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Orange Is the New Awesome

Last summer ''Orange Is the New Black'' became the hit no one saw coming. Now it's the prison comedy we can't live without. EW goes inside with the ladies of Litchfield. (Jealous?)

Orange Is the New Black is making Jenji Kohan sick. It happened last year around this time, too: A couple of months before the series debuted, the producer behind Netflix's dark prison comedy was felled by a fierce cold brought on by preseason stress and long nights in the editing bay. Today in her Hollywood office, a blanket is rolled up in a ball on her couch, where she's been catching occasional naps. Her hair, once a Jolly Rancher green, is now more of a stale-Skittle hue. Three cups of tea from Urth Caffé at various levels of fullness sit abandoned on her desk. "My body has been waiting to collapse, because we started season 2 just three days after posting season 1," she says. "It's from all the anxiety and the work. You want to follow up strong. You don't want a sophomore slump."

It's no surprise Kohan is feeling the pressure about Orange's second outing, which premieres on June 6. The first season — based on Piper Kerman's memoir of the same name about spending a year in a Connecticut prison after being busted for once transporting drug money for her then girlfriend — quickly took over the pop culture conversation after its July 11 debut. A prison-set dramedy featuring female characters of all shapes, races, socioeconomic classes, and sexualities — in other words, the types of women who normally can't get arrested on TV? Yeah, that was new. Netflix was so high on Orange that it renewed the show even before the launch. And though the service is notorious for not revealing specific numbers, it did disclose in a letter to shareholders in October that Orange "will end [2013] as our most-watched original series ever." So what does a second sentence inside the walls of Litchfield prison look like? "We had a theme for season 2," Kohan says. "A little darker, a little more fractured. We wanted to explore the groups one at a time. It was getting a little summer-campy, and we wanted to address the realities that this is prison. We needed a little more drama."

Prison scrambled eggs must be really nasty, if prop prison scrambled eggs smell this gross. It's lunchtime at Litchfield, or rather, Orange's Queens set, which is so depressingly prison-like that the paint color on the walls is actually called Sad Band-Aid. The stench permeates the set, where spit buckets sit just off camera so no actor has to swallow the mass-produced grub. "You don't unsmell the things we smell here," Natasha Lyonne later explains. "Even months after we've wrapped." Today her character, sarcastic recovering addict Nicky, and Nicky's former lover Lorna (Yael Stone) are taunting an idealistic new prisoner, Soso (Kimiko Glenn) — who's on a hunger strike — with phallic sausages. A couple of tables over, protagonist Piper (Taylor Schilling) is weighing whether to open a letter from her ex-girlfriend Alex (Laura Prepon), the person who landed her in the clink in the first place. At another table, an especially nasty Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba) is boldly carrying out orders from baddie-to-the-bone Vee (Lorraine Toussaint, who joins the cast this year) to pour water all over cancer patient Miss Rosa's (Barbara Rosenblat) tray. Even after a first season that included an attempted shower stabbing, a drug overdose, and a tampon sandwich, it feels, as Kohan says, dark. Kate Mulgrew, who plays stern Russian cook Red, describes the season this way: "All hell breaks loose."

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