'Orange Is The New Black': The real story that inspired this Netflix drama series
Although Kerman reveals that the show is not a docudrama, some of her life experiences from her own prison days do get shown on the series
If you're, as they say, a legitimate fan of the show 'Orange Is The New Black,' then you might be aware that the series is actually based on true events! Yeah, the show, based on Piper Kerman's book of the same name is not exactly a docudrama but has some direct reference to her real-life experiences of being in a women's prison.
Although Kerman admits that the show has drifted away from the book in last five seasons, she did reveal that some events shown onscreen actually happened during her prison days.
The sixth season of the series helmed by 'Weeds' director Jenji Kohan and will premiere on July 27.
Back in 2010, in an interview with NPR, Kerman revealed that she had actually fallen for a woman caught up in an international drug ring, which got her sent to prison. She added that during her lovesick days, she smuggled $10,000 from Chicago to Brussels, and 10 years later, the law caught up with her.
During the interview, she also expressed how mad she was at her girlfriend at the time, who she calls 'Nora' in the book (the character of Alex Vause played by Laura Prepon in the Netflix series.) However, she did take the full responsibility for her actions for the drug-ring days and said: "It was a reckless and selfish time in my life."
Just as in the show, Kerman too had a fiance - Larry Smith (played by Jason Biggs in the show) - a writer by profession, who stood by her during her incarceration. While the reel life Larry wrote a Modern Love piece titled, "One Sentence, Two Prisoners," the real-life Larry's article was titled - A Life to Live, This Side of the Bars - and was published on March 25, 2010.
In his write-up, 'A Life to Live, This Side of the Bars,' Larry recalled how Kerman 'freaked out.' He wrote: "To say she was freaked out and wondering if I would stick around for the messes sure to come is an understatement. To say that it never once crossed my mind to bail on her is simply a statement of fact." Later, in her own memoir, Kerman wrote, "Even here, without him, I couldn't imagine any sweeter Christmas present."
After her brief stint in the prison, Kerman and Larry tied the knot in 2006 and are still married. While on 'OISTNB,' Larry (Jason) is already out of Piper's life after he cheated on her with her best friend.
In her book, Kerman also laid out a lot about the unofficial prison rules that she learned during her stay; a few of them were even played out in the series.
"I had learned a lot since arriving in prison five months ago: how to clean house using maxi pads, 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."
During her stay in prison, Kerma says she learned a lot about how an inmate's race played a crucial role in establishing an organized structure. Speaking about which, she said in her interview: "While initially, people might sort of gravitate toward the people who are the same color of them, I think that matters less and less the longer you're there."
While many people believe still believe that 'life behind bars' is more excruciating, then wait until you read Kerman's husband's column that was published in the New York Times. Speaking about the life on the other side he said: "No one else in my life knew the reality of our circumstances, like why buying your lady a Diet Coke from the vending machine in the visiting room (because our women weren't allowed to touch money) was among the greatest acts of love you were capable of performing."
Moving on to the cast of the show, Netflix has for long banked upon the sheer diversity that the series has shown with its characters on the show. Although most of the characters on the show are fictional, some of them were, in fact, taken from Kerman's book - the ones she came across in real life.
Kerman dedicated her book to one of her mates in prison, a Red character, whom she addresses as Pop in the book.
In one of her accounts, Kerman wrote about Pop once telling her, "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."
"A lot of folks sort of ask salacious questions about the romantic relationships between women," Kerman said in 2010, "but I think the dominant paradigm of women's relationships in prison is the mother-daughter relationship."
However, a lot of things in the show, like Piper's days at SHU or her days of furlough, were purely fictional. Kerman revealed that she had never been sent into solitary confinement during her days in prison, neither did she receive any furlough at the time of her actual grandmother's death.
She said in another interview, "It's devastating when you confront how selfish actions you've taken are preventing you from being there for the people who need you the most. That's a terrible, terrible thing."