Beverly Hills, Calif. — Netflix’s women’s prison series Orange Is the New Black was a heavily nominated comedy in its first year of Emmy eligibility. This year, it was nominated for four Emmy awards — in the drama category. So which one is it?
“I would say it’s a dramedy,” Lea DeLaria said Tuesday at the show’s TCA summer press tour panel at the Beverly Hilton. “I think it’s odd the Emmys don’t have a dramedy category.”
The actresses on the panel turned the recategorization — series with episodes longer than 30 minutes are now classified as a drama — into a positive, noting that Orange is the first show to be nominated for Outstanding Series in both comedy and drama. “We’re more than thrilled to be acknowledged,” Selenis Leyva said. “To be considered in both categories is amazing.”
Once past the issue of Emmy categorization, the actresses were free to spend most of the panel showering each other and other members of the OITNB family — and the show as a whole — with praise.
“I’m always floored by every single one of you and everyone I work with on the show,” Leyva said. “I remember watching the entire first season, telling (Taylor Schilling) how brilliant she was.”
“Taylor is one of the least lazy actors,” Taryn Manning said, adding that Schilling has many colors.
The most effusive praise was heaped on the writers, particularly series creator Jenji Kohan.
DeLaria credited the writers for their realistic backstory on her character Carrie “Big Boo” Black. “Butches have a shared life experience,” DeLaria said. “You see it all in Boo’s backstory.” The only difference between her and her character, she said, is that DeLaria’s parents “actually learned, they actually listened to me ... unfortunately, the story they showed, Boo’s story, is all too common.”
Uzo Aduba, who won an Emmy for her portrayal of Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren in season 1, applauded Kohan’s writing and subtle activism.
“She’s not trying to be a flag-waving activist in a loud way but is trying to bring some of the social issues concerning our penal system into the story we’re telling, and anything you see playing out is factual information,” Aduba said. “She’s done it in a very beautiful, humanizing way. You don’t think of these people strictly as inmates — these are mothers, these are daughters, these are sisters and grandchildren, and sometimes good people can make mistakes.”
Other highlights from the panel included:
— Schilling said that, from the start, her character Piper Chapman was completely different from Piper Kerman, who wrote the book the show is based on. “Pretty much starting at the tail end of episode 1 their paths diverged,” Schilling said.
— DeLaria and Manning were happy to see the progression of their characters’ relationship in season 3. “They’re both sort of ostracized and misfits,” Manning said.
— With production for the fourth season having begun only recently, the cast had little to share about the next season. “This is all I can tell you about season 4,” DeLaria said. “I’m in it, and it comes out sometime next year.”