Netflix wasn’t always such a force to be reckoned with when it came to original programming. The streaming giant owes much of its early success to Orange is the New Black. The show premiered in 2013 and has gone on to make history as Netflix’s most-watched original series. It has been praised by both critics and viewers alike, winning many awards in the process. The show’s 6th season just aired and it has already been renewed for a 7th outing.
Created by Jenji Kohen of Weeds fame, the series was originally based on Piper Kerman’s memoir about her brief stint in prison. However, the compulsively watchable show has since grown, focusing more on its ever-expanding cast of incredible female characters. The series has not only served as brutal commentary on the prison system, but has also humanized prisoners for a large audience. OITNB is about women of all shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds, and has been rightfully lauded for its depiction of these different inmates.
While some prisoners, such as Taystee, Nichols, and Burset are universally beloved by viewers, other inmates like Watson, Vause, and even the show’s original star, Chapman herself, don’t have quite as many fans. With a show that has been continually incorporating new characters with every season, there are bound to be some who add more than others. For every inmate who elicited positive reactions upon their debut, there is another who fans were hoping would meet a violent end.
Here are 10 New Character Additions That Hurt Orange Is The New Black (And 10 That Saved It).
20 Hurt - Madison “Badison” Murphy
Season 6 addition Madison “Badison” Murphy might just be the least impressive villain ever to appear in Orange is the New Black. Even if we put aside Amanda Fuller’s truly overcooked Boston accent, there is nothing that makes her an even remotely compelling character.
She was irritating, nonthreatening, and boring, which is a sin few OITNB baddies have been guilty of.
The best flashbacks on the show give depth to its characters, particularly those that we had little insight into before. However, Badison’s backstory adds no layers to her at all, making her even more cartoonish than she already was to begin with.
Quite simply, there are no stakes here. We don’t understand Badison’s motivations other than the vague notion that she was bullied as a teen, a revelation that fails to make her even remotely sympathetic.
19 Saved - Brook Soso
Brook Soso wasn’t exactly beloved upon her introduction, but eventually became a fan favorite thanks to the evolution of her character. When Kimiko Glenn joined the cast in the show’s second season, viewers quickly turned against her. Soso’s naiveté and impossibly cheery disposition earned her little more than derision from fans.
Cut to season 3, when OITNB subverted expectations for the character, managing to transform her from annoying to endearing. Brook may not have had the saddest story in a prison full of them, but she was incredibly relatable. Aside from that, her annoying nonstop chatter had been harnessed and put to excellent use defending both herself and her fellow inmates.
Also, let’s not forget her heartfelt romantic relationship with another fan-favorite inmate, Poussay Washington. Although it came to a gut-wrenching end, viewers loved watching their story unfold.
18 Hurt - Stella Carlin
Many fans were excited by the news that Ruby Rose would be joining the cast of Orange is the New Black. Although Stella Carlin did offer a reprieve from the constant drama between Alex and Piper, ultimately she was little more than a distraction.
There was nothing that really made the character stand out in any particularly memorable way.
Making matters worse, there was little chemistry between Rose and Taylor Schilling, which called the relationship between their characters into question. When it comes down to it, nothing about Rose’s performance or Stella herself made the arc feel like anything other than pointless filler. Generally speaking, OITNB gives a lot of depth to their ever-expanding cast of characters, but sadly, this felt like a missed opportunity.
17 Saved - Lolly Whitehall
Lori Petty is probably best known for portraying the titular hero in Tank Girl back in the ‘90s. She is also responsible for bringing to life one of the most fascinating characters who hasn’t been with Orange is the New Black since season 1.
Lolly Whitehall is a tragic example of the the prison system’s failure to accommodate those who deal with mental illness. Her story is incredibly poignant and most fans were glad to see her return in season 6 after being absent the year before.
Lolly first appeared back in the show’s sophomore outing. Petty’s performance made her immediately endearing, delivering an incredibly realistic portrayal of mental illness in the process. Watching Lolly struggle to discern reality from fiction was heartbreaking, but she remains one of Litchfield’s most compelling inmates.
16 Hurt - Charlie "Donuts" Coates
Charlie "Donuts" Coates (James McMenamin) debuted in season 3 and while he and Tiffany “Pensatucky” Doggett initially struck up something of a friendship, things quickly took a dark turn.
Although OITNB portrayed Doggett’s assault at the hands of Coates and its aftermath in an incredibly realistic way, the season 6 storyline between these two could be viewed as incredibly harmful. One of the show’s strong points is revealing every shade of grey in what looks to be a black and white situation. Doggett’s earlier abuse made her predisposed not only to suffer similar experiences, but also to return to her abuser.
It’s one thing to paint Coates as ignorant, but it’s quite another to have he and Doggett ride off into the sunset together.
Yes, she left him by season’s end, but the portrayal of their relationship was incredibly problematic.
15 Saved - Yvonne "Vee" Parker
Of all the Big Bads featured in Orange is the New Black, none have managed to capture the attention of viewers in quite the same way as Yvonne "Vee" Parker. There aren’t many women who could hold their own against Kate Mulgrew’s Galina "Red" Reznikov, but Lorraine Toussaint is certainly one of the few.
