Orange Is the New Black Season
Courtesy of Netflix

When “Orange is the New Blackreturns for its fourth season on June 17, issues like race, politics and prison overcrowding will be front-and-center.

Speaking to reporters Sunday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena, Calif., series creator Jenji Kohan revealed few details about the upcoming season, joking that she needed to get advice from her friend “Mad Men” creator Matt Weiner on how to talk about the show without giving away spoilers.

“The theme thing was hard this year,” she said. “We start with political agendas, the corporatization of the prison, the stratification of people into their little mosaic groups. We want it to be a surprise, but [you can expect] all the fun stuff like race and hate and some things from current events that we wanted to filter through our lens.”

Blair Brown, who’s joining the cast this season as a series regular (as Judy King), said, “Because it ends with the overcrowding, you do push all the different groups together. We see the animosity that’s expected or unexpected. That’s ahead of the curve of things that are happening now.”

Brown said she was happy to join the show after time on series like “Fringe” and “Limitless,” calling them “boy shows.” She said, “They don’t have anything against women, they just don’t know how to write women.”

The other cast members echoed Brown’s excitement about the new season of “Orange,” which is produced by Lionsgate Television. “I feel like we’ve got something really, really different to what we’ve put out before with this coming series.” said Samira Wiley (Poussey). Added Dascha Polanco (Dayanara Diaz), “Season four will push the envelope to the next level.”

Asked which backstories we’ll get to see this season, Kohan said, “There will be some people you’ve already seen, some backstories that you’ll get more of, and then new people,” though she declined to name specific characters.

Kohan resisted the suggestion that Piper (Taylor Schilling) was becoming less likable as the series progressed. “I think Piper’s definitely on a journey,” said Kohan. “We work through the vicissitudes of likability.”

She also said that it was always intended that Piper’s character would take a backseat to the rest of the inmates. “This was always intended as an ensemble show,” she said. “Piper was our entrée to our world. She’s always a presence and we’re invested in her story, but as it grows, we’re invested in everyone’s story.”

Laverne Cox (Sophia) praised Kohan for writing a series with a diverse cast and storytelling. “To have a show that prioritizes the stories of women of color, older women, queer women… that’s one of the best things [about it],” she said. “To give each story such care and humanity is unprecedented on TV and that can only happen on Netflix.”

Kohan also talked about whether she prefers binge-watching vs. weekly rollout. “There are pros and cons to both, this is how we deliver, this is how we made our name, this is how people fell in love with us,” she said. “To sit and dwell on whether I prefer a slower delivery is kind of a waste of time. I can’t complain.”

See More: Netflix Sets Premiere Dates for ‘Orange Is the New Black’ Season 4, ‘Kimmy Schmidt’ Season 2, Baz Luhrmann Drama & More

Earlier in the day, Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos announced that season four of the hit series will premiere on June 17. Though he declined to give exact figures, he reassured reporters that “Orange” is the streaming platform’s most-watched show.


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