Jenji Kohan: As a white woman, "Piper was my Trojan Horse"

The creator of "Orange is the New Black" told NPR that whiteness is more relatable to audiences

Published August 14, 2013 1:06PM (EDT)

Jenji Kohan's "Orange is the New Black" is the latest binge-worthy Netflix hit, offering an inner glimpse into life behind bars in a women's low security prison through a vibrant cast of characters. But Kohan feels like the show, based on the true story of ex-con Piper Kerman, would have been a tougher sell if main character Piper (Chapman, in the show) weren't white. Kohan told NPR's Terry Gross that Chapman was "my Trojan Horse":

"In a lot of ways Piper was my Trojan Horse. You're not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of black women, and Latina women, and old women and criminals. But if you take this white girl, this sort of fish out of water, and you follow her in, you can then expand your world and tell all of those other stories. But it's a hard sell to just go in and try to sell those stories initially. The girl next door, the cool blonde, is a very easy access point, and it's relatable for a lot of audiences and a lot of networks looking for a certain demographic. It's useful."

Kohan did pitch the story to networks, but ultimately landed on Netflix because "they ordered 13 episodes without a pilot." "That's miraculous," she said. "That is every showrunner's dream, to just 'go to series' and have that faith put in your work."

By Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at

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Jenji Kohan Orange Is The New Black Piper Kerman Prison