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Piper Elizabeth Chapman, portrayed by Taylor Schilling, is the main character in the original Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Piper's character is based on the author of Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, Piper Kerman.
At the series start, Piper appears to be a somewhat innocent woman who strives to be on her best behavior and not get in trouble with any of the inmates while doing her time quietly. However, throughout the series, as she spends more time in prison, a darker side of Piper is revealed; she is cruel, spoiled, sanctimonious and will be manipulative to get what she wants, and heartlessly doing so, as seen in her interactions with Brook Soso. Both sides of Piper are shown repeatedly throughout the series, albeit the former less the more time Piper spends in prison. Piper also has a habit of coming off as obnoxiously self-righteous at times which could be attributed to her upbringing. Despite her personal flaws, she is often willing to reflect upon her negative actions and work on character flaws pointed out by her peers (such as her commonly referred to self-indulgent attitude).
Piper has blond hair, blue eyes, an infinity tattoo on her left side, a tattoo on her left arm in white ink that says "Trust no bitch", and a fish tattoo on the back of her neck. She is tall and thin, and so typical of the perfect female stereotype that her nickname in prison quickly becomes "Blondie." She also has other nicknames due to her appearance for example: "Taylor Swift", "Lindsay Lohan", "Dandelion" and "College".
She usually wears a white t-shirt under her tan jumpsuit, and she notes that the prison-issue canvas slip-ons look like trendy Toms ("I Wasn't Ready"). The few exceptions are when she gets furlough; where she wears several other articles of clothing, and the bug bite infestation; where she wears the same blue uniform that everyone else does.
For a list of episodes featuring Piper's flashbacks, see here.
Piper was born June 7, 1981. She grew up knowing she would become a wealthy woman on the east coast in an upper middle-class family and is a self-proclaimed WASP. She is the middle child, with an older and younger brother. Her older brother, Danny, has been referenced as "the perfect son" but has not appeared in the series. Her younger brother, Cal, was generally regarded as the "black sheep" of the family before her incarceration.
Piper's parents were obsessed with appearances and projected this onto their children. As a child, Piper disovered that her father was having an affair and told her mother, only to have her mother completely ignore what she said. She was able to somewhat make sense of this with the help of her grandmother. She graduated from college, but spent some years after graduation travelling and seeking to find herself. During college, she met her best friend, Polly Harper, and the two years later started a soap company called PoPi.
Life with Alex
Looking for a job after graduating from college, Piper met edgy Alex Vause at a bar. Though she had never dated a woman before, they quickly began a relationship. In love and thirsting for adventure, Piper was unbothered by the fact that her girlfriend was an international drug smuggler. They travelled the world together in high style, and on one occasion Piper agreed to traffic a suitcase full of $50,000 in drug money to Belgium, immediately regretting it. Despite her discomfort in committing criminal acts herself, she was content to quit her job as a waitress just to travel with Alex to places as far-reaching as Bali, Cambodia, and Belgium, living off the enticing incentives of the global drug trade.
Eventually, Alex was desperate, and begged Piper to traffic again. Piper refused, and they broke up. As Piper was due to leave to catch a flight, Alex had a phonecall saying her mother had died. She begged Piper to stay with her for emotional support through the funeral, even just as a friend, but Piper cold-heartedly refused and caught her flight anyway. Piper moved on from the break-up much more quickly than Alex, who was simultaneously heartbroken by both their break-up and the death of her mother and eventually turned to heroin to try and cope.
Piper introduced Alex to Polly while they were dating, but her best friend openly did not like her. Piper did not introduce Alex to her family, though, as they were all later surprised to find out she'd been in a same-gender relationship when she sat them down to explain the circumstances of her sentencing.
Life with Larry
Years later, Piper met Larry Bloom, a mutual friend of Polly and Polly's eventual husband, Pete. After chastising a homeless person for not taking care of his dog to her satisfaction, Piper was bitten by the beast. Using her extra key, she stumbles into Polly and Pete's apartment to find Larry house-sitting. Larry was instantly attracted to her and helped her get cleaned up, and they unexpectedly bonded. They jokingly wondered why Polly and Pete never thought to set them up before, but it quickly became apparent that no one really thinks that they're perfect together - not even them.
After the charges come through, just two years shy of the statute of limitations, Larry vowed to stick by her and they sat down together to tell her family. Piper explained to her horrified mother that she was a lesbian at the time, but is not anymore, and was horrified herself to admit to her grandmother that she wasn't really into what she was doing for the money.
At some point before her incarceration but after she had been indicted, Piper had a pregnancy scare. She was upset when the test came back negative, even though she knew it would have been a bad thing to be pregnant in her current situation.