OITNB built up the feud between these two over the course of the show’s 2nd season, until it finally boiled over.
Like all of the best villains, Vee was no mustache-twirling caricature. She was a fully formed character. Viewers knew that she was the Big Bad here, but unlike baddies who’ve come and gone, most weren’t anxiously awaiting her end. It was satisfying to see her get what was coming to her, but bittersweet because it meant that Toussaint was off the show.
14 Hurt - Maureen Kukudio
Played by Emily Althaus, Maureen Kukudio debuted in season 3. Sure, it was nice to see someone romantically interested in Suzanne, but honestly, she deserved better than losing her life in the sad way she did.
There isn’t much to say about this character.
She was strange in a way that was neither intriguing nor endearing, and was cruel and manipulative towards Suzanne. She wasn’t even important enough to warrant a backstory-- even Linda from Purchasing got one of those. The only good thing that Kukudio ever did was cause Humps to have a stroke by blowing bubbles into his IV.
13 Saved - Yadriel
If initial impressions were to be believed, most fans likely thought that CO Bennett would’ve made a better father than Yadriel (Ian Payola). Bennett seemed very invested in both Daya and their child, while the incredibly taciturn Yadriel was harder to read. However, Bennett eventually abandoned his responsibilities so that Matt McGorry could learn HTGAWM.
Yadriel, on the other hand, grew increasingly close to Pepa, the daughter he shared with inmate Maria Ruiz.
Even though Yadriel clearly loved Maria, he felt it best not to bring Pepa back to the prison to see her mother for a while. Even as he tried to do what he thought was best for their daughter, Yadriel continued to defend Maria to his mother.
The visiting day conversations between them ranged from funny to heartbreaking. Most fans are still waiting for Yadriel’s return.
12 Hurt - Desmond "Desi" Piscatella
It can’t be argued that OITNB didn’t attempt to give Desmond “Desi” Piscatella some true depth. The issue is that the man was so monstrous that most viewers found it impossible to feel sympathy for him, regardless of his traumatic past. Brad William Henke arrived during the show’s 4th season and most fans were grateful that Piscatella didn’t survive to be part of the 6th.
Brutality is a daily reality for these inmates, but Piscatella took it beyond anything we'd seen.
OITNB has always done an excellent job of walking the line between comedy and drama, but this arc went to a place that was difficult for viewers to stomach.
Let’s also not forget that the cover-up regarding Piscatella’s fate led to Taystee going down for taking his life. Even in the afterlife, he still managed to torment these women.
11 Saved - Frieda Berlin
Frieda Berlin has become so integral to OITNB that it’s difficult to remember that she hasn’t been with the series from the very beginning.
Debuting in season 2, she may be a “bad grandma,” but Dale Soules has made her one of the most fascinating women at Litchfield. Frieda is brilliant, from her survivalist credentials to her vast knowledge of poisons. There are plenty of situations in which her fellow inmates would’ve been lost without her. Sure, she eventually sold out her friends to save her own skin, but Frieda is nothing if not a survivor.
Frieda’s story was greatly expanded on in season 6, giving Soules much more to do than she’s had in previous seasons. She wasn’t always likable, but most fans were still rooting for this “Golden Girl” to make it out alive.
10 Hurt - Virginia "Ginger" Copeland
There have been very few COs who were portrayed as anything other than awful. However, what sets season 6’s Virginia "Ginger" Copeland apart wasn’t violent sadism, but rather extreme apathy. Sure, this is another layer of the issues facing prison guards in general, but Ginger was just an unpleasant addition to the cast.
Ginger cared more about Fantasy Inmate than about the inmates themselves.
While some villainous figures have been given depth through flashbacks, she remained rather two-dimensional all season long.
Shawna Hamic did an excellent job of making her unlikable, but perhaps she did that job too well because most fans really hate her.
It’s unknown if Ginger will return for season 7, but she was still breathing when 6 came to a close, so we likely haven’t seen the last of her.
9 Saved - Judy King
When Judy King showed up at the end of season 3, she was unlike any other inmate we had met thus far. Blair Brown’s character was clearly meant as a Martha Stewart analog, with shades of Paula Dean thrown in as well.
Judy was a celebrity, but she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. She also found ways to make her sentence more bearable.
Judy’s financial situation came in handy in prison and she was granted more amenities than the average inmate. She also wasn’t portrayed like most older women on television are. Judy had a husband, a boyfriend, and even had an affair with Joel Luschek - and Yoga Jones. She was a fascinating addition to the cast and most fans were sad to see her go.
8 Hurt - Thomas “Humps” Humphrey
Another example of a veteran being portrayed as little more than a sociopath, Thomas “Humps” Humphrey was a monster. Yes, there have been plenty of awful guards at Litchfield, but Humps set himself apart but being so awful that his character kind of ceased being believable.
Was there really a reason for us to see him forcing Maritza to choose between eating a live mouse or deceased flies?
