Danielle Brooks, Taylor Schilling, Laverne Cox, Natasha Lyonne discuss the latest season of Netflix's groundbreaking prison drama
After the death of a beloved inmate, Taystee (Danielle Brooks) is leading a prison rebellion and attempting to advocate change at Litchfield penitentiary as season five of Orange is the New Black begins. Meanwhile Piper (Taylor Schilling) is left standing on the side-lines for the most part but is raring to get involved. As the women attempt to run their own fair version of society behind bars, issues concerning the psychology of protest and how difficult it can be to achieve justice simmer to boiling point.
Taystee takes on the role of an activist as she writes up ransom demands for the release of hostages. On asking the inmates to vote for their chief concerns, Taystee finds out that democracy doesn't always lead to the change you personally want. 'What's so interesting this season is people's objectives,' explains Brooks, talking at rountable event in London alongside other members of OITNB's cast and crew. 'You think everybody is on the same page but they're not. People have their motives and they get distracted very easily by shiny objects that mean nothing. I think Jenji [Kohan] purposely wrote Taystee this season to be that moral compass.'
Laverne Cox who plays Sophia, Litchfield's only trans inmate, explains how Taystee's narrative arc relates to real-life: 'In life we may not know how to step up to the plate. When we're tested that's when we figure out who we are. I was watching I Am Not Your Negro recently and thinking about how young Martin Luther King was in 1955. He was 26 years old during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He found his calling and that's what Taystee is experiencing, her calling.'
Schilling also recognises the real-world parallels in this season. 'We're at this breaking point in America where we can't help but be global citizens because the chaos is unifying. Once we have information complacency is compliance.'
What creator Kohan does beautifully is acknowledge how the inmates and in turn the audience at home are made to feel frightened, to stand up for what they believe in. 'On a microscale Piper is gnashing her teeth,' adds Schilling. 'Sitting on the side-lines means that she agrees with what's going on and I'm curious to see how people respond to that. You look back over the course of history and you think "I certainly would have spoken up at this point in the Holocaust or this point in the civil rights movement".'
Natasha Lyonne who plays Nicky, a recovering addict, emphatically agrees with Schilling: 'This season does ask that question. It lives somewhere between Lord of the Flies and a metaphor perfect for the average man in today's society. It is so vividly happening and yet at what point does one step in and how. We certainly are aware this is a TV show and we're not saying this is how one changes the world, but on a personal level we are grateful to have the conversation in an honest way without fear. The entire season is ultimately saying "stand up to glaring injustice wherever you can".'
Orange Is The New Black, Season 5, is on Netflix from Fri 9 Jun.