Credit: JoJo Whilden/Netflix

The ladies of Orange Is the New Black will soon return—and with them comes a wealth of new drama.

The Netflix prison dramedy picks up its third season just as Alex Vause (Laura Prepon) lands back in Litchfield, thanks to Piper (Taylor Schilling) narcing on her parole violation. Will Alex discover the truth of why she’s once again behind bars, and will that spell the end of one of our favorite TV couples? Or will the introduction of inmate Stella (Ruby Rose) effectively handle that? EW caught up with Prepon—who actually defends Alex’s plethora of missteps!—to get the scoop on season 3:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Alex is back in prison. What’s her emotional state when the show returns?

LAURA PREPON: It’s interesting because before the season started, Jenji [Kohan] and I had a conversation. She was like, “Listen, Alex is broken.” The first part of the show, she doesn’t know how she got back in prison. She literally is trying to wrap her head around, “How the hell did I get back in here? How did I have freedom and lose it?” She really doesn’t know. Alex is very smart and she loves being in power. So getting back in prison, she feels like a failure and feels like an idiot. She literally is broken. We’ve never seen her like this before. Playing that was really interesting for me. She doesn’t have the usual attitude that she has. It was a very different thing. It was awesome. It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone as an actress. You got to see this side of Alex that nobody’s ever seen before.

We know that it’s Piper’s fault that Alex is back in jail.

Alex has no clue. She just feels like an idiot. “What am I doing here? How did this happen?”

What’s that tension like between Alex and Piper? How would Alex feel if she found out the truth?

Because Alex is so smart, I feel like somewhere deep down she might actually know. At the end of last season, Piper was the only one she told she had a gun. I feel like she might know, but doesn’t actually want to believe that Piper would go so far as to ruin her life and get her back in prison. I think that’s even beyond what Alex can comprehend of something that Piper could do. She might have an idea, but doesn’t want to believe it, because sometimes when you really care about someone and love someone, you don’t like to see what’s really going on—even when everyone else around you sees it. Even Alex being as savvy as she is, is blinded to Piper’s actions because she loves her so much. They both do pretty questionable things to each other. It’s like, how are they still together? But you can’t explain love. There is no definition for it. It’s this weird thing. Sometimes you fall for the wrong people.

To be fair, it makes them even since Alex threw Piper under the bus just to get out of jail.

Well, okay, hang on a second. [Laughs] I’m going to defend Alex because she’s my girl. Here’s the thing: Alex did think that Piper was going to tell the truth, because Piper told Alex, “I’m not lying again. I’m not doing this again.” Alex was like, “You need to lie,” and Piper was like, “I’m not going to lie.” Then Piper gets up on the stand and freaking lies! I’m just saying.

Fine, but then let’s go back to the way beginning: Alex did rat Piper out in the first place.

Well, okay, here’s the thing: I will justify Alex’s actions because I had to every day that I’m on set. Obviously, sometimes there is tumultuous, crazy love that you cannot explain. Alex and Piper are one of those relationships. They’re like magnets that are drawn to each other and then repel against each other, but they have this tangible, incredible, volatile love for each other that is incredible to watch on screen. But I don’t know if I would necessarily want to live that, because it’s a roller coaster. They both do very questionable things to each other, 100 percent. This season takes it to another level.

When you do something bad to someone and then they do something bad to you, you justify it. One thing justifies the next and the next. In Breaking Bad, you take Walter White, who is this perfect, amazing nine-to-fiver, who cuts the crust off of his bread, and every little bad thing that he does gets more and more justified [untiil] before you know it, he’s killing people. It’s one of those things where Alex and Piper do these terrible things to each other and they just snowball and it gets bigger and bigger.

Despite the love they have for each other, are we going to see some new love interests for them in the new season?

Yes, there’s definitely a love interest and she comes in a package of a hot, tattooed Ruby Rose. She’s an Aussie. She comes in and she definitely shakes things up for sure. But it’s cool because she’s very different from Alex, she’s different from Piper. It’s a different thing, which is cool.

Credit: JoJo Whilden/Netflix

Even though Alex is back in prison, she did still rat out Kubra (Eyas Younis) last season, which is why she got the gun and landed back in jail. Is she still as paranoid as she was that Kubra will come after her?

Yeah, if not even more so. When you’re in prison, you can’t go anywhere. Kubra is a really powerful guy, so he has his ways of doing whatever he wants. If anything, she’s a sitting duck being in prison, whereas outside she could escape and she was going to skip town to a different country. Now, it’s basically like shooting fish in a barrel.

Could someone actually be coming after her, or is this irrational paranoia at this point?

Look, if I had a crazy drug dealer who was chasing after me, I’m sure I’d be paranoid about a lot of things. Alex is really smart. She’s seen what Kubra is capable of. She’s smart to be worried, because Kubra an evil dude. If anything, she’s trying to convince herself that it’s not as bad as this might actually be. Regardless, from other people, Piper might think she’s losing it a little bit.

If last season’s threat was Vee (Lorraine Toussaint) and her lackeys, what would you say the threat this season is?

It’s different for everybody. This season has this throughline of faith, and everyone is figuring out what they believe in. Is there something bigger than us that’s going to help get us through? Every character is dealing with their own version of it. For Alex, I know that the Kubra thing is very unnerving for her, and the fact that her and Piper are dealing with a bunch of new things this season. How do you live under the same roof as someone when they completely screwed you over and got you back in here?

How does this season up the ante from the past two seasons?

It’s definitely different. Last year was definitely darker. This year is lighter. We still tackle the amazing things that we tackle, but I feel like it’s very different from last year. I honestly feel like this season gets more toward season 1 again. The fans are really going to like it. The tone and everything going on with the characters, especially with Alex and Piper being really heavy this season—I feel like the fans are going to be really happy. We walk that great line of comedy and drama.

Orange Is the New Black’s third season premieres Friday, June 12 on Netflix.

Episode Recaps

Orange Is the New Black

Jenji Kohan’s absorbing ensemble dramedy, based on Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name, takes viewers inside the walls of Litchfield, a minimum security women’s prison where nothing’s as simple as it seems—especially the inmates.

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