OItNB creator Jenji Kohan: 'Piper Was My Trojan Horse'

"In a lot of ways Piper was my Trojan Horse. You're not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of black women, and Latina women, and old women and criminals. But if you take this white girl, this sort of fish out of water, and you follow her in, you can then expand your world and tell all of those other stories.

But it's a hard sell to just go in and try to sell those stories initially. The girl next door, the cool blonde, is a very easy access point, and it's relatable for a lot of audiences and a lot of networks looking for a certain demographic. It's useful."


Orange is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan talks with Terry Gross. Beyond the striking quote above, the whole interview is really cool and you should listen to it.

On what drew her to Orange when she read it

"I'm always looking for those places where you can slam really disparate people up against one another, and they have to deal with each other. There are very few crossroads anymore. We talk about this country as this big melting pot, but it's a mosaic. There's all these pieces, they're next to each other, they're not necessarily mixing. And I'm looking for those spaces where people actually do mix — and prison just happens to be a terrific one."

On using flashbacks as narrative device

"When you're writing a show, [it] is your life. And I did not want to spend all my days in prison. It seemed really oppressive, and potentially depressing, and I wanted to build in a structure where I could get out, and these people could get out, and we could have some blue skies and wear some actual clothes, as opposed to uniforms. The bonus of that was that you get to see a fuller picture of who these people are. Because everyone wears a mask, to a certain extent, in prison; you take on a persona to survive, and there's more to these people than what they're displaying in this extreme situation."

On her close-knit cast

"The wealth of talent in this pool has been remarkable [...] the bench goes so deep. Like Crazy Eyes, who is one of the real breakout characters on the show — I think [actress Uzo Aduba was] No. 50 on the call sheet, and she's a star. They're all stars. And they're dazzling, and they're enthusiastic, and they adore one another. And when their scenes are done, they stick around and watch other people do their scenes, and they hang out on the weekends. It's kind of been a love-fest on the set."

On how she started writing

"My ex-boyfriend said, 'You have a better chance of getting elected to Congress than getting on the staff of a television show.' Which was the perfect thing for him to say, because my entire career is, 'Well, screw you.' And we broke up. And then I started writing. ... I quit all of my crappy odd jobs, and I moved in with [a friend who] was living in Santa Cruz. And every day we would go to these little cafes in Santa Cruz, and I would work on spec scripts and study these videotapes I had recorded off television of Roseanne and Seinfeld and The Simpsons. ... What ended up happening was, my sister-in-law's father worked in a building with an agent and gave him my scripts in an elevator. And he read them, and I was on a show by spring. And it took off from there, and I never stopped working."

Source: seriously you should listen to this, there are a million cool lines that weren't transcribed for the summary