmy nominations and four wins. In 2015, the Emmy rules changed, re-designating OITNB from the comedy to drama, which means that the show is the first series ever to win nominations in both the Comedy and Drama categories.
Kate Mulgrew, who plays Galina “Red” Reznikov, stays in character when she’s on set. She told Vulture that she speaks in a Russian accent as soon as she arrives, saying that “When I get to work I turn it on, because I have to stay there.” Sometimes, she even finds herself slipping into the accent at home.
Taryn Manning told Vanity Fair that she bases Pennsatucky’s southern accent and mannerisms on documentaries. She watched The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, as well as homemade footage: “If you go on YouTube and just look up “hicks,” and the silly things they say and do. So she [Pennsatucky] is a little piece of a bunch of weirdos that I’ve seen”
Red’s nickname could well refer to her bright red hair, but she also shares the nickname with the character of Red from The Shawshank Redemption, who smuggles contraband into prison.
If you’re a Trekkie, Red could also refer to the color of the captain’s uniform Mulgrew wore on Star Trek: Voyager. She played Starfleet Captain Kathryn Janeway!
If Piper Chapman’s deference to Red seems natural, it could be because they’ve had some practice before. Kate Mulgrew portrayed Taylor Schilling (Piper)’s mother on the TV series Mercy in 2009.
In 2015, a teenage fan snuck onto the grounds of “Litchfield”—actually Rockland Children’s Psychiatric Centre, where OITNB is shot. She published photos on her Tumblr and when it caught the attention of the show’s production team, they tweeted out a fake “shot”, the warning a Litchfield inmate could expect to receive for an infraction.
If you find yourself salivating over Red’s prison cuisine on Orange Is the New Black, there’s good news—there’s an official OITNB cookbook. The cookbook includes 65 recipes for delicacies such as Red’s Chicken Kiev, Miss Claudette’s Coconut Cake, and Prison Punch, plus Taystee’s reading list, Red’s Homeopathic Remedies, and photos and sidebars which expand upon the fiction of the show.
In an early episode, Larry, played by Jason Biggs, tells Piper, “I tell you everything! The webcam horror, the penis shaving incident.” These are inside jokes, referring to events that happened to Biggs’ character in his breakout role in American Pie.
In another scene, Larry is shown watching TV in their shared living room. Eagle-eyed viewers noticed that the TV is showing an episode of Weeds, which was created by OITNB show runner Jenji Kohan. Things might have got a bit confusing if he had kept watching: OITNB actors Natasha Lyonne, Pablo Schreiber, and Michael Harney all made appearances on Weeds.
Several famous actors have directed episodes of Orange Is the New Black. Jodie Foster directed two episodes, and former Brat Pack member Andrew McCarthy directed five. Laura Prepon, one of the show’s stars, directed an episode in the show’s fifth season as well.
The character Nicky, played by Natasha Lyonne, has a scar on her chest from open-heart surgery, after having gotten an infection from substance abuse. The scar isn’t makeup—it’s Lyonne’s own real scar from the same surgery.
OINTB actress Laverne Cox got her showbiz start in 2008 on the VH1 reality show, I Want To Work For Diddy, in which contestants competed for a job as Sean Combs’ assistant. Cox was eliminated after six episodes, and had to deal with some closed-minded cast mates, but was proud to show audiences “what a transgender person is like”. Said Cox, “You always see transgendered women playing prostitutes on TV. It can be exploitative. That didn’t happen on this show.”
For a flashback showing transgender character Sophia Bursett’s pre-transition life, actress Laverne Cox wanted to play the role herself. Director Jodie Foster was skeptical, and instead they tapped Cox’s twin brother M Lamar to play the role! It was Lamar’s first time acting—he is a musician and installation artist.
The Real Housewives of New Jersey star Teresa Giudice claims that OITNB character Judy King is based on her. Giudice served 11 months at FCI Danbury, where OITNB author Piper Kerman served time in 2004. Giudice told the New York Daily News, "They made a character that is just like me. They probably read my book," referring to her memoir Turning the Tables. She might want to check her facts—her theory doesn’t account for the fact that Judy first appeared in the show’s third season in 2015, while Giudice’s book came out in 2016.
According to actress Jessica Pimentel, some members of the OITNB cast carpool together! They travel from their homes in New York City to various filming locations elsewhere in the state. “We can have these long days where we're awful to each other, and then get in the van, and we'll either put our headphones on and zone out, if we can't deal, or we just talk, make each other laugh, crack each other up,” Pimentel told Cosmo. “We have a long ride home from set. Depending on where we're filming, it takes me anywhere from 2.5 to three hours to get home.”
