Taylor Schilling exits OITNB with conjugal visits

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Can Orange is the New Black continue to thrive without its leading lady at the helm? That’s the question viewers will soon face with the surprise announcement that Taylor Schilling is out as a series regular at the end of season six.

Change is good, but how good can it be when the main star says, “adios” and hits the road?

This would be a fantastic time to zone out if you’re not interested in spoilers, by the way.

Schilling, 34, began her run in the award-winning Netflix series before streaming was even a “thing.” Netflix was about to do something new and crazy and Schilling – well, Schilling was less than a blip on the Hollywood scene.

That was all about to change – drastically. Orange jumpsuit and all.

“That’s the predominant thought running through my mind every time I think about the show right now,” the actress told Elle. “Six years. It’s so hard to wrap my head around that.”

Orange is the New Black had been tying up Piper’s loose ends for the last few seasons, instead focusing on the Daya/Taystee plot.

Orange is the New Black will lose one of its main characters after season six. Netflix/Orange is the New Black

Still, jaws dropped when Piper was released from prison and Schilling walked off the set, but not before marrying her on-screen love interest Alex Vause (played by Scientologist Laura Prepon). Alex isn’t getting released anytime soon, which does open the door for a return visit by Piper.

Executive Producer Tara Herrmann confirmed Piper’s ongoing involvement – in some capacity, at least.

“Of course the thought of releasing Piper has come up in previous seasons because the real Piper’s sentence was 15 months and we want to make sure that we can fully tell the story of what it’s like for Piper on the outside,” she told the Hollywood Reporter.

Adding, “We just want to make sure we didn’t do it too soon in her complete arc as a series, but it seemed like the time was right. It felt like we had sort of seen her full time in accordance to what the real story was for the real Piper.”

Marriage has its advantages.

“As we were thinking of Piper on the outside, having them be married creates a lot more stories for us and possible conflict,” Herrmann said.

Screenwriters paid homage on-screen to the woman behind the real-life Piper – Piper Kerman. Schilling’s Piper will pen an autobiography about her time behind bars, much like Kerman did before developing the show for Netflix.

And we all know how that turned out.

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