What It's Like to Watch a Version of Yourself on TV

At Matter, the real-life Larry Smith talks about the other true story behind Orange Is the New Black—the one about Piper’s husband.

As the show began to come together, Jenji asked us a question: Could she call the main characters Piper and Larry? Tough choice. If the show works, it’s great to be “the real Piper.” But “the real Larry?” I wondered why they would want to use a name that peaked in popularity in the ’40s. In a rare moment of not overthinking, I gave in.

It was a much bigger decision than we realized. It’s trippy to watch an adapted version of some of the most intense, intimate moments of your life play out on TV, in some version of real time, and know millions of others have watched it as well and have formed an opinion of “Piper and Larry.” It’s one thing to see someone reading your wife’s book on the subway; quite another to be standing in line for a movie in Brooklyn and hear the guy in front of you say to his date, “That newsstand we passed looks just like the one where Larry in Orange Is the New Black bought all those papers that printed his article.” It’s like living an out-of-body experience out of someone else’s body.

It’s also surreal to be moved by your own fictional—though mostly true-to- life—marriage proposal, recited by someone else. It’s funny to at once wish I had said a few of the things Jason Biggs (who plays Larry) said to Taylor Schilling (who plays Piper) and also be annoyed the writers didn’t use some of my lines.

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