Netflix announced today that it is renewing critically acclaimed "Orange is the New Black" for three seasons, meaning that we can expect to keep up with the drama surrounding Litchfield Prison until at least the year 2019. Executive producer and creator Jenji Kohan is also committed to continue as showrunner through that time.
That’s a huge commitment by Netflix and a nearly unprecedented show of faith in the series. What makes it possible? As we’ve said before, it’s the way the show has evolved since its original premiere.
See, while the release makes no mention of cast staying on with the show that length of time, that comes as little surprise. While originally built around the struggles of Piper (Taylor Schilling), an educated white woman struggling to survive within the walls of Litchfield, in Seasons 2 and 3 the show became much more of an ensemble drama as well as an incredible springboard for its diverse cast: Uzo Abuda has won two Emmys, Danielle Brooks is currently starring in "The Color Purple" on Broadway and Laverne Cox is going to be Dr. Frank-N-Furter in the upcoming Fox remake of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
And as long as "Orange" can continue adding new cast members (and more importantly, new characters) that prove as compelling, it’s not at all hard to imagine the show going strong for seven seasons…even if original cast members end up departing.
This is something "Orange" is already built to handle, given how Season 3 spent a lot of screen time handling the departure of actors like Matt McGorry and Natasha Lyonne, who had commitments to other series, while also bringing in new blood like Blair Brown and Ruby Rose.
Cast changes can have a dramatic impact on a series (just ask any "Misfits" fan about what happened when Robert Sheehan left the show), and everyone gets attached to their favorites. As just one example, the very passionate fans of Piper and Alex’s twisted romance would be very upset by Schilling and Laura Prepon leaving the show for good. But as it continues to develop, can "Orange" grow into a show capable of surviving the loss of anyone? Netflix is giving it the chance to find out, and while it might look like a very different show in 2019, we can’t wait to see what it looks like.
Meanwhile, "Orange is the New Black" Season 4 premieres June 17 on Netflix.