OITNB got the Sesame Street treatment in 2017. The PBS children’s series included a parody sketch called “Orange Is the New Snack”, complete with a recreation of the show’s opening sequence, in which a blonde named Piper Snackman and her friend Googly Eyes debate about whether cookies are better than fruit.
If you find the character of Piper Chapman a little annoying, you’re not alone. Taylor Schilling herself finds her character unsympathetic. In an interview with The Evening Standard, she confessed, "I don’t think there’s anything likeable about Piper.”
If the actress who plays a younger version of Daya in a flashback sequence bears an uncanny resemblance to Dascha Polanco, who plays current day Daya, it’s no coincidence. 15-year-old actress Dasany Kristal Gonzalez is actually Polanco’s daughter.
Showrunner Jenji Kohan told Terry Gross, host of NPR’s Fresh Air, that she was a “huge Ira Glass fan,” and that Glass, host of the NPR radio show This American Life, inspired the public radio host character in an episode of OITNB. She confessed “I actually asked Ira Glass if he would do it and he politely declined.” The host character still owed a lot to Glass, as an homage to Glass’s signature eyeglasses and way of speaking were hard to miss.
Jenji Kohan has had two huge hits with Weeds and Orange Is The New Black, and the two definitely have some crossover. Several actors, including Natasha Lyonne, have appeared both on Weeds and OITNB. In the seventh season of Weeds, the main character Nancy is released from FCI Danbury prison, having served three years (which weren’t shown, and were to have taken place between the respective finale and premiere of seasons 6 and 7). The book that provided the foundation of OITNB was set in FCI Danbury. However, in the show, it was changed to “Litchfield Prison”. Interestingly enough, the Weeds season featuring Danbury was filmed two years before OITNB!
The show’s decision to move the inmates to a different facility at the end of the fifth season may not have been deliberate: Rockland Children’s Psychiatric Hospital, which was the shooting location for exterior scenes of Litchfield Prison, was recently sold and is no longer available for filming.
The fourth season of OTINB was announced two months before season 3 was even released, and begun shooting the day after season 3 dropped! Netflix considers the show such a surefire hit that they greenlit three seasons (5 through 7) at the same time. Fans can relax, their fave show isn’t going anywhere soon: season 7 is set to be released in 2019.
In several episodes, the character of Big Boo has a pet dog. In fact, programs in which inmates look after and interact with pets are increasingly popular in American prisons. Caring for the animals gives inmates a sense of responsibility, builds empathy, and eases loneliness. It also provides shelter for unwanted or stray animals that might otherwise be without a home.
Netflix is usually quiet about their ratings, but they did confirm that the first season of Orange Is The New Black was the most-watched show on their streaming platform in 2013. That’s high praise considering the show was up against the hotly-anticipated return of Arrested Development, and the hit political thriller House of Cards.
Actress Taylor Schilling was injured while filming a sex scene on OITNB. While removing her shirt, her prison name tag caught the side of her mouth and cut her face. Filming was halted for several hours while the wound was treated, and if you look closely you can see the gash in the final cut of the episode.
Appearing on OITNB has been great for the careers of its stars, but the experience has affected some personally as well. Many of the stars have turned activist, and several took part in the women’s march on Washington together in 2017. Actress Diane Guerro penned an op-ed for the LA Times speaking about immigration, and actor Matt McGorry wrote an impassioned piece for The Guardian about how his experience acting on the show opened his eyes to the need for prison reform.
Orange is the New Black is the first mainstream TV show to depict a sex scene where a lesbian character actually uses a strap-on with her partner. The scene, from the show's third season in 2015, was praised for its depiction of lesbian sex. With its attention to diversity and accuracy, OITNB has been lauded for its representation of demographics who are otherwise underrepresented in the media.
My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.
Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.
Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.
Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? We’re always looking for your input! Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. Your suggestions can be as general or specific as you like, from “Life” to “Compact Cars and Trucks” to “A Subspecies of Capybara Called Hydrochoerus Isthmius.” We’ll get our writers on it because we want to create articles on the topics you’re interested in. Please submit feedback to email@example.com. Thanks for your time!
Do you question the accuracy of a fact you just read? At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. We want our readers to trust us. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. When we do, we depend on our loyal, helpful readers to point out how we can do better. Please let us know if a fact we’ve published is inaccurate (or even if you just suspect it’s inaccurate) by reaching out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your help!
The Factinate team
If you like humaverse you may also consider subscribing to these newsletters: