All 13 episodes from season 2 of "Orange Is the New Black" will debut on Netflix Friday, with Piper Chapman, Crazy Eyes and the rest of the inmates trying to make it through their sentences.
While the second season of this hit Netflix series was shot last fall on its Queens, N.Y., soundstage, a visit by the Associated Press to the all-too-gritty-looking prison set found several of the actresses willing to testify about this groundbreaking drama.
"The hardest part of the show was finding my character before they said 'Action!' the first day," said TV veteran Kate Mulgrew ("Star Trek: Voyager," "Ryan's Hope",) who plays tough-as-nails Russian inmate "Red" Reznikov, formerly in charge of the kitchen at the correctional facility. "You have to be able to show her toughness and, through her toughness, her heart -- and you had to show it from the first shot."
Mulgrew did and, ever since, it's been a blast for the 59-year-old actress.
"This is not a vanity role," she acknowledges. "But I'm of an age now where none of that is as important as it once was. To find a role this rich, nuanced and specific is absolutely joyful for me. It's liberating."
Another cast member who also doesn't see her character as a vanity role is Danielle Brooks, who plays "Taystee" Jefferson.
"There are times when I'm like, 'Can we please do my eyebrows? Can I get a little more foundation?,'" Brooks said with a laugh. "But I truly enjoy the freedom of coming to work, not having to wear Spanx or extensions, to just be me. You can't hide behind anything here. It's really freeing."
Brooks, who got her first big break on the series shortly after graduating from the Julliard School, says she wants her audience to identify with Taystee, no matter how unrelatable her character might seem at first.
"We all cry, we all bleed, we all hurt," Brooks declares. "I want everyone to see Taystee, who they feel so far away from, and realize: 'I've felt like her before.'"
Uzo Aduba didn't get the "Orange" role she initially auditioned for before she was then cast as the unstable, sometimes feral "Crazy Eyes" Warren.
"That was exciting. But at the same time I'm wondering: What was it about my audition that made them think, 'She'd make a great Crazy Eyes'?""
Newcomer to the series Lorraine Toussaint, whose credits include "Saving Grace" and "Friday Night Lights," claims to have "fallen in love" with the character she plays, "Vee" Parker, a charismatic former drug dealer who used kids as her mules.
Toussaint admitted that she hadn't seen the show before she joined the cast.
"I'm only now catching up on Season 1," she reports. "It's very good."
Tell us: Are you excited for the return of "Orange Is the New Black"?