Taylor Schilling has discussed the changing reactions to her character Piper Chapman in Orange Is The New Black.
Released in 2013, the Netflix series initially followed Piper as she’s sentenced to 15 months in a minimum security women’s prison for transporting a suitcase full of drug money.
As the season’s progress, her character becomes less of a focus while expanding the roles of Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren (Uzo Aduba), Tasha ‘Taystee’ Jefferson (Danielle Brooks), Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox) and others.
The show’s creator, Jenji Kohan, has previously been vocal about the use of Piper as a “trojan horse” to explore the other characters.
Speaking to NPR, Kohan said: “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.”
Schilling has since discussed the resentment towards Piper from audiences, describing how she felt like “a space-holder” in the series.
Speaking to The Independent about the growing backlash to Piper at the time, Schilling said: “In some ways, that was really hard. I felt really hurt. I took it personally and I felt like I was no longer a part of the pack.
“I think Piper held the projection of a lot of white privilege for the collective that was invested in the show. That’s a vital theme to discuss, but it’s also not the easiest thing to hold… It was so wonderful to be a part of, of course, then it was an interesting experience to observe the change from when we started.
“It really changed. I definitely observed that feeling of celebration shifting into resentment for Piper. It’s a difficult thing to not personalise that. I started to feel like my job in that show was just as a space-holder, to provide a steady middle so that other people could really shine.”
Orange Is The New Black came to an end in 2019 after seven seasons.
Schilling’s latest role is playing Erica Gauthier in Disney+ series Pam & Tommy, starring opposite Lily James and Sebastian Stan.