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Dale Soules opens up about the cultural impact of "Orange Is the New Black"

"Orange Is The New Black" says goodbye

"Orange Is the New Black" is one of Netflix's most-watched original series. Now the streaming platform is saying goodbye after the series' seventh and final season, which will be available to stream starting Friday. OITNB is a bold dramedy that has tackled some of the most difficult, relevant, and human stories of our time. Time magazine has called it "the most important TV show of the decade." The show has exposed stories of an array of injustices inmates face within the criminal justice system and prison industrial complex. 

The final season of Jenji Kohan's Emmy-winning series will have 13 episodes, each one telling the stories of the ladies of Litchfield as they come to terms with their lives in prison. Meanwhile, Piper struggles with the rehabilitative effects of life outside of prison.

Dale Soules, who portrays Frieda Berlin on the show, revealed that her dad spent time in prison. She said it prompted her efforts to help people understand the thin line between "being out" and "being in."

In the six years that she's portrayed Frieda on OITNB, Frieda has channeled one of the most perplexing characters of the series. In an interview with CBSN producer Jonathan McDougle, she said, "Many issues that were happening in the real world were brought out in the story." The fact that the show brought the privatization of prisons to the fore, and the storyline of Poussey's death, which coincided around the time of the Ferguson unrest, made her "really proud."

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Dale Soules as Frieda in "Orange is the New Black." Netflix

Jonathan: "Orange Is the New Black" has run for seven seasons — a lot of people don't get to say that, on top of the show's cultural impact.

Dale: I feel extremely proud to have been part of a show that has had as much of a cultural impact as OITNB. Because although it has been nominated in the comedy segment of the SAG Awards, it's also been nominated in the drama, and I think you have a very good mix of both those things. 

Jonathan: You talked about your dad and him spending time in prison. Did the show ever consult real women in prison to help tell the stories OITNB brought to the table? 

Dale: The whole series is based on a memoir by Piper Kerman, who spent time in a real prison. Piper's charity of choice is the Women's Prison Association, so we were constantly consulting with people who were actually in prison.

Jonathan: For someone who wants to deeply understand who Frieda is, because I feel like she's a complex character, how would you describe her to them?

Dale: Well, the first time I was asked this question, I was asked by Kate Mulgrew (Galina "Red" Reznikov), who I admire greatly. I said the one thing I can tell you is she's deeply repressed. You'll notice she doesn't say anything she doesn't have to, it's always for a reason and it's always held back. I understand that very well. I grew up with a house that had no running water, for instance. So I was perceived as dirty, and people moved away from me. I was a bit of a social outcast and I have that in common with her (Frieda). She was a bit of a social outcast, and then she was trained by her father who was a survivalist, who even further removed her from how to deal with people in society.

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Dale Soules as Frieda (right) and Kate Mulgrew as Red (left)  in "Orange is the New Black." Netflix

Jonathan: What I find interesting about Frieda, based on the past two seasons, is she became an avoidant. She still had her "Golden Girls," but she kind of unintentionally caused a lot of havoc that happened, especially in Season 5 with the riots and the death of the correctional officer. That wasn't her fault, but she invited these women to come into this space. Even though she wanted to avoid things and people, she kind of caused a lot of it.

Dale: That is an interesting point, because when I began Season 5, where she was in her bunker, she imagined she was going to be there and stay there by herself. She had no intention of inviting anyone down. But finally, she gives up and realizes how lonely she is and that she really does need people. What the consequence of that is she could never have known. She knew it was dangerous to have other people involved, because then you have loose cannons, you don't know what they're going to say, or if somebody's going to give you away. And they did.

Jonathan: Before the interview, you mention Frieda had cut off her husband's genitalia. (Dale laughs.) A lot of people want to know why she is serving life. Is it for one of the things that she revealed over the course of the series or is it for something completely different?

Dale: I'm going to keep that [to myself].

Jonathan: Like OITNB, I also love Jenji Kohan's show "Weeds," but I was hurt by how the show ended. Will fans be satisfied with the ending of OITNB?

Dale: I think Jenji spent a lot of time mapping out where it was going to go, and what was going to happen. She's not a person who will tie bows on things, so it's not going to be all pretty in a box. But I think there will be some unexpected and possibly expected [endings]. As diverse as the show is, the fanbase is that diverse, so it's hard to say that everyone will be, but I think they will be.

"Orange Is the New Black"'s final season will be available to stream on July 26.

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