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Lifestyle

June 8, 2014

A conversation on the prison block 'Orange Is the New Black' characters discuss the show

An upper-middle class blonde from Brooklyn goes to jail for a drug-related screw-up years before.

The women’s federal prison of “Orange Is the New Black” is a different world than Piper Chapman had known. It’s populated by a wildly varied group of characters played (alongside series star Taylor Schilling) by what is arguably TV’s most diverse cast of actors.

As this series shot its second season last fall on its Queens, New York, soundstage, a visit to the all-too-gritty-looking prison set found several actresses delighted to be serving time on this groundbreaking drama.

Here’s a look at who some of them are and what they had to say about the show whose 13 new episodes are available for streaming Friday on the Netflix website.

TV veteran Kate Mulgrew (”Star Trek: Voyager,” ‘‘Warehouse 13”)plays “Red” Reznikov, a tough-as-nails inmate who was once part of New York’s Russian mob and now runs the prison kitchen.

“The hardest part of the show was finding my character before they said ‘Action!’ the first day,” she says. “You have to be able to show her toughness and, through her toughness, her heart — and you had to show it from the first shot.”

She did. Ever since, it has been a blast for Mulgrew.

“This is not a vanity role,” she acknowledges. “But I’m of an age now (59) where none of that is as important as it once was. To find a role this rich, nuanced and specific is absolutely joyful for me. It’s liberating.”

“Taystee” Jefferson is Danielle Brooks’ first big role after graduating from the Juilliard School. Hers is not a vanity role, either.

“There are times when I’m like, ‘Can we please do my eyebrows? Can I get a little more foundation?’” says Brooks with a laugh. “But I truly enjoy the freedom of coming to work, not having to wear Spanx or extensions, to just be me. You can’t hide behind anything here. It’s really freeing.”

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