Let’s not forget that he made the inmates fight for his own entertainment.
To be fair, Michael Torpey did an excellent job of making his character truly reprehensible. Still, his story seemed fairly pointless. Thankfully, this CO was only present during seasons 4 and 5.
7 Saved - Carol and Barb Denning
Until OITNB’s 6th season, no Big Bad had even come close to living up to Vee’s particular brand of villainy. However, sisters Carol (Henny Russell) and Barb (Mackenzie Phillips) Denning were truly vicious. Even their flashbacks served only explain the ridiculousness of the impetus of their long-standing feud, rather than to elicit sympathy for them.
One of the most interesting aspects of these siblings is that there is really no one to root for here. They were both irredeemably evil, but their ongoing torment of one another was a car crash that no one could look away from.
Much of this can be attributed to the incredible performances given by Russell and Phillips, as well as Ashley Jordyn and Lauren Kelston, who portrayed the younger versions of these twisted sisters. Their ultimate fate was perfect, but they'll be missed.
6 Hurt - Linda Ferguson
Linda Ferguson, aka Linda from Purchasing, is a character that has simply been granted too much screen time. She was even given a backstory no one asked for, as well as being placed firmly in the forefront of the narrative during the prison riot. She’s not the first non-inmate to be given such treatment, but she is the most two-dimensional.
Why steadily increase her visibility since her debut in season 3?
Beth Dover isn’t a bad actress. She does a great job making viewers hate her character. Despite her time behind bars, Linda learned zero compassion for the inmates, instead using the experience to maneuver herself into a powerful position. We likely haven’t seen the last of her.
5 Saved - Tamika Ward
We now come to the rare case of a CO who wasn’t a monster. Thanks to Susan Heyward’s nuanced performance, as well as the arc created for her, Tamika Ward became one of Litchfield’s most thought-provoking characters. She was neither scary, nor violent and she obviously took her job very seriously.
As someone who shared history with Natasha “Taystee” Jefferson, Ward struggled with the undeniable empathy she felt for her former friend. Watching Taystee’s season long battle to clear her name definitely affected the way that Ward viewed her job.
Throughout the course of the season, Ward tried to ignore the fact that if events had been slightly altered, their positions could’ve been reversed. However, try as she might to ignore her feelings, in the end, she couldn’t help but be there for Tasha.
4 Hurt - Lee Dixon
Although Lee Dixon (Mike Houston) was shown in a more comedic light during the show’s 6th season, prior to that, he was pretty much irredeemably awful. No matter how endearing Orange is the New Black attempted to make the CO this year, he has already done too much damage to be remotely likable - not that all great characters on this show need to be.
The most controversial aspect of Dixon is that he is one of several veterans on the series who has been portrayed as villainous.
First appearing in season 4, Dixon has admitted to committing terrible crimes during wartime, assaulted inmates, and even compared Poussey’s fate to accidentally breaking a chair. Perhaps the efforts to redeem him a bit this season were a result of the fan backlash over his past behavior.
3 Saved - Dominga "Daddy" Duarte
There weren’t too many new inmates in season 6 who felt like they could hold their own against the OG prisoners - at least in our hearts. However, Vicci Martinez’s Dominga "Daddy" Duarte definitely earned a spot there.
Viewers were right to be wary of her initial intentions towards Daya, but as is often the case on OITNB, the story that unfolded over the course of the season gave some insight into her behavior.
By season’s end, most fans were fed up with Daya - who was trapped in a fairly pointless addiction storyline - and had been won over by the charismatic new inmate who preferred to be called “Daddy.” It may have been her illegal substances that Daya got strung out on, but Daddy proved on more than one occasion that she truly cared for her.
2 Hurt - Baxter Bayley
The initial crop of guards on OITNB was sort of a mixed bag of those who did their best, those who did their worst and those who simply didn’t care. However, as the seasons wore on, budgetary decisions led to hiring an increasing amount of sociopaths. Baxter Bayley (Alan Aisenberg) debuted in season 3 and was clearly one of the only new COs who cared about the inmates.
Despite his best intentions, Bayley was undone by his own inexperience, which led to the loss of one of the show’s most beloved characters, Poussey Washington. He was obviously destroyed by this tragic mistake and it was that moment that led directly into the prison riot.
Bayley also did go to Poussey’s father looking for forgiveness, which was an incredibly selfish move.
Although season 6 gave us some characters best left forgotten, it also introduced us to Sipiwe Moyo’s Adeola. She is most definitely one of Litchfield’s funniest additions, whether she is discussing evolutionary anthropology or "walking tall with a machete.” This inmate was a bright spot in a very dark season - this year did take place in Maximum Security, after all.
Adeola was introduced as Lorna’s roommate, who has a particular affinity for rats. She may not be a major player in OITNB just yet, but she certainly stole every single scene that she was in. Hopefully, the writers realize what they have here and Adeola is granted more screen time when the series returns for season 7.
Who's your favorite newer Orange is the New Black character? Let us know in the comments!