It was with dismay that Orange is the New Black fans learned this summer that Laura Prepon would not be returning to the show next season as a series regular. When she signed up to play Alex, the drug dealer who landed Taylor Schilling‘s Piper in prison, Prepon only signed a one year contract which she opted not to re-sign.
Now, BuzzFeed’s Kate Arthur reports that Prepon will only be returned to the wildly popular show for one episode next season. That episode will, presumably, wrap up Alex’s storyline (and, with it, the Piper-Alex relationship) and that will be the last we hear from her. In fact, Prepon has not been to OITNB‘s New York set yet, though the cast began filming the second season in July. The show doesn’t shoot in order, though, and it’s safe to assume that Alex’s storyline will be wrapped up in the first episode of next season.
Some have speculated that Prepon, a Scientologist, was pressured to leave the show due to its sympathetic portrayals of trans and lesbian characters. (Scientology is not very accepting of the LGBT community, to put it lightly.) However, this explanation seems implausible, as Kelly Preston and Jenna Elfman — both Scientologists themselves — have both played lesbian characters in the past. Regardless, Prepon’s decision to leave what is clearly a hit show is surprising; she currently has no other work lined up. Whatever the reason, the show’s other stars aren’t talking. Schilling recently skirted the question, saying: “Well, you know, I don’t really know anything about that, I just know that she’s an amazing actress and I’ve really had an incredible time working with her and I know that there’s no end to that relationship.”
However, let’s remember that Taryn Manning, Danielle Brooks and Uzo Aduba were all promoted to series regulars earlier this summer. So we lose an Alex, but we get plenty more Pennsatucky, Taystee and Crazy Eyes.