There's a lot going on in Season 2 of Netflix's Orange Is the New Black, and very little of it has to do with Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), who is ostensibly the show's protagonist. Creator Jenji Kohan made no secret of the fact that plot lines were going to be more equally distributed in the sophomore season, pulling the focus away from Piper and allowing other characters like Taystee (Danielle Brooks), Miss Rosa (Barbara Rosenblat) and newcomer Vee (Lorraine Toussaint) to move into the spotlight. But Schilling says she frankly didn't even notice the difference.
"I felt like it was hard to even know that there was less of it, because what was happening felt so dynamic, and it felt like the character of Piper was moving in such an interesting way," the Emmy-nominated Schilling tells TVGuide.com. "That's what I was focused on."
With filming for Season 3 already well underway (the cast was shooting Episode 6 when we spoke with Schilling), it remains to be seen where Piper's story is headed. One thing's for sure: She'll be reunited with her on-again-off-again girlfriend Alex (Laura Prepon), who will likely be less than thrilled to learn that it was a phone call from Piper that sent her back to Litchfield.
Read our full interview with Schilling below to get her thoughts on Piper and Alex's relationship, the power trip that Piper suddenly finds herself on, and whether we'll be seeing much of Larry (Jason Biggs) in Season 3.
TVGuide.com: First of all, congratulations on your Emmy nomination.
Schilling: Thank you!
Were you surprised that so many other performances were recognized as well?
Schilling: I was thrilled. I love the performances in this show so much and I'm so incredibly proud of the cast that it just seems perfect that their brilliant work is being recognized in this way.
For you, what's the biggest difference between Piper in Season 1 and Piper in Season 2? Do you think she became more sympathetic this season?
Schilling: I didn't really think of it that way. By being in prison, she's learning even more about herself and who she is, and she's shedding even more old ideas she had about what she needs to be. And so, she got to a place with really nothing to lose. She's just ready to go. She's got nothing to lose, so she's really kind of just boldly being herself.
The scene at the end of Season 1 where Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba) tells Piper, "You're not a nice person" seems like it was a big turning point for her. Do you think there was a specific moment or moments that she changed or had some sort of epiphany, or was it more gradual over time?
Schilling: I think that's a great moment. I think at the very end of [Season 1], when she kind of taps into an animal part of her that wasn't there before, that's a big turning point. There are, I think, lots of moments. I think from the minute that Piper enters prison, her experience is peppered with these moments where she has to reckon with herself in ways that she never had to before she was in prison. And cumulatively, that results in her transforming.
When she makes that phone call to bring Alex back to prison, how much of that is because Piper needs Alex and doesn't want to be alone, and how much of it is her wanting to protect Alex?
Schilling: I think it's a bit of everything. I think that Piper's experiencing power in a way that she hasn't quite before. She's testing out who she is and what she wants and getting what she wants and seeing what it feels like to get what she wants. ... Her behavior and the way she's interacting with the world is shifting.
Laura Prepon told us last year that Piper and Alex's relationship is "toxic." Do you agree? Are you rooting for them, or do you think they're better off apart?
Schilling: I think that they have such a strong connection. I care about seeing them both happy. [Alex's reaction to Piper's phone call] will be a big part of Season 3.
With Larry and Polly (Maria Dizzia) now an item, is Piper's friendship with Polly over? How much will we be seeing of Larry and Polly in Season 3?
Schilling: I don't know where they're going to take that in Season 3. It would be such an interesting arc to see how [Polly and Piper] can come back together again after that sort of betrayal.
What are Piper's motivations for lying to Red (Kate Mulgrew) about Red's store being closed after she returns from furlough?
Schilling: I think that she doesn't yet know if the truth is safe, or whether she'll still be loved if she shares what's really happening. And sometimes she's more worried about manipulating [the truth] so that people like her, because that feels safer as opposed to trusting that the truth is enough.
In your mind, is Piper aware of the fact that she's manipulative? Or does she really think that she's just doing what's best for other people?
Schilling: No, I don't think she's ever consciously thinking, "I'm going to manipulate someone." I think that she's coming from a place of trying to take care of herself, or take care of the other person, and to the best of her ability trying to get what she wants. [It's just] not always in the most graceful way.
Out of all the other inmates at Litchfield, which character(s) would you like to be friends with in real life?
Schilling: I'd like to be friends with all of them, I think. That's kind of like picking a favorite child. I don't know if I can do it.
Schilling: [Laughs] No.
Seasons 1 and 2 of Orange Is the New Black are available on Netflix. Where would you like to see Piper's storyline go in Season 3?