(Haaretz) — Entering the set of “Orange is the New Black” at Astoria Studios in Queens, New York, is reminiscent of main character Piper Chapman’s entrance into prison. First you enter the shower room – where the photo for the promotional poster for the series was taken, then you continue to the dining hall and then to a large space divided into prison cells. All around, wherever you look, women in khaki prison garb are sitting in pairs or groups, sipping coffee, laughing and chatting. Some are regular actors on the show and others are extras.
The entry is similar, but the experience is quite different. On the vast set, without the lighting highlighting or concealing different sections as needed, and without the camera that lends everything a different scale, the spaces in the studio appear smaller, dimmer and dustier. The large dining hall that holds the entire prison population on the show is a rather small room with just two tables – no more than that was needed for filming that day, at least. And of course, the atmosphere is different. It seems more like a summer camp filled with familiar and beloved faces, than a threatening and dangerous place.
Right as we enter, Taylor Schilling, who plays Chapman, passes by dressed in colorful athletic gear. She has finished shooting for the day and is about to bike home. The rest of the actors who came to film that day, late in September of last year, were very happy to be together. For some, it was the first time they had met. Jason Biggs, who plays Larry Bloom, says that since he plays Piper’s boyfriend, who’s not in jail, he hadn’t filmed scenes with most of the rest of the cast for the whole first season. There’s a friendly vibe as people meet, and some of the actors also take time to chat with a visitor to the set.