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Write On

Interview: Gary Lennon, ‘Orange Is The New Black’

gary lennonA smart, dark comedy set in a women’s prison that features a magnificent ensemble cast? Count us among the millions of people who binge watched Orange is The New Black (Netflix) and absolutely loved it.

Orange is nominated for “Comedy Series,” “New Series,” and “Episodic Comedy” at the 2014 Writers Guild Awards. Tickets for the February 1st Writers Guild Awards New York Ceremony are available here.

The WGAE Write On Blog interviewed Gary Lennon, a supervising producer and writer for Orange. Here’s what he had to say:

Congratulations on Orange is The New Black being nominated for “Comedy Series” and “New Series” at the 2014 Writers Guild Awards. Can you talk a bit about the writing process for the show and how you personally like to work?

The writing process for the show was fun. We all sat around the writer’s room and told crazy stories, often personal ones and plenty of them wound up in the first season of the show. Jenji was wide open and receptive to bold and innovative stories. She assembled a group of writers who were outside the box, sort of from the island of broken toys and that led to plenty of strange personal storytelling and laughter and sometimes tears. Once a story area code was decided upon, then we all set around and broke the story together and then finally an episode was given to one writer to write, but ALL of the episodes were designed by the entire writing staff.

My favorite way of working on an episode is to talk about a theme and then riff on that theme and our characters and develop a story where our characters can live truthfully under imaginary circumstances. I know that I have had a good week in the writer’s room if I leave on Friday and know something new about one of my co-workers that I never knew before and it should be juicy.

What piece of dialogue/scene from the first season is your personal favorite?

My personal favorite scene in the first season of Orange is The New Black is the scene between Miss Claudette and Piper in Episode 4, where Piper defends herself for the first time to her new roommate, Miss Claudette.

It’s the ‘cut me some slack’ speech that Piper delivers to Claudette. I like that scene because it really shows Piper’s growth as a character, it moves the plot forward, reveals character and it was funny and emotional. I think it was one of the first turning points for Piper and earned her some well-deserved respect. I felt like it was her first big step in not being a tourist in prison anymore, but in fact, she was going native.

If you were to go out with any of the characters, who would it be and why? What do you imagine the topics of conversation would be?

If I were to go out to dinner with one of the characters from Orange, I’d want it to be Taystee.

Taystee would make me laugh and  would want to talk about sex, food and good times which are three of my favorite subjects and I feel like we would have some friends in common and then she would want to go dance all night long and maybe not sleep at all.

Without giving anything away, what can viewers expect from the upcoming second season?

I assume season 2 will be more laughs, more flashbacks and more surprises.

Whose writing – or what films/shows – grabbed your attention in 2013?

My favorite TV show and writers of 2013 are Vince Gilligan/Breaking Bad, Henry Bromell/Homeland, Glenn Mazara/Walking Dead  and Howard Korder and Terrance Winter/Boardwalk Empire…..ohhhh, and Julian Fellowes/Downton Abbey. I love me some Downton!

Fave 2013 Films – 12 Years A Slave/John Ridley, Her/Spike Jonze, Blue Jasmine/Woody Allen.

If you could write a scene for any fictional character throughout history, who would it be?

I’d want to write for Oliver Twist – I’d like to see the man he’d become. Or Terry Malloy from On The Waterfront.

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