Authentic. Risky. Diverse. Conversation starter. Those are the kinds of words that often pop up in describing Orange Is the New Black, and they were among the many topics creator Jenji Kohan and a dozen castmembers discussed during the prison dramedy’s PaleyFest panel Friday. “Our focus is on character, and these people are individuals,” Kohan said early on. “We talk about them like they’re people we know. And you don’t approach it like, ‘Well what does the black one do? What does the Latino one do?’ It’s like you know these people – you can’t view it as tokenism.” Said Laverne Cox, who plays Sophia Burset: “We should talk about the conversations that this show has sparked — who is in prison and why are people in prison, things we need to talk about more in this country. It’s important for the trans community; a lot of people are having conversations about trans people that they weren’t having. Amazing conversations about diversity, a lot of important things that we need to be talking about.” Kohan chimed in: “But it’s natural, its normative – it’s presented as something that’s part of everyone’s life. It’s not the ‘very special episode about the trans character.’ It’s normalizing this conversation.”
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Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
Jenji Kohan drew laughs tonight at an event for her Netflix series Orange Is The New Black when she referred to it as a “TV show” then quickly corrected herself. “It’s not a TV show — it’s a streaming show,” she said. Then, as if doing a mock commercial announcement for the daring show that has fast become a binge-watcher favorite: “You can watch it on any sort of device!” Watching “your device” instead of “your TV” became a running gag at this rollicking panel, the sold-out first show of the Paley Center’s five-night PaleyFest: Made in NY. Elvis Mitchell hosted the event, at which creator-producer Kohan – sporting green and blue hair — was joined by Piper Kerman, whose autobiographical book about being a fish out of water in a women’s prison was the basis for the series, and cast members including star Taylor Schilling, Natasha Lyonne, Kate Mulgrew, Danielle Brooks, Uzo Aduba and Taryn Manning. Jason Biggs, who portrays lead character Piper Chapman’s fiancé, took a load of good-natured ribbing as the lone guy on the panel of powerful females.
Related: PaleyFest Moves Into New York
Kohan said the show was never intended to be a dramatization of Kerman’s real-life experiences. She joked that the decision to change the character’s last name happened “when legal said: ‘You can write Piper’s story but no one else’s.’ ” On a more serious note, she said she made the choice partly for the real Piper’s sake: “I can’t imagine how tortuous it would be (for her) to watch the actual story week after week.” The show, Kohan said, “quickly became its own animal.”
Related: Netflix Renews ‘Orange Is The New Black’ For Second Season
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UPDATE, 3:10 PM: Clarifying statements from the involved parties have been flooding in since last night’s news about Netflix losing hundreds of movies from its streaming service beginning today. Reports originally said the vacating titles were from Warner Bros, but it turns out the majority were “older features that were aggregated by Epix,” a Netflix spokesman said this afternoon. Epix’s two-year exclusive deal with the streaming service expired in September; content from Epix — owned by Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM — also streams on Amazon Prime Instant Video. A source tells Deadline that that the number of expiring titles is closer to 1,000, rather than the 2,000 figure floating around online. “This ebb and flow happens all the time”, Netflix said. The company also said it is adding 500 more titles starting today, including Mission: Impossible 2. Read More »
Netflix‘s latest original series, the comedic drama Orange Is The New Black, will launch on July 11. Like it has done with all of its original series, Netflix will make all 13 episodes of Orange Is The New Black, created/exec produced by Jenji Kohan based on the memoir by Piper Kerman, available at launch. Netflix has been staggering the release of its original series: House Of Cards (February), Hemlock Grove (April) and the upcoming Arrested Development (May) and Orange (July). Produced by Lionsgate TV, Orange Is The New Black follows engaged Brooklynite Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), whose decade-old relationship with drug-runner Alex (Laura Prepon) results in her arrest and year-long detention in a federal penitentiary. Read More »
Weeds creator Jenji Kohan has signed a new overall deal with Lionsgate, the studio behind her long-running Showtime comedy series. Under the pact, Kohan will continue as showrunner and executive producer of dark comedy Weeds, which is set to begin production on its eighth season soon for a July 1 premiere. She also co-created with Liz Friedman and is executive producing Lionsgate’s series for Netflix Orange Is The New Black. The comedic drama, based on Piper Kerman’s memoir, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, is set to begin production this fall. “Jenji’s deliciously dark sense of humor and her fearless approach to storytelling have made Weeds Showtime’s highest-rated comedy over its past seven seasons,” said Kevin Beggs, President, Lionsgate TV Group. “She’s a superb showrunner and we’re excited to continue working together on the new season of Weeds, Orange Is The New Black and multiple projects in development.” CAA-repped Kohan has now been at Lionsgate for more than seven years, so she understandably is on a first-name basis with the company’s TV bigwigs, Beggs and Lionsgate TV COO Sandra Stern, and also knows well the big boss, Lionsgate Entertainment CEO Jon Feltheimer. “Kevin is classy. Sandra is sassy. Feltheimer is an endless source of wonder. What can I say? Lionsgate is my joint, yo,” she said in reference to her new deal.
EXCLUSIVE: Jenji Kohan, creator/executive producer of Showtime’s flagship comedy Weeds and the series’ executive producer Matthew Salsberg have a new comedy project, Whales, in the works at the pay cable channel. The half-hour revolves around a group of brilliant and quirky young people, some of them Harvard and MIT graduates, who move to Las Vegas to live in a lavish apartment while pursuing the $10 million prize at the World Series of Poker. Kohan and Salsberg, who is an avid poker player, are writing and executive producing for Lionsgate TV Read More »