Why going to prison was the best thing that ever happened to Taylor Schilling

The actress's early career was plagued by shelved movies, cut scenes and poor ratings - and then Orange Is the New Black came along...

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Why going to prison was the best thing that ever happened to Taylor Schilling
Written By
Isabelle Aron

If you know Taylor Schilling it's almost certainly from Orange Is the New Black. The prison-based comedy-drama from Netflix casts her as Piper Chapman, a middle class woman sentenced to 15 months inside for smuggling drug money for her ex-girlfriend. The show is now the on-demand service's most watched programme ever, but success hasn’t come easy for Schilling – in fact, getting sent to prison was probably the best thing that ever happened to her.

As fans tuck into season two, we look back at her career before her big prison break...


Dark Matter – 2008

After graduating from Fordham University in 2006 with a BA in acting, it seemed like Schilling had hit the jackpot when she secured her first film role sharing the screen with Hollywood royalty, Meryl Streep. Originally due for release in 2007, the film was shelved as the plot closely echoed the events of the Virginia Tech massacre, despite being filmed beforehand. Dark Matter was eventually released a year later, largely unnoticed and to mixed reviews.


Mercy – 2009-2010

Schilling’s first attempt at the small screen was in this Jersey-based medical drama. She played the tongue twistingly-named Veronica Flanagan Callahan, who was one of three nurses at the centre of the show. After being commissioned for a full 22 episodes in the first season, it was not renewed for a second due to low ratings.


Atlas Shrugged: Part I – 2011

Schilling scored the lead in this film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel set in a dystopian United States. Due to its pro-capitalism and anti-big government message, it was hugely popular among members of the Tea Party, but pretty much nobody else. Its sad rating of 3.6/10 on Rotten Tomatoes speaks for itself.


Argo – 2012

Taking another crack at Hollywood, Schilling was cast as Christine Mendez, playing Ben Affleck’s wife in the political thriller. The film was a critical success and won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, but Schilling couldn’t take much credit as all her scenes but one were cut.


Orange is the New Black – 2013

After five years of unsuccessful roles, Schilling scored the lead in the Netflix original based on Piper Kerman’s memoir about her time in a female prison. Playing inmate Piper Chapman, it looks like Schilling has finally found her niche. Both she and the show have bagged awards and with the second season just released, OITNB has already been renewed for its third run. Looks like a spell in prison really can turn some people's lives around...

Contains swearing

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