Spending a nice day at the beach to mark her remaining days of freedom, Piper was reading books about getting through prison when Larry unexpectedly proposed. Although she was surprised that he would do this before she left, he insisted that he had to lock their relationship down. She tearfully accepted his proposal, and agreed to get married after she gets out of prison.
The day before she has to leave for prison, Larry, Pete, and Polly throw a farewell party for her. She apologizes to Polly because she is going to miss her baby shower, and the two joke about how Piper is going to keep her eyebrows maintained behind bars. Later that night, she and Larry decide to have sex one final time before she leaves. Just as they begin, she excuses herself to go use the toilet and Larry tells her that she is beautiful. In the bathroom she sobs, the realization that she is leaving for prison hitting her. When she comes back out, she returns Larry’s compliment and gets back into bed. When he notices that she has been crying she tells him to forget about it and just have sex with her ("I Wasn't Ready"). The next morning, Piper and Larry drive to Litchfield in order for her to surrender.
Life at Litchfield
At the time of her incarceration, Piper is 31 years old.
After arriving at Litchfield, she is first examined by CO Wanda Bell, photographed by George Mendez and John Bennett and then brought to a temporary bunk by Lorna Morello, where she spends her first nights together with Anita DeMarco, Miss Rosa and Nicky Nichols. During her first lunch time she sits at the same table as Nicky, Lorna and Yoga Jones and starts to befriend them. Although Piper tries hard not to get on anyone's bad side, she had a habit of saying the wrong things at the wrong time. Red, for instance, is the first person who suffers from her thoughtless words and in retaliation refuses to give Chapman any meals, as she is the head cook of the prison's kitchen.
As well as insulting the food in front of the head cook, on Piper's first day in prison she discovers that Alex Vause, her ex, is in prison with her and that she would have to deal with the person responsible for her incarceration. Although Alex wants to reconnect with her, Piper chooses to avoid her despite Alex sneaking her some food. Meanwhile, Piper finds a way to make it up to Red for insulting her food by creating a lotion to help with her back problems. Her counselor Healy soon takes an interest in Piper because she has a fiance and is upper-class, which leads him to think he can use her as a puppet. During the prisoners council elections, she is chosen for a spot despite not even running for one, which makes Pennsatucky, a fanatic religious inmate who also ran for WAC, furious at her.
Piper instantly attracts the affections of Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren, who seems unaware that her feelings are not reciprocated. When Piper attempts to lay the law down, Suzanne visits her at night and urinates all over her bunk floor.
Piper asks Larry to ask his father Howard, her lawyer, to disclose if it truly was Alex who named her. Although Alex did name her as an accessory, Howard convinces Larry to lie to Piper and say it was not her in order to prevent Piper from doing something rash and extending her sentence. Thinking she has been a jerk to Alex for ignoring her, Piper makes up with Alex and they become friends. When she and Alex dance at Taystee's farewell party in a "sexually provocative" way, Pennsatucky fetches Healy who, feeling betrayed by Piper and being hugely homophobic, sends her to the SHU.
When Piper gets out, she and Alex have sex. What they don't know is that while Piper was in the SHU, Healy called Larry to tell him that Piper was cheating on him with Alex. As Pennsatucky starts to act up as a God-chosen healer, Alex starts to make her think she could really heal, along with the help of Watson, Big Boo and Piper, which ends in attacking a disabled girl trying to "heal" her and her being transferred to Psych. Piper starts to feel guilty hearing from Suzanne how horrible Psych is and convinces Caputo to re-transfere her, as she would be to blame.
After Larry ignores her for a couple of weeks, Piper manages to get a hold of him and discovers he knows that she cheated on him. In anger, Larry tells her that Alex did name her. Realizing that Larry and her have little chance of making up and that Alex is the only one she has, Piper acts forgiving towards Alex, much to her surprise. Meanwhile, in an effort to make up with Pennsatucky after getting her sent to Psych, Piper agrees to be baptized. When facing the laundry tub meant to be her baptismal pool, Piper can't go though with it. Pennsatucky feels disrespected and decides that she needs to kill Piper. She, Leanne, and Angie threaten her in the showers with a razor blade melted into a toothbrush. Before they are able to harm her, a guard yells at them to leave because it's not their assigned bathroom. Eventually, at the Christmas Pageant, she leaves to go outside, where Pennsatucky corners her and attempts to stab her with a sharpened wooden crucifix. Although Healy sees them fighting and hears Piper screaming for help, he ignores them and leaves. Using Taystee, Poussey, Black Cindy, and Janae's fighting advice, she eventually disarms and beats up Pennsatucky. We see Piper completely lose herself and punch a floored Pennsatucky again and again, blood and broken teeth flying onto the snow around them.
