17 Things You Need to Know About “Orange Is the New Black”

orange is the new black

Photo credit: IMDB

If you haven’t already binge-watched the entire first season of Orange Is the New Black, cancel all your weekend plans — you have a lot of catching up to do. The series premiered in early July, and it has already become an obsession for both critics and unprofessional TV junkies such as myself. Netflix renewed it for a second season before the pilot episode even aired, which is essentially unheard of in the entertainment world. But with engrossing characters and backstories that hit you right in the feels EVERY time, it’s really no surprise that the show has become such an instant success.

Orange Is the New Black revolves around Piper Chapman, a wealthy boho Brooklynite who suddenly finds herself in the terrifying world of women’s prison. She leaves behind her fiancé, her pregnant best friend, and her blossoming soap business to pay for a crime she committed ten years previously, and as you can probably guess, much chaos ensues. Yes, the show provides plenty of titillating material to hook its viewers, but we keep coming back because of the raw humanity and emotions the characters constantly throw our way. I’m a sucker for female-driven shows in general, but OITNB just takes it to a whole new level. I found myself crying at the end of some episodes without even realizing it… and I loved it.

If my manic ranting doesn’t convince you to tune in, then learning about the show’s hardcore background should do the trick. I promise, the more you find out about this series and the people behind it, the more you’ll get sucked in. Are you read to become obsessed?

17 Things You Need to Know About Orange Is the New Black:

  • 17 Things You Need to Know About Orange Is the New Black 1 of 18
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    Orange Is the New Black may just be the best show NOT on television. Here are 17 reasons why you should be watching!

  • It’s based on a true story. 2 of 18
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    Orange Is the New Black is based on the memoir of the same name, written by Piper Kerman. Kerman wrote about her time spent in prison after she was locked up for laundering drug money, and the show borrows heavily from her experiences. The writers veer off in their own narrative directions, of course, but knowing that the fiction of Litchfield Prison draws on fact just makes the show all that more compelling.

    Photo credit: Amazon

  • And the characters are based on real people! 3 of 18
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    Not only is the Piper based on a real person, but so are most of the other crazy and complex characters in the show. Yoga Jones is based on Yoga Janet, Miss Claudette is based on Miss Natalie, Pennsatucky is based on … Pennsatucky (no need for a name change there!), who was actually Piper's friend in real life. Autostraddle has an awesomely extensive list of all the differences between the show and the memoir, so make sure you check it out!

    Photo credit: Wikipedia / Netflix

  • The show’s creator, Jenji Kohan, also produced Weeds. 4 of 18
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    Jenji Kohan must really have a thing for upper class white ladies getting caught up in drug rings …
    Bonus Fun Fact #1: Three of OITNB's actors — Michael Harney (Healy), Natasha Lyonne (Nicky), and Pablo Schreiber (Pornstache) — appeared on Weeds during the show's run.
    Bonus Fun Fact #2: In Episode 10, Piper walks in on Larry watching TV … an episode of Weeds, to be exact! Well played, Jenji.

     

    Photo credit: Netflix

  • Regina Spektor wrote the theme song from scratch. 5 of 18
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    Jenji Kohan approached Regina Spektor about writing a song specifically for the show, and she even sent the singer rough cuts of the episodes to set the mood — and it totally worked. Usually I fast forward through the opening credits of a TV show, but I never do with OINTB, due to the awesomeness of this theme song. You should listen to it ASAP.

    Photo credit: Amazon

  • Those are real inmates in the opening credits. 6 of 18
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    Speaking of credits, you may have noticed that none of the characters appear in OITNB's opening sequence. That's because all of the images shown are of formerly incarcerated women — not an actor in sight. To get a range of emotions, the director told the women to think of three things: a peaceful place, someone who makes them laugh, and something they wish they could forget. The result is a haunting range of emotive faces that will hook you every time.

    Photo credit: Netflix

  • Sophia is played by an actual transgender actress. 7 of 18
    20th Annual GLAAD Media Awards - San Francisco - Arrivals

    Sophia, a former firefighter who committed credit card fraud to pay for a sex change, is easily one of the most memorable characters on the show. She's even more compelling thanks to Laverne Cox, the transgender actress who portrays her. Cox got her start on a couple of reality TV shows, and she has continually used her fame to speak out about transgender rights.

    Photo credit: PR Photos

  • Laverne Cox’s brother portrays pre-transition Sophia. 8 of 18
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    In the flashback sequences, that's not Laverne Cox playing Sophia — it's her twin brother, M. Lamar! The casting director needed a man who looked convincingly similar to Cox, so the actress's twin (how convenient!) auditioned for the role and landed the part.

