This often hilarious prison drama centres around Princess of White Privilege, Piper Chapman

Orange is the New Black newbie? Wanna get up to speed about what the eff everyone’s going on about again, now that Season 2’s just landed on Netflix? It’s kinda, sorta The L Word meets Oz, and this often hilarious prison drama centres around Princess of White Privilege, Piper Chapman, who’s utterly shocked when the white collar crimes of her experimental twenty-something phase catch up with her. 

Encouraged to move drug money by her then girlfriend Alex, Piper finds, ten years later, that she’s going down for it, and 15 months at minimum security facility Litchfield Penitentiary beckon. Fiance Larry vows to support her, and Piper enters prison.

Nope; there are no candles from Anthropologie, freshly ground coffee’s a thing of the past and as for a bathroom filled with Sephora products? Ferget about it. Piper finds herself in a frightening new world of petty criminals as well as those down from Max on good behaviour.

And then the really bad thing happens: Piper comes face-to-face with ex Alex, discovers that Alex’s plea-bargaining to reduce her own sentence was what landed her in jail in the first place, and the shit hits the fan. 

So who else will you meet in season one? These are some of the stars of what’s a really strong ensemble cast, which just improves into season two. We see their day-to-day lives and relationships at Litchfield, and their back-stories are told in flashbacks too.

So, if you need to get caught up quickly because you’re being left out of every pub convo going, get reading, Frillseekers.

Piper Chapman, played by Taylor Schilling

She’s the poor little rich girl and star of the show, but Piper has a secret drug-smuggling and girlfriend-having past she’s kept secret from her WASPy family and her fiance Larry. Piper is one of the least likeable characters on the show, having a tendency to make everything tediously all about her. Oh, and don’t ever mistake her for Taylor Swift.

Alex Vause, played by Laura Prepon

Think you’ve seen her before? You have, in That 70s Show. In OITNB, she’s a significant part of Piper’s past because she Chapman (as Piper is referred to by the inmates) were once lovers, and travelled the globe doing dirty drug-­related deeds. Gorgeous, deceitful and manipulative, Piper can only resist Alex for so long, and you’ll only be able to resist wanting to do something to Alex’s awful eyebrows for approx. three seconds.

Larry Bloom played by Jason Biggs

Tis far from apple pies Jason Biggs has come as he puts in a strong performance as Piper’s kind-of-a-wally with a gold heart, finance Larry. A struggling writer (who still manages to live in an amazing house), Larry supports Piper even though she’d never told him about her past, and as the weeks go on, prison is changing her from the person he knew. When he discovers her ex Alex is in Litchfield, and he writes a piece about his experience of having a partner in jail for a national newspaper, things start to all a bit arseways.

Galina ‘Red’ Reznikov, played by Kate Mulgrew

She’s in charge of the prison kitchen, which makes Red the woman to know because she’s got a little something extra coming in on the supply chain. Piper accidentally gets on her bad side on her first day inside by criticising her food and suffers the consequences by being literally starved out of it until she grovels. With a razor sharp exterior, if Red likes you, she’ll go to bat for you, but if she doesn’t, she’ll make your life hell.

Lorna Morello, played by Yael Stone

Claiming to have a fiance at home, though, er, no one’s seen him at Litchfield, this doesn’t seem to stop Italian-American Morello endlessly planning her wedding. It also doesn’t seem to stop her hooking up with Nicky, but it’s fair to say Nicky’s more into it than Morello, and it’s gonna end in tears for one of them.

Nicky Nichols, played by Natasha Lyonne

In a truly excellent piece of casting, ex-junkie Nicky is a really resonant character. She had a messed up home life despite coming from the ‘right’ side of the tracks. She’s bright, sassy and generally gets on well with Piper. Inside, Red’s taken her under her wing, and she’s super into the super­-girly Morello.

Tiffany Doggett, played by Taryn Manning

The scary Tiffany ‘Pennsatucky’ Doggett is an ex-meth head, bible­-thumping backwoods psychopath who’s in for blowing up abortion clinics. Intolerant of pretty much anyone who doesn’t conform to her narrow-minded, extremist worldview, she terrorises Piper, threatening to kill her, until Piper finally snaps and soundly and roundly kicks her ass after the Christmas performance.

Crazy Eyes, played by Uzo Aduba

It’s an uh­oh when the aptly named Crazy Eyes AKA Suzanne, decides she wants Piper for her prison wife, wooing her with poetry before peeing on her floor. Adopted and raised by white parents, Crazy Eyes isn’t quite as stereotypical as she first seems. Eventually she and Piper come to an agreement over the whole love interest business.

Sophia Bursett, played by Laverne Cox

Just featured on the cover of Time magazine, transgender-in-real-life-too prison hairdresser Sophia has a lot on her plate including a pre-teen son who just can’t accept her change and a wife who’s similarly struggling. Locked up for credit card theft, which she stole to pay for her treatment, she’s a wise and sympathetic character.

Sam Healy played by Michael Harney

Prison warden and counsellor Sam (not shown) is initially good to Piper but when he tries to turn her into his informant and she refuses, which lands her in isolation, their relationship sours. He also ignores the fact that Pennsatucky is gunning for her and with a complex personal life of his own – his Russian Mail Order Bride is giving him jip – and a complete distaste for lesbians, means he just doesn’t make things easy for himself.

I’ve left out some story arcs and characters – did I miss one of your faves? Drop a comment below.