The ladies of Litchfield Penitentiary return to our screens as Netflix releases its third season of hit show Orange Is The New Black. Lydia Jenkin talks to two of the stars
One of the shows which helped to make Netflix a household name synonymous with quality television is returning for a third season this week, and because it's now screening on Netflix in New Zealand, it'll be beaming in at the same time as it launches in the US.
Which means there's few concrete details we can share about exactly what's to come for the ladies of the Litchfield Penitentiary. The fates of Piper, Alex, Vee, and Red remain under wraps. But sitting in a Sydney hotel room, looking far more glamorous than their characters, but still very down to earth, Uzo Aduba who plays Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren and Yael Stone who plays Lorna Morello, are happy to drop a few hints.
"I think Jenji [Kohan, the show's creator] has changed the focus a little bit" Stone explains. "In season two, there was more of a traditional archetypal story with strong woman against strong woman, and tribes, and people choosing sides, and choosing allegiances, and the politics of that, and the politics of violence as well.
"This season, we've gone back into questions about, how do you survive this place? When you have a huge force like Vee who disappears, or proves not to be what you think she is, how does that ricochet through the other characters? And also broader questions of how do you create a life in prison? How do you have any self-worth or any dignity?"
We know the first episode deals with some gentler, but no less intense themes - it's Mother's Day, which raises a lot of questions for various characters, and there are various conversations about faith, belief, and different spiritual leanings.
"Faith definitely becomes a big question," Aduba nods. "What do we put our faith in, and what do we believe, and what do we choose to believe? Do we choose to believe what we're told? And that's exciting to watch, seeing which roads they choose and where that sends them.
"It's interesting to see what that means for us blind lovers - are we going to choose to continue to believe the stories we've been telling ourselves, and what happens when we decide not to?"
Although they don't have much to do with each other in the show, Stone and Aduba's characters are bound by a shared weakness or blind side when it comes to love. Both Lorna and Crazy Eyes are almost determined to pull the wool over their own eyes when it comes to facing the realities of their one-sided relationships.
"Suzanne is such a focused individual, that whatever she sets her attention to, that has her complete attention, and she will defend it to the end rightly or wrongly. Her need to give love and be loved, to have that person or thing in her life is of the utmost importance, and she will defend it to the end. And the cost doesn't matter, she's willing to sacrifice everything. She's all chips in," smiles Aduba.
"That can be hard to watch sometimes, because I know how it's going to end. From the age of 5 to 12 to a grown woman, we've never seen her win, and yet she goes in with the same level of investment every time, and that's hard to see."
Lorna on the other hand, is infatuated with the whole fairytale idea of it all, to the point of delusion.
"She loves the love," laughs Stone. "She loves the love, in all kinds of directions, be it real or imagined. And it might seem ridiculous, but I find a lot of young people write to me about Lorna, I can't tell you exactly why, but I guess there's something about her blind hope and faith and naivete about love in some picture perfect form, and the disappointment of learning that's not real, I think a lot of that rings true."
Even though they're portraying these women who have some extremes of personality, in extreme circumstances, both actresses have found plenty of fans who identify strongly with the characters.
"It's amazing how often people get in touch saying 'I am Lorna, or I am Crazy Eyes'" Stone laughs. "I think they connect because the stories of disappointment, and family and connection, these aren't far off concepts."
"I remember having an 'Ah ha!' moment myself, stopping halfway through reading the script for season one and realising, this isn't a story about women in prison. These people are more than their crime, more than their inmate number, their jumpsuit, their circumstance. It's the story of people's lives, and about their humanity. And we're telling stories of mothers and sisters and neighbours and employees, and winners and losers and people who feel that they're always under, or people who've felt like they were on top and are losing everything. And I think that's what makes people watch this show."
Who: Uzo Aduba and Yael Stone who play Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren and Lorna Morello respectively.
What: Season three of Orange Is The New Black
Where and when: Screening exclusively on Netflix from tomorrow, Friday, June 12.