Season Two opens with Piper being ushered out of the SHU as guards ignore her furtive questions. She is shoved into a van as she is transported with several other inmates to an unknown location. As the van finally comes to a stop, Piper realizes that they are going on an airplane. Guards continue to ignore her panicked questions. She is forced onto the plane and is seated next to Lolly Whitehill, who she shocks by graphically telling the story of how she beat up Pennsatucky. As the plane lands, she realizes that they have landed in Chicago and she comes to her own conclusion that she must have been transported for beating and possibly mudering Pennsatucky. She arrives at the Metropolitan Detention Center, a maximum security facility, and attempts to adjust to her new surroundings. She is bunked with four women; Araceli, Joyce, Mazall and Hill and immediately incurs their wrath by inadvertently stepping on their pet cockroach that they have trained to carry cigarettes. She sees Alex in the yard one day and persuades a male inmate to bring the two together by giving him her panties. This incident would later serve as the basis for her prison-panties business in Season Three.
Piper discovers she is in Chicago to testify in the trial of Alex's drug boss, Kubra Balik, and the stay is temporary. Alex forcefully pushes Piper to lie about knowing Kubra, because Alex fears he will exact revenge. However, Piper wishes to tell the truth. We see several flashbacks from Piper's childhood noting her complicated past. Piper meets with her lawyer, Larry's father Howard, who strongly advises her to tell the truth. In the van on the way to the trial, Alex pushes one last time for Piper to lie about knowing Kubra, saying she (Alex) will be screwed over if they don't tell the same story. Piper gives in and lies under oath at the trial. Afterwards, Howard washes his hands of her. Alex then informs Piper that although Alex planned to lie she decided to tell the truth, as it "all happened so fast," which leaves Piper in contempt of court; Piper now faces perjury charges and additional time. Piper shouts angrily at Alex, who is being led out of prison, ostensibly to be released.
Piper isn't seen again until Episode 3 where she returns to Litchfield. She is put back in the same room as when she first arrived. At lunch, she talks with Nicky about Alex, her paranoia that everyone keeps looking at her, and they both confess they missed each other. Piper comforts Brook Soso, a new inmate, because her nightly crying was disturbing the sleep of other inmates. She refuses to call Brook by her last name Soso because "she can't say it with a straight face." The next day, she threatens Brook for lying in her bed, claiming that she is "A lone wolf who rips out the throat of sheep," shutting down Brook's friendly advances and leaving her stunned at the harshness of her words. Piper is also seen interacting with Suzanne Warren, thanking her profusely for making it look like a fair fight against Pennsatucky (we see a flashback that explains whilst Piper was beating Penn, Suzanne exited the building in a psychotic state and punched Piper, believing that Piper was her mother. She then left and Piper and Pennsatucky were discovered lying in the snow unconscious). Under the influence of Vee, Suzanne refuses Piper's offer of seeing the movie together, leaving Piper confused as Suzanne struts off with Vee.
When Piper finds out that her paternal grandmother is sick and dying, she is very upset and immediately requests furlough, though she and everyone knows that the chances of it getting approved is very unlikely. While waiting to hear from Healy about it, Piper develops plans for a Prison Newsletter, which she uses as a cover for the administration while she investigates the prison and Fig's corruption - embezzling money for her husband Jason's political campaign - for reporter Andrew Nance. She works on the newsletter called The Big House Bugle with Morello, Daya, and Flaca, and it is well-accepted, even by Healy, Caputo, and the guards.
Unexpectedly, her furlough is approved, and while she receives some backlash for it and briefly plans to turn it down to appease the other inmates, Piper decides to go through with it. However, it is a day too late as her grandmother passes shortly before her furlough is even approved. Given 48 hours of freedom, albeit restricted with rules, Piper meets with Cal and Larry. At her grandmother's wake, Piper is so disturbed by the things she heard from her family's friends and her father, who, until then, has not visited her in prison. She tries to have sex with Larry in the bathroom until he tells her that he has slept with someone she knew. The pair decides to finally, officially end things. At the funeral the next day, her brother marries his girlfriend Neri in a surprise ceremony.
Given a fresh outlook on her situation through insights from comments people have made about her (her new and old self, and who she really was), Piper leaves the funeral (and wedding reception) and has a drink out on the street. She then goes to Red's shop in Queens and disappointedly sees that the store has closed down and is on lease. When she returns to Litchfield the next day, she lies to Red about this so as not to worry her further.
