Prison life goes on at Litchfield as ‘OITNB’ enters its final term

‘OITNB’ – It’s the swan song for Netflix’s prison dramedy

Dascha Polanco (left) and Danielle Brooks star in “Orange Is the New Black,” which opens its seventh and final season Friday on Netflix.

When “Orange Is the New Black” first premiered in 2013, streaming was the great unknown.

No one knew if the idea would catch on nor did they even have the foggiest notion as to how such a beast would be shot. But after reading impressive scripts, respected actors such as Taylor Schilling, Kate Mulgrew and Laura Prepon took flyers and signed on, if for no other reason than to satisfy their curiosity.

Six years later, creator Jenji Kohan’s dramedy about the female inmates at upstate New York’s Litchfield Penitentiary begins its seventh and final season as one of streaming’s most successful series, earning multiple awards and garnering a loyal fan base. Its final batch of 13 new episodes drops Friday, July 26, on Netflix.

“I was definitely curious about this whole new concept,” recalls Dascha Polanco, who has played inmate Dayanara “Daya” Diaz since the series’ premiere. “… For me, it was my first experience on a show. I didn’t know what else to compare it to. I did guest star (roles) on other shows but this was my first series, so I had nothing to compare it to. … We filmed it in a matter of a couple, six months, we had long day shoots. You know, it’s an hour and it goes. I hadn’t been on a network or on a sitcom or anything like that, so for me I had nothing to compare it to.”

Dascha Polanco stars in “Orange Is the New Black,” which opens its seventh and final season Friday on Netflix.

The new season finds the ladies of Litchfield coming to terms with the fact that prison life has changed them forever. Piper (Schilling), released at the end of last season, finds life on the outside hard, even while living with family, as she tries to get time off from work to to visit wife Alex (Prepon) at Litchfield. Taystee’s (Danielle Brooks) friendship with Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore) is in doubt as the former’s life sentence looms, while Gloria (Selenis Leyva) and her kitchen staff are forced to deal with the harsh reality of Polycon’s newest revenue stream.

Some pursue drugs or dreams while still others cope with the fact that prison is their life now. Among them is Daya, who is serving a life sentence for a prison guard’s murder and is also now in the throes of drug addiction.

“I think that for (Season) 7 we will definitely see a continuation of where Season 6 ended,” Polanco says. “Obviously, we know that she found a new habit with the drugs and we will see how … sometimes we tend to fall into a cycle without having any control over it and we don’t know how to get out. So there’s a lot of moments of realization of it is what it is and you can’t fight it.

“This is the outcome,” she continues, “it’s not a fairy tale and I think that they did it very gracefully in Season 7 where it’s the end, we’re wrapping things up but also things don’t necessarily wrap up when you’re incarcerated. You know, some people have long sentences and some don’t, and we’ll get to see that.”

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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