“It’s a big weight to carry”, she told RadioTimes.com, “but we have a responsibility as actors to tell those stories, especially in the country that we live in and how potent it is for us as black women to tell these stories and give as much reverence and respect to those who have lost their lives, as well as their families”.
In season five, Taystee leads the movement to achieve justice for Poussey, her best friend who had been killed at the hands of an inexperienced guard. The death closely resembled that of Eric Garner, an African American who was suffocated by a New York City Police officer in 2014.
As with Garner’s case, the man responsible for Poussey’s death is not held accountable. In a press conference at the end of season four, warden Caputo absolves him of all responsibility and neglects to say the deceased inmate’s name, which inspires an incensed Taystee to start a riot.
“I think we’re reflecting reality right now,” her co-star Taylor Schilling (Piper Chapman) said. “It would be terribly off-key to not acknowledge what’s happening.
“There are issues that have been front and centre since America was created that are now just getting the airtime that they probably deserve. I think it’s really important to be participating in that dialogue.”
Laverne Cox, who plays Sophia Bourset on OITNB, was similarly passionate about the show’s socially-conscious developments.
“I can’t help but think about how for some people Black Lives Matter is a controversial thing, and there’s backlash against that movement, and at the end of the day it’s about so many lives that are treated as if they are disposable”, she says.
“The wonderful thing about our show, from the very first season is that it insists that every sentence has a story, and just because the women are incarcerated doesn’t mean that they’re no longer human. Black Lives Matter has really been an underlying scene throughout every season of Orange is the New Black.”
Orange is the New Black season 5 arrives on Netflix on Friday 9th June 2017.