One of the more popular shows on Netflix is the female prison dramedy Orange is the New Black. The basic synopsis for the show is about a woman, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), who finds herself on the wrong side of the law, when she, along with her former girlfriend, Alex Vause (Laura Prepon), are sent to prison in connection to a drug ring. While at the prison, Piper, who is currently married to a man, runs into her ex and rediscovers her sexuality as a lesbian. Now, in a situation of life imitating art, one writer on Orange is the New Black, Lauren Morelli, has found herself to be a lesbian, where, interestingly enough, is currently dating an actress from the show, Samira Wiley.
Back in May, Morelli issued an online open letter where she came out to the world. In the piece, she stated that writing for the show spurred the self discovery of her own sexuality. Despite being married to another television writer,Steve Basilone, whose writing credits include The Michael J. Fox Show and Community, Morelli had realized she was a lesbian all along. While she did still love her husband, she knew as long ago as 2012 that she was living a lie. What resulted was a period of self discovery. She did not want to hurt her husband, yet at the same time, she wanted to be true to herself. As a result, Morelli has filed for divorce.
The decision was not an easy one for the writer. In 2012, when Morelli questioned if she was a lesbian, she went through a multi-step process of soul searching. As outlined in her essay, she googled “How do you know if you’re a lesbian?” Furthermore, she also questioned if it was a side effect of her birth control. After consulting her therapist, she soon found out that it was not possible to change her sexual identity through drugs. In her final step of realization, she admitted that she was depressed, bordering on suicidal thoughts. As she explained further, she did not want to lose the man she loved, nor did she want to be a disappointment to her family. Even now, after announcing her filing of divorce papers, she has a bit of guilt, realizing that she is divorcing her husband, merely for the fact that she is a lesbian.
The way in which Morelli came to question her sexuality was a soul-searching experience. As she explained further in the essay, when she was immersed in the writing process of a character with a strong connection to the female sex, it struck a chord. As she continued on with Orange is the New Black, her environment was giving her hints. Between being around a high percentage of lesbian woman, to the actresses and crew joking “You’re so gay” in jest, it was all coming together for her.
The most ironic moment of her story is the recent one in which it was revealed that she was dating one of the actresses on the show, Samira Wiley. The similarity also plays a part in the characterization of Wiley’s character, Poussey, a lesbian who tries to make more of her relationship with fellow inmate, Tastee (Danielle Brooks), but she often is denied. In the real world, Wiley, who was seen on the red carpet of the Emmy’s with Morelli, has managed to find herself with a woman who has now moved past living in denial of being a lesbian. The story of writer Lauren Morelli and Samira Wiley truly is one of creative outlet mirroring real life. Not only is the writer dating an actress from her show Orange is the New Black, but she no longer has anything to hide.
By Simon Mounsey