By Alicia Rancilio
"When I read it, it was so good, but I was like, 'Wow, (the character) Alex scares me a little bit,' which is exactly why I needed to do it and I'm so glad that I did," she said in a recent interview. "I feel like every actress is always looking to (push the envelope) because the minute you get complacent, hang it up."
"Orange Is the New Black" is the latest original series from Netflix, now available for viewers' binge-watching pleasure. The show is inspired by the story of Brooklynite Piper Kerman, who recently spoke to the Brooklyn Eagle about her memoir “Orange is the New Black,” on which the TV series is based.
On screen, Kerman’s character is a woman named Piper Chapman (played by Taylor Schilling), who fell in love with Prepon's character, Alex, in her early 20s, and was persuaded to be a drug mule for her. She only did it one time, but was named 10 years later by Alex as a part of a drug ring.
Chapman, now engaged to marry a man and living a preppy life in Brooklyn, is sentenced to 15 months in prison. She is sent to the same facility where Alex is doing time.
"Orange Is the New Black" not only shows Chapman's fish-out-of-water experience in prison, but also the social dichotomies and hierarchy among women. It's based on a memoir with the same name by Piper Kerman, who spent one year in a women's correctional facility.
The hour-long series was green-lit for a second season before the first season was posted to Netflix. All 13 episodes are now available on the website.
"Anyone that sees the show [is] like, 'Oh, there's nothing like this on TV.' Which there isn't – and that's really cool," the 33-year-old Prepon said.
She said the rawness of the series also makes it special.
Creator Jenji Kohan, who also created “Weeds,” “wanted it to be as raw and real as possible," Prepon said. "We wear, like, literally the federal prison-issued wardrobe, even down to the bras without underwire, because you can't have underwire in prison. We're not allowed to wear a lot of makeup. ... There's a story line where I actually barter to get black eyeliner, so every inmate has their own kind of thing that individualizes them."
Because the show is about a women's prison, Prepon is largely surrounded by women on the set.
"I grew up with guys. I'm not used to hanging out with a bunch of chicks," she laughed. "My friends were like, 'What are you gonna do with all those women around?' But they're amazing. There's not one diva. Everyone is so cool."
Prepon was a member of the cast of the long-running Fox sitcom "That '70s Show" that also starred Topher Grace, Ashton Kutcher, Danny Masterson, Mila Kunis and Wilmer Valderrama. They have all continued to work since the show went off the air in 2006.
"It's kind of rare that everybody on a cast moves on to awesome stuff. We're really fortunate and we all kind of keep each other in check. Like Danny (Masterson), I dated his brother for nine years. I'm like best friends with his mom, so Danny really is like my brother. It's a really tight group, it's great."