The Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black racked up a bevy of Emmy nominations this week, including a nod for star Taylor Schilling for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy. While the second season premiered on Netflix last month, these nominations are for the series’ first season, which debuted and became a surprise hit last year. The series was created by Jenji Kohan (Weeds) and tells the story of an upper-middle class woman who’s sent to prison for a crime she committed ten years prior.
While the large and diverse cast makes for what is mostly an ensemble series, the lens through which the audience experiences much of Litchfield Correctional Facility is Piper Chapman, Schilling’s character based on the author of the memoir from which the show is loosely adapted. During the first season, Piper is forced to leave her idyllic life in Manhattan with her fiancée, Larry, to serve her time at Litchfield. Once she gets to prison, many of Piper’s ideas about herself and the world are put to the test by her interactions with the other inmates, including her ex-girlfriend Alex (Laura Prepon), who was responsible for landing Piper in prison in the first place.
Schilling’s portrayal of such a dynamic and often unlikable character earned her the Emmy nod. Piper has always been a controversial character among fans of the show, who frequently say that she’s the least interesting of all the inmates. Self-entitled, whiny, and ignorant, Piper makes a lot of blunders that could have been easily avoided, and then overreacts when she has to pay for her mistakes. But, Piper is the most dynamic character on the series, going through enormous changes during both seasons as she comes to realize that prison is going to fundamentally change her, and she won’t leave being the same person she was when she started her sentence.