Upon her return, while she initially does not mind and is not interested in the details, she finds herself wondering who Larry slept with. She calls him and asks through his voicemail, and her best friend Polly later comes to visit. During their brief conversation, Piper immediately becomes suspicious about Polly's statements and, though she barely probed, figures it out eventually. As a way of telling Polly that she knows, she has her new sister-in-law Neri leave a burning bag filled with poop on Polly's doorstep—a prank Polly explained to her years prior, and so Polly instantly knows it came from her. After Polly and Larry decide to be together, they come to visit Piper in prison to ask for her blessing. Piper refused.
Possibly because of her newsletter, her connection with Andrew and Larry, who had multiple stories regarding Piper in the prison, Fig targets her and plans to have her transferred to Virginia, though Healy insists that her and a dozen other girls being shuffled off is random and simply due to Litchfield's overpopulation. During a blackout at the prison during the tropical storm Wanda, Piper takes advantage of Fig's absence and sneaks into her office, only to be caught by Caputo as she is just about to leave with a folder of invoices. Caputo has her sent to SHU but eventually comes to her, asking for details on the case being built against her. She promises to help him take down Fig, and even get him in charge of the prison, if he stops her transfer to Virginia. He agrees and immediately gives the files to the warden, and Caputo becomes the assistant warden, replacing Fig.
Meanwhile, Piper reconnects with Alex despite her betrayal. She is concerned about her welfare when she finds out that Kubra has been released due to a suspicious mistrial, and that he could be looking for Alex now for turning on him. They first see eachother in person since Chicago when Alex visits her. Alex tells Piper about sleeping with a gun due to her paranoia, and the name of her probation officer as a joke—information Piper later uses and tells Polly to pass on the message to Alex's parole officer, David Crockett, to get Alex sent back to prison for violating her parole to keep her safe and prevent her from attempting to begin dealing again or skip town.
In Season Three, she is shown at her darkest and most manipulative side when she makes a business which sells worn undergarments by inmates who have to wear them for 2 days at a time or more, sneak them to a guard, who drops them off to Cal, who sells them online, then keep the money for herself. She meets Stella Carlin with whom she becomes a 'friend with benefits', and eventually a business partner after Alex wants out of her panty business. Soon, Piper's panty wearers, led by Flaca, realize how much money they're missing out on and refuse to work until they get a fair wage. After taking advice from Red, Piper realizes she needs to pay them. When looking for a phone to get a cash card to keep her business running, she finds a variety of illegal contraband, including a shiv made out of hardened candy, a lighter, cigarettes and weed. After making the arrangements to put money in their accounts, Piper collects all the panty-wearers and tells them the good news. She then fires Flaca to set an example. Later, Flaca begs for her job back by truthfully telling Piper that her mother is sick, leading Piper to rehire her at a low starting rate. However, when Cal tells her that all her money is gone, Piper automatically blames Flaca because she was in the Library when Piper was using her phone to pay the inmates. She quickly finds out that it is not Flaca, but instead Stella Carlin, who stole her money in one desperate move because she was getting out in a few days. Piper then collects all the contraband she found during the search for the cell phone and stashes them in Stella's bunk. She also stashes the screwdriver she uses in her fight with Pennsatucky in "Can't Fix Crazy", calmly remarking to Boo, "Sorry about your dildo, Boo; cost of doing business. I'll make it up to you.", to which Boo replies, "Damn, Chapman, That is some stone cold shit". Piper then leaves whilst saying: "I don't fuck around. Let the people know".
At the end of this season, Piper's already been in Litchfield for about 9 months and has still 6 to 12 months left.
After sending Stella to max at the end of season 3, Piper believes that all the other inmates are scared of her. Flaca tells one of the new inmates, Ouija that Piper is 'la jefa', meaning 'the boss'. Ruiz starts a rival panty business and starts taking Piper's girls, leading to Piper getting Ruiz caught and extending her sentence.
Piper tells Piscatella, that she's worried about gangs and starts a group of girls, to watch out for gangs, which eventually turns into a racist, white supremist group, something Piper had not anticipated. Ruiz's gang of Dominicans manage to get Piper into the kitchen during Nicky's welcome back party and brand a swastika onto her forearm, which Red later turns into a window.
Realizing that she has been trying to "win at prison," Piper is noticeably changed after her branding and a much calmer person with a nicer attitude, also reconsidering her behaviour towards Alex.
