OITNB Creator Jenji Kohan: Piper is the Show’s White ‘Gateway Drug’
Jenji Kohan (Netflix)
Netflix has set a release date for “Orange is the New Black.”
The Lionsgate-produced series from creator Jenji Kohan (“Weeds,” “GLOW”) will end in 2019 with its seventh season, taking with it a rare and wondrous multicultural, multigenerational, genderfluid, dramedy-blurring mix of characters – the likes of which we may not see all in one place anytime soon.
During 2013 radio interviews for the show’s series premiere, Kohan said she wanted to tell the stories of these incarcerated women after reading Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name, which followed the author’s experience at Connecticut’s Danbury Federal Prison. Fully aware of Hollywood’s antiquated unwillingness to bet on diversity, Kohan envisioned Piper’s whiteness as “a way in, where we can follow her and then tell all these different stories.”
“The pools of talent are so deep when you have a call for Latin women, or black women, or a middle-aged woman, because they never get their shot,” Kohan continued. “We’ve watched these auditions and we could only pick one, and sometimes we would add new characters because we wanted to use that actress. There were so many people that were just waiting for something like this.”
Kohan acknowledges the show’s black and brown characters are ultimately depicted under the umbrella stereotype of being behind bars. “They’re incarcerated, but it’s also hard to find these crossroads where you can bring in all these different groups and have them all in the same place,” she said. “I’m always looking for those nexuses where you can put all these diverse people together and see how they respond to one another and see what they learn about each other.”