For six seasons, Piper Chapman has been the unofficial protagonist of Orange Is the New Black, but next season will see Piper outside of prison and away from the central drama of the Netflix series for the first time. So, does that mean that Piper is totally out of the picture now? Not necessarily. Taylor Schilling revealed in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter that Piper will be out of prison in Orange Is the New Black Season 7, but her story will continue to be told in the upcoming season. Schilling also spoke about the depressing importance of Piper's story in the Season 6 finale, and about whether or not Season 7 will be the final season for the show as a whole.
Spoiler alert: This post will discuss plot points from throughout Season 6 of Orange Is the New Black. The newly released sixth season of Orange Is the New Black ends on a surprisingly uplifting note for Piper Chapman, who manages to secure an early release from jail after a short stay at the new maximum security prison that all of the Litchfield inmates were transferred to. In the season finale, Piper walks free while her friends Blanca and Taystee face scary new indictments despite doing nothing wrong. Taystee is found guilty of murdering CO Desi Piscatella (a crime she did not actually commit) and is brought back into prison at the same time that Piper walks free, and Blanca thinks she will be freed along with Piper, but instead is ushered into a van headed for an immigration detainment center.
Taylor Schilling said that this juxtaposition between Piper's release and Blanca and Taystee's crushing, undeserved sentences was all-important in highlighting the privilege Piper benefits from due to her skin color and wealth, and exploring that privilege will continue to be at the center of Piper's storyline in Season 7. Schilling said that it will be very important to witness Piper's transition into society next season in comparison to Blanca, Taystee, and Aleida's (who is also out of prison and struggling to get her children out of foster care) stories: "It’s vitally important to see Piper’s struggles in the context of the people that she was incarcerated with, because it’s wildly easier. And it's based on things that have nothing to do with merit and things that are out of anyone’s control."
Although the upcoming season is still in very early stages, Taylor Schilling said that she has been speaking with formerly imprisoned women about what their transition from prison to society was like after their release. She said that Season 7 will likely see Piper dealing with a great deal of shock as she tries to re-integrate into the outside world:
In some conversations that I’ve had with women experiencing re-entry, there is an overwhelmed factor to the initial return. I was listening to someone describe not being able to leave her bedroom, and not being able to leave a confined space for a while. So I don’t quite know what Piper’s reaction will be, but I can imagine a tremendous amount of shock and being very humbling. I don’t know. I don't know what will be next.
There are also some rumors that Season 7 may be the final season of Orange Is the New Black, and Schilling said that is that is the case, she is ready to say goodbye to Piper. Season 7 of Orange Is the New Black is expected to air on Netflix next summer.