    Photo credit: Netflix

  • The costumes are completely authentic. 9 of 18
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    The costume designers did extensive research to make sure the characters' clothes look as realistic as possible. And to truly up the realism factor, they use actual inmate apparel, from the khaki prison scrubs to the officer uniforms. Even the bras and granny panties you see on the show are bought through prison suppliers!

    Photo credit: Instagram/emmacat

  • So are those DIY shower shoes! 10 of 18
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    Remember the infamous maxi pad shoes Piper wears in the first episode? How about Sophia's fabulous duct tape shoes? Both sartorial marvels were actually crafted up by the costume designers to add authenticity to the scenes. The maxi pad shoes took about 15 tries to get just right, while the duct tape creation only took 4 or 5. Totally worth it.

    Photo credit: Netflix

  • Mendez’s mustache, sadly, is NOT authentic. 11 of 18
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    He may go by "Pornstache" on OITNB, but actor Pablo Schreiber does not sport his trademark facial hair in real life. The show's makeup artists glued on a prosthetic mustache every morning before filming, and then removed it at the end of the day. The original ‘stache was a lot bigger and handlebar-esque — it went through several permutations to achieve its final, perfectly creepy look.

     

    Photo credit: Twitter/Pablo Schreiber

  • Annie Golden (Norma) is a former pop star. 12 of 18
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    Annie Golden plays Norma Romano, a sweet and silent inmate who mainly stays in the background. But did you know Golden was once the lead singer of the ‘70s pop band The Shirts? The band released four albums together, and she went on to star in several Broadway musicals. Her surprising performance of "Amazing Grace" in the season finale of OITNB makes a lot more sense now, doesn't it?

    Photo credit: Netflix / YouTube

  • Laura Prepon (Alex) originally auditioned for the role of Piper. 13 of 18
    Tattoo Artist Mario Barth Introduces "Mario Barth at the Mirage and King Ink" Opening - Arrivals

    Laura Prepon, as it turns out, was way too hardcore to play Piper. "She's such a great actress," says creator Jenji Kohan, "but ultimately, I thought, ‘Laura Prepon in prison? I don't worry about her.' There's a toughness and a presence to her that wasn't right for the character." Luckily, Taylor Schilling ended up being a perfect fit for Piper, and Prepon completely rocks as the edgier Alex.

    Photo credit: PR Photos

  • Jodie Foster was a guest director. 14 of 18
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    Jodie Foster asked to direct an episode as a sort of test run for another project she's working on with Showtime, and the OITNB producers were more than happy to grant her request. Episode 3, "Lesbian Request Denied," focuses on Sophia's backstory and is definitely one of the most memorable episodes in the season.

    Photo credit: Instagram/daniebb3

  • So was Andrew McCarthy! 15 of 18
    Andrew McCarthy "The Longest Way Home" Book Signing at The Free Library of Philadelphia in Philadelphia - October 03, 2012

    Yes, the same Andrew McCarthy of Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo's Fire fame. His is less hyped about than Jodie Foster's involvement, but Andrew McCarthy served as director for three different episodes: "Bora Bora Bora," "Fool Me Once," and "The Chickening." Those episodes contain some of the season's most chilling and powerful moments — like Piper's existential breakthrough during a Scared Straight confrontation — so here's hoping he gets behind the camera again for Season 2!

    Photo credit: PR Photos

  • Ira Glass was offered a role but he declined. 16 of 18
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    Maury Kind, the bespectacled NPR host who interviews Larry in Episode 11, looks (and sounds) suspiciously like Ira Glass. This is no coincidence — Jenji Kohan is a huge fan of Glass and "This American Life" and used both as inspiration for her script. She did ask him to play the part of Maury in OITNB, but he "politely declined."

     

    Photo credit: PR Photos / Netflix

  • Uzo Adubo (aka "Crazy Eyes") is a Broadway superstar. 17 of 18
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    Before she threw pies and peed on floors as Crazy Eyes, Uzo Adubo studied classical voice at Boston University and wowed audiences in several Broadway musicals, including the recent revival of "Godspell." This shouldn't be too surprising, since Adubo seems right at home with those Shakespearean monologues she randomly busts out on OITNB. Crazy Eyes was recently added as a series regular, so we'll be getting a lot more heartbreaking insanity in Season 2 (thank goodness).

    Photo credit: Wikipedia

  • It’s the go-to show for literature lovers. 18 of 18
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    You'd be surprised how many literary references get dropped regularly on OITNB. Whether Piper is reading Gone Girl under a tree or Taystee is begging for the addition of Fifty Shades of Grey to the prison library, books are actually a huge part of the show. So huge, in fact, that there is an entire Tumblr devoted to it — Books of Orange Is the New Black (with this awesome tagline: "Because Piper Chapman is the new Rory Gilmore"). Reason #384 why this show is simply the greatest.

    Photo credit: Netflix

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