Taylor Schilling

By Brent Lambert @FEELguideOITNB Season 6 Spoiler Alert!
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Seven is and always will be the luckiest number, so if numerology has its way then the upcoming final season of Orange Is The New Black could very well be the best. With season six having just premiered, we caught up with one of the series’ stars, Taylor Schilling, in mid-August as she was busy with week two of filming the final season of Netflix’s most popular original show. For her VULKAN feature interview, we covered a wide range of topics, including: her love of Ava DuVernay and Cynthia Nixon, why 2018 is an incredibly exciting time to be alive, and her beautiful reasoning for why the keys to world peace might be found in the unlikeliest of places — cubism.
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“We just came back for season seven of OITNB,” Taylor tells us from her home in Brooklyn where she just wrapped a day of shooting. “We started filming August 6th and we generally finish in six months, so we should be done in February.” Having just returned to work after a well deserved break, she can easily be forgiven for still daydreaming about her time off. “To be honest, I’m kind of still in vacation mode. It’s always a shift to come back and film, but this season feels different because Piper is out of prison.”
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So how did she make the most of her summer off? “This summer I did a lot of traveling,” she says. “I spent a lot of time in different parts of New York state, as well as Spain and Ireland.” Although hopping on a plane is the standard go-to plan for anyone on vacation, Taylor admits she could just as easily stay put and enjoy the pleasures of home. “For me, I need a little push to get traveling because I would be perfectly happy to stay at home and draw and read forever. Nonetheless, I feel travel is so important because it opens up perspective.”
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If she’s not traveling, there is almost a 100% chance you will find Taylor immersed in her newfound passion for cubism. As a burgeoning visual artist, she says her newfound love of cubism has given her a whole new way of seeing the world around her. “Travel, for instance, is a lot like ‘life cubism’ — you need to get as many different perspectives as possible. In the same way that cubism is all about experiencing many different perspectives at the same time, and not prioritizing one view, life is very much the same way.”
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When she’s not lost in her sketch books and art work, you will likely cross paths with her at a political or human rights event where she’s fighting for her favorite causes. She recently used her star power to support her friend Cynthia Nixon who is running for governor of New York. It was a labor of love in every way because Taylor has been friends with Cynthia for some time. “For years, I have always appreciated Cynthia’s views, her fearlessness, and the way in which she articulates her thoughts on how she sees the world,” says Taylor. “It feels exciting to be able to help amplify her extraordinary voice in whatever small way I can.”
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Her busy calendar is filled with a number of high profile events in the months ahead, one of which is the Golden Probes hosted by Margaret Cho on October 20th. The star-studded soirée is aimed as highlighting the various politicians who pose the biggest threat to women’s reproductive rights ahead of the midterm election on November 6, 2018.
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“I think the manner in which women and children are treated within a society is an accurate barometer of that society’s moral compass,” Taylor explains. “When those rights take a hit, as they are right now in our own political climate, it’s an important thing to watch closely. It feels as if the water level is rising right now, and the alarm bells need to be rung as loudly as possible.” Taylor adds, “For example, the work that Lady Parts Justice League is doing right now is so important because it’s all about what’s happening on the ground and in the grassroots. The money they raise goes directly to specific abortion clinics to keep them open and available to women in need. They are doing the most heroic work. It’s a scary time right now because the levels of misogyny are so high.”
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But even in these dark times, Taylor takes comfort in the vast array of beacons of hope that are emerging all around us. In the upcoming midterm election, for example, a record number of LGBTQ candidates are running for office — no less than 400 — creating what’s being dubbed the ‘Rainbow Wave’. “It’s heartening, and possibly the brightest thing to emerge from the darkness that has taken over America right now,” she says. “It feels like an activation has occurred, and the energy has rippled across the entire country. We are seeing the counterpoint to what’s happened on the far right.”
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Taylor feels that sometimes it takes a threat to bring forth the fighter in all of us. “It feels to me that there’s a sense of responsibility to make one’s voice heard. It’s a really beautiful thing to see so many millions of individuals rising up and fighting to reclaim what has been taken from them. I feel equally humbled and motivated by it on a daily basis, and it fuels my own drive to constantly reassess where I want to focus my energy and time.”
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Government is by no means the only platform for affecting positive change in the modern world. The arts can provide as much of a transformational impact as Washington, D.C. So who are some artistic voices that Taylor feels are making radical waves in 2018? “Ava DuVernay is a great example of a leader who has seamlessly merged the worlds of the arts and activism to affect positive change in the world. Her documentary, 13th, brought forth a seismic shift in [how it revealed the history of racial inequality in America’s prison system]. Although that conversation already existed before the documentary,” says Taylor, “Ava’s contribution led to a more enlightened and evolved understanding of the root of the problem.”
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“Another person who inspires me is Reese Witherspoon,” adds Taylor. “She’s making a very interesting gear shift in her own life, in how she’s using her power as a producer to help amplify the voices of other women. It’s an exciting time in Hollywood.”
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Orange Is The New Black‘s legacy is a mighty one in how it’s transformed our understanding of the prison system by the way in which it’s brought these fully-formed human souls and characters into our homes, effectively casting the system in an entirely new light. But sadly, groundbreaking television is not enough to undo decades of injustice in our prison system. Just this month it was reported that prisoners in the California prison system were trained and paid $2/hour to work alongside firefighters in helping fight the state’s devastating wildfires. But if these very same prisoners ever applied to be official firefighters upon their release they would be barred. “It’s another example of the dehumanization of incarcerated people,” Taylor says. “Oftentimes people in the prison system are in need of rehabilitation instead of punishment. By denying these prisoners an opportunity like this it’s merely another form of punishment.”
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“What we as good citizens should be doing instead is honoring the debt we owe to the weakest and most vulnerable souls in our society,” says Taylor. “It’s devastating the way we treat the most fragile members in our society. The logic is completely inverse to what most people hold true as their own personal value system when dealing with people one-on-one. But when society as a collective is faced with large-scale systemic social failures, we often see a collective shirking of responsibility. The prison industrial complex has replaced slavery in many respects, and now the privatized immigrant internment camps are doing the exact same thing.”
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Orange Is The New Black has achieved so much in its six short years, with perhaps its greatest achievement being the show’s powerful and riveting portrayal of so many richly diverse LGBTQ characters on screen — each like its own rare, unique flower. Shedding light on the ‘spectrum’ and the ocean of human sexuality that exists between the binary notions of masculinity and femininity is one way of interpreting Orange‘s beauty, but Taylor sees it in a far more interesting way. She considers each point on that spectrum to be a Universe in and of itself.
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Looking towards her cubist sketchbook she says, “I don’t even know how one could possibly define masculinity or femininity right now. There are millions of ways to be a human being, and I think this concept is finally coming into the light — the idea of taking many different perspectives of a flower instead of just one.”
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If orange truly is the new black, then perhaps cubism is the new way of being.
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TAYLOR SCHILLING @tayjschilling
Photography TINA TURNBOW @tina_turnbow
Styling JENNA BLAHA @jennadangerblaha
Hair JILLIAN HALOUSKA @jillianhalouska
Makeup TINA TURNBOW @tina_turnbow
Shot on location at the Standard Hotel NYC

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