Orange Is The New Black, a new original series from Netflix, is garnering rave reviews and abundant praise for addressing a myriad of issues -- all within the confines of prison walls. The series, created by Jenji Kohan (Weeds), is based on Piper Kernan's 2010 memoir, Orange Is The New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison. The show follows Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), an artisanal bath soaps entrepreneur, as she serves her 15-month sentence in the same jail as her drug running ex-girlfriend, Alex (Laura Prepon), whose illegal transactions resulted in charges that put them both in prison. With issues like sexual orientation, gender identity, racism, and addiction taking center stage, Piper must deal with the consequences of her sole drug run, learn how to survive in a women's prison, and find a way to co-exist with Alex -- all while her fiance Larry (Jason Biggs) waits for her on the outside.
Among the many stand-out characters that Piper meets in prison is Sophia Burset, the prison's transgender hairstylist, played by actress Laverne Cox, an out trans woman. "I am thrilled that the show has presented a trans character played by Laverne Cox. She's wonderful and the backstory they created for her is fascinating about her and her family and the impact of her transition on them," Kernan said in an interview with the Huffington Post. In Orange Is The New Black, Cox's character faces the reality of transitioning in prison with a wife and a son on the other side of the prison walls. Sophia's storyline spotlights the mistreatment of transgender women in the prison system, right down to the dosage of hormones received during a stay. "I don’t know of a trans character on television played by a trans person that has as much humanity as this character," Cox said in an interview with Buzzfeed.
Cox is a longtime friend of GLAAD. She recently appeared in the film Musical Chairs, and she produced and starred in her own reality series TRANSform Me, both of which were nominated for GLAAD Media Awards. Cox also took home a GLAAD Media Award in 2009 for her participation in the VH1 reality series I Want To Work For Diddy. At the most recent GLAAD Media Awards held in San Francisco, Cox and Dr. Kortney Ryan Ziegler presented the award for Outstanding Digital Journalism Article to Dr. Marc Lamont Hill for his article on the arrest and subsequent incarceration of trans woman CeCe McDonald.
Cox also created a video for the I AM: Trans People Speak campaign created by the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) and sponsored by GLAAD to raise awareness about the diversity of transgender communities.
In addition to Sofia, the show tells the story of several lesbian and bisexual women, giving viewers a unique perspective on life in a women's prison. Among the many LGBT characters are Taystee and Poussey, Piper's friend Nicky, Big Boo, and Crazy Eyes who quickly falls for Piper upon meeting her. Catch Orange is the New Black today on Netflix.