- Alex Vause (on-and-off girlfriend: former ex-girlfriend prior to Season 3; short relationship in Season 1; relationship prior to Season 1)
- Larry Bloom (ex-fiancé)
- Stella Carlin (brief partner/romantic interest in Season 3)
- Carol Chapman (Mother)
- Bill Chapman (Father)
- Danny Chapman (Older brother)
- Cal Chapman (Younger brother)
- Celeste Chapman (Grandmother; deceased)
- Neri Feldman (Sister-In-Law)
- Nicky Nichols - Nicky takes an instant liking to Piper and is one of Piper's closest allies in Litchfield. She has no problem talking about things that make Piper uncomfortable such as her relationship with Alex.
- Lorna Morello - Lorna is generally friendly to Piper all the time. She is the first inmate Piper speaks to and helps her adjust to prison life.
- Yoga Jones - She was one of the first inmates to help out Piper.
- Red - Initially Red is indifferent to Piper until Piper unknowingly insults her food. Red starves her out for disrespecting her food for a while until Piper creates a lotion made of pepper juice for her aching back which mends their relationship. After Piper returned from Chicago, she ended up sharing the same bunk as Red. They had a very rocky start at first, but they ended up becoming friends, as they started to bond and relate more. However, when she lied to Red about her store's success this caused a lot of conflict in their relationship. Red was not afraid to reveal Piper's faults to her. They made up over a business deal in which Red helped Piper's pantie-business grow in exchange for a percentage of the profits.
- Anita DeMarco - Anita is part of the welcoming committee for new inmates that help them adjust to prison life. She's helpful to Piper.
- Tasha Jefferson - Taystee happily sports a lock of Piper's blond hair. When she violates her parole purposely, she is assigned to be Piper's new roommate after Miss Claudette is taken to Max. She helped Piper deal with the threats that Pennsatucky presented to her at the end of Season One.
- Polly Harper (former) - Polly is Piper's best friend from college. They had a soap business together which collapsed after Piper's incarceration and Polly's pregnancy. Eventually, Polly gets together with Larry which causes friction between their friendship. They don't appear to have spoken since the end of Season Two.
- Rosa Cisneros - Piper was assigned Miss Rosa's temporary bunk mate (along with Anita DeMarco and Nicky Nichols) when she first arrives at Litchfield, she slept under Piper and seemed to hold no anger to Piper.
- Pennsatucky (former) - Initially, Pennsatucky is friendly to Piper until Piper 'disrespects' her, which sends her on a quest to murder her. In their confrontation during the Christmas play, Piper angrily punches Pennsatucky repeatedly to the extent that she needs oral surgery for new teeth, something which she asked of Piper when she was elected a WAC member. Because of her new teeth, it seems as if Pennsatucky has gotten over their past conflicts and happily hugs Piper on Caputo's orders.
- Healy (former) - Initially, Healy is lenient towards Piper and offers his assistance to her in the belief that "she's not like the other girls." When he learns of Piper's sexual history, he becomes more hostile towards her, going to the point of locking her in solitary just because her and Alex were dancing close. He then called Larry and informed him of Piper's affair, leading to the breaking of their engagement. Later in Season 2, Healy helped Piper receive furlough for her Grandmothers funeral. Later he allows her to start a newsletter and they seem to bond over this.
- Alex Vause (?) - Broke up and Alex quit the panties-business; it should be noted however that they were still on speaking terms after this.
- Stella Carlin - Stole money from Piper. Piper got revenge by planting contraband in Stella's bunk and got Stella sent to Max.
- Maria Ruiz (civil, rival) - Piper told Piscatella about Maria's gang and business, extending Maria's sentence.
In an interview by a YouTube channel known as 'HeyUGuys,' Schilling explains that the show is not trying to 'impersonate' the author. Piper Chapman is an individual character who does not solidly resemble Kerman and her experience in prison; however, as the series was inspired by her book, some of the events in the series are similar to those that take place in her publication.
For a full list of Piper Chapman's quotes, see here.
- "Oh, my god, Larry. By the time I get out, there'll have been like three new generations of iPhone."
- — Piper Chapman ("I Wasn't Ready")
- "I was in love. And it was... all crazy. And then it got... scary, and I ran away and became the nice blonde lady that I was supposed to be."
- — Piper Chapman to Larry ("I Wasn't Ready")
- "I have been here for less than two weeks. I've been starved out, felt up, teased, stalked, threatened, and called Taylor Swift."
- — Piper Chapman
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- Piper was born on the 7th of June.
- She is a Gemini and was born at 11:42 A.M. in Connecticut, as confirmed by Piper in "Thirsty Bird".
- She isn't religious and labels herself as "secular humanist", because she thinks that agnosticism was "sort of a cop-out", as explained by herself in "Fool Me Once".
- She doesn't like the pizza in Chicago, as mentioned by Larry and Polly in "Thirsty Bird".