Orange Is the New Black takes its story from the real life experiences of Piper Kerman, whose memoir, also titled Orange Is the New Black, recalls her time spent in a federal women’s prison for drug trafficking. Some of what she describes did make it into the show, but, apparently, Piper (Taylor Schilling)'s on-screen relationship with Alex Vause (Laura Prepon) may be more fictionalized than reality: Catherine Cleary Wolters, who was the inspiration for the character of Alex, parsed some details on what's fact and what's fiction in the show in a new article with Vanity Fair.
For starters, Wolters says that she and Kerman did not have sex in prison, and that they only spent five weeks together in order to testify against a co-conspirator. Then, two were transferred to Chicago on the same flight. The show got that cold shoulder between Kerman and Wolters right though:
“We were ghosts of the humans we had once been, milling about amongst hundreds of other human ghosts, shackled and chained, prodded through transport centers at gunpoint, moved through holding facilities,” says Wolters from her mother’s house in Ohio. These days, Wolters is just shy of a PhD in information technology, assurance, and security, and exhibits a flair for the philosophical.
“Praying is about the most intimate thing two people can do in some places, not sex,” Wolters says. “We made some mean dinners together, though, out of cans of cheese, corn chips, and chili, and Piper learned how to communicate effectively through a toilet—a little something you’ll never pick up at Smith.”
Wolters also says that she and Kerman were involved in trafficking before they were involved romantically—and that the relationship wasn't even serious to begin with.
“When we were traveling together I started developing a crush on her. And eventually that turned into a crazy mad love affair,” Wolters says. “But that was after she had already done the deed that made her complicit.”
“We weren’t girlfriends,” Wolters adds for good measure. “We were friends with benefits . . . I was not the older sexy, glamorous lesbian who snatched her from her pristine Smith College cradle.”
You can read the whole, fascinating Vanity Fair profile on Catherine Wolters right here.
The second season of Orange is the New Black is will be available to binge watch on June 6th, only on Netflix.