Danielle Brooks, season 5's undisputed MVP, previews the 'major storm' that hits Litchfield and says she hopes the 'beautiful' season inspires young activists
Credit: JoJo Whilden/Netflix

The women of Litchfield Penitentiary learn a hard truth when they seize control of the prison in Orange Is the New Black season 5: revolution aren’t easy — especially if you know next to nothing about social media due to years behind bars.

“You see them figuring out, ‘How can we communicate this strong message to the world and get prison reform?'” season 5 breakout star Danielle Brooks, who plays uprising leader Taystee, tells EW. “She’s trying to form a new foundation with a system that’s completely broken.”

Unfolding over the course of three days, the new season of Jenji Kohan’s groundbreaking drama picks up with the riot that broke out in the wake of Poussey’s death at the end of last year’s bleak season. In case you forgot, season 4 concluded with Daya (Dascha Polanco) staring down the barrel of a gun while her fellow inmates screamed for the disarmed prison guard’s (Michael Torpey) head. As the one-minute teaser that was released in April revealed, the gun will definitely go off in the premiere — although the victim is unknown — sending Litchfield into chaos.

“It’s like a tornado hit Litchfield. Every major storm that you could ever think about is hitting Litchfield,” says Brooks. “We’re going to see these women take charge.”

Orange is the New Black Season 5
Credit: Netflix

However, using this newfound power to achieve their goals won’t be easy because they aren’t completely unified at first. Some of the women simply want to enjoy the fame the riot gives them, while others like Taystee and her crew want to use this opportunity to get justice for their friend, who was killed by an untrained guard and has yet to suffer any legal consequences.

“We’re watching her try to fight for her life as well as fighting for justice for her friend,” says Brooks. “I feel that when a person has gone through as much as Taystee has gone through, it’s really easy for somebody to fall into a depression and feel they have no reason to live. But, there’s something in her that just finds her purpose, I think, dealing with this death specifically.”

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Brooks actually sees similarities between her character involvement in this prison reform movement and real-world activism that has sprouted in response to the current political climate — especially when it comes to young people who are trying to find a way to get involved but might not know how.

“You see somebody who really has little resources, has lost everything that she has, but she’s going to find a way to fight even though she doesn’t really have a clue what she’s doing,” says Brooks, who hopes the season reminds young people that they can “find a way to change their community…even if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

In fact, this season is Brooks’ favorite one to date. “I love that [Taystee] is going balls to the wall this season and I think it’s a really, really, beautiful season. It’s one of my favorites. I really loved four but five is just…I just hope people are really moved by it and I can’t wait to see it myself.”

Orange Is the New Black season 5 hits Netflix on June 9.

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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