Nothing speaks to Taylor Schilling more than discovering a character at a very specific starting point in their life. And on Netflix’s prison dramedy Orange Is the New Black, that point of entry for Schilling’s character Piper Chapman is her incarceration at Litchfield Women’s Penitentiary.
“She had no idea who she really was before entering Litchfield,” Schilling told BuzzFeed of Piper, who was forced on a journey of self-exploration in Season 1. “Last year was all about Piper unlocking boxes within herself, and we go deeper into that arc in Season 2. Piper’s idea of who she was is turned on its head even more — if that’s possible. She’s not who she thought she was and there’s an excitement to that.”
But before Orange Is the New Black’s second season premieres on June 6, Schilling will star in Stay, a new movie where she plays Abby, one half of a couple (she co-stars with Aidan Quinn) that is rocked by an unplanned pregnancy. At a glance, the roles couldn’t be more different — blonde Piper processes every experience through an extremely heightened emotional reality, while the simplicity of brunette Abby’s existence is reinforced by the film’s intensely quiet tone.
Still, Abby struck a similar chord in Schilling that Piper did when she was first introduced to the Orange Is the New Black character. “I connect to a script when it captures the moment a character can’t keep going the same way she’s been going and is forced down a path of change. I really connect to watching someone discover parts of themselves they didn’t know were there,” she explained of the similarities between Abby and Piper. “They’re both confronting that moment when you can no longer sweep your past under the rug and are forced to look quite honestly at what you’re trying to do.”
“I’m so interested in the moments when life is not working anymore and you reach maximum capacity for pain and things need to change,” Schilling added. “The scale is relative, but it’s the same crossroads where you either dive into a new way of being and accept the discomfort or you keep going with what’s not working and get stuck in the quagmire of that.”
And the actress deeply connected to the feeling of extreme isolation inherent in both Abby and Piper: Prison separates the latter from her loved ones, while the Atlantic Ocean separates the former (an American living in Ireland) from hers.
Through that solitude, both characters are forced to confront their internalized disappointment. “Abby, like Piper, feels so uncomfortable, and makes a choice to let go of her old ways. That’s what needs to be done in order to move forward and grow.”