House of Orange
Taylor Schilling on sexuality, sisterhood, and why Orange Is The New Black is still wowing audiences five seasons in.
I thought I was over Orange Is The New Black. Five seasons in, I struggled to see how this once-radical show could maintain its unorthodox edge, and there were a few episodes in the middle of the season it almost lost me. But as I sit almost breathless, the edge of my seat a distant memory, for the finale of the latest season, I realise Jenji Kohan’s brilliant claws are still firmly embedded in me – and in many of you, too, judging by the huge audience numbers it continues to pull in. Orange is Netflix’s most-watched original series with almost seven million viewers in the US alone, and was streamed more than any other show worldwide in 2016.
It might not feel as revolutionary as it once did, when it first shower-sexed its way onto our screens in 2013. But it’s always been bold and brave, and remains so. Take sexuality, for example. From the beginning, Kohan, and the show’s writers, made sure that Orange positioned its queer credentials front and centre at a time when LGBT representation was far less visible than it is today, inviting other shows to do the same and explore sexuality in a more nuanced way. It has changed TV, and in turn, changed the world a little too.
One person who knows more about the show’s game-changing credentials than anyone is Taylor Schilling, who plays the dramedy’s central character Piper Chapman. She has been there since the get-go, has seen – and lived – its evolution, and firmly believes the show has changed the conversation around issues like sexuality, telling the Evening Standard recently that the world has “become a little more Orange”. “In the first season, all people wanted to talk about was what it was like to kiss a girl,” the 32-year-old says. “Now, if someone asks me that, there’s a complete understanding if I say, ‘I’m not going to answer that question’.”
Another thing that’s changed in the last five years is the interest in Schilling’s personal life, but her reluctance to talk about it has not. She’s never confirmed or denied a rumoured relationship with Sleater-Kinney guitarist and Portlandia star Carrie Brownstein, and it’s almost as if she’s talking in riddles when the subject of her sexuality has come up, shirking labels and describing herself as “a very expansive human”. Questions about her romantic life are, in her words, “pretty invasive”, but for the first time she appears to have acknowledged that she’s not straight, telling ES: “I’ve had wonderful relationships. I’ve had a lot of love, and I don’t have any qualms about where it comes from.”
Read the rest of our cover interview with Taylor in the August issue of DIVA, available now at divadigital.co.uk.
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