With the release of Orange Is The New Black Season 4 on Netflix almost here, fans are getting ready to check back in to Litchfield Federal Prison with our favorite (and least favorite) female criminals. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the trailer now.
Most fans might already know that Piper’s story is based on a real woman, Piper Kerman, and the book she wrote about her time in prison. Jenji Kohan, the creator of the series, has fictionalized much of the original story in order to create the compelling TV narrative we love. But just how much of Orange Is The New Black is the true story of Piper Kerman?
1. The Real Piper Chapman
Piper Kerman (known as Chapman on OITNB) did fall for a woman after college that happened to be caught up in a serious international drug ring. Kerman smuggled $10,000 from Chicago to Brussels, Belgium, and finally got indicted 10 years after the fact. She was sentenced to 15 months in a minimum security prison in Danbury, Connecticut. She served 13 months, and was released in 2005.
2. The Real Larry Bloom
As Orange Is The New Black begins, Piper is engaged to Larry Bloom, played by Jason Biggs, but the two become estranged during her time in prison while she rekindles things with Alex and he starts up with Piper’s married best friend Holli. In real life, Larry wasn’t nearly as slimey and annoying. The pair married in 2006 and are still together.
3. Larry’s NYT Article
The real Larry Smith actually did write a Modern Love article for the New York Times. In the show, it has the slightly sickening title “One Sentence, Two Prisoners,” but in real life it’s called “A Life to Live, This Side of the Bars” and contains poignant lines like the following:
Phone calls were a one-way street, from inside to out. When my phone rang with “unknown number” on the screen, I knew it was her and that the words, “This is a call from a federal prison,” would soon follow. Missing that call while in the subway, or answering it while at a party filled with happy people, broke my heart for different reasons.
“A Life to Live, This Side of the Bars” was published in 2010, however, which was five years after Piper had already left prison.
5. The Real Characters Of Orange Is The New Black
Kerman dedicates her entire memoir to “Pop,” the character we know from the show as Red. In the book, she writes down some advice she got from Pop early on during her days at Danbury:
Listen, honey, I know you just got here, so I know that you don’t understand what’s what. I’m gonna tell you this once. There’s something here called “inciting a riot,” and that kind of shit you’re talking about . . . you can get in big trouble for that . . . so take a tip from me, and watch what you say.
She also mentions that her neighbor was a trans woman, who she calls Vanessa, and we’ve come to know on the show as .
Apparently they do clean everything with maxipads, and the part about Piper becoming an electrician is true. Check out this excerpt from Kerman’s book:
I had learned a lot since arriving in prison ﬁve months ago: how to clean house using maxipads, how to wire a light ﬁxture, how to discern whether a duo were best friends or girlfriends, when to curse someone in Spanish, knowing the difference between “feelin’ it” (good) and “feelin’ some kinda way” (bad), the fastest way to calculate someone’s good time, how to spot a commissary ho a mile away, and how to tell which guards were players and which guards were noth-in’ nice. I even mastered a recipe from the prison’s culinary canon: cheesecake.
It’s difficult to imagine Red letting anyone into her kitchen to mess around with cheesecake recipes, but maybe that’s something we can look forward to in Season 4.
Orange Is The New Black will return to Netflix this Friday, June 17.
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Nostalgia never gets old. Find me on Twitter @gen_vanvee