My Favorite Scene: 'OITNB' Writer Sian Heder on the Vagina Conversation That Led to an Education on Set
By Stacy Lambe
No one loves a great scene more than the person who first dreamed it up -- the writer. We're asking shows' creators and writers to tell ET all about getting to see their most cherished moment on their series make it from script to screen.
For Sian Heder, writer and producer on Orange Is the New Black, it's the moment in season two, episode four (aptly titled "A Whole Other Hole") when the ladies of Litchfield Penitentiary discover they don't know their anatomy quite as well as they thought they did.
It all starts when Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley) devises a contraption to pee standing up, prompting the other women -- Tasha "Taystee" Jefferson (Danielle Brooks), Cindy "Black Cindy" Hayes (Adrienne C. Moore) and Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren (Uzo Aduba) -- to explore their bodies in the bathroom, only to have Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox) explain the layout of a vagina.
Ahead of the Netflix premiere of her feature directorial debut, Tallulah, starring Ellen Page and Allison Janney, Heder opens up to ET about the hilarious and educational moment both on and off screen.
In the writers' room we called it "The Vagina Conversation." It's my favorite scene because it happened in real life, where I discovered that no one in my life -- men or women -- really knew where women peed out of and were very foggy on the details of the female anatomy.
The whole story started with Ray Ramano in the Men of a Certain Age writers' room, where he asked me where exactly women pee out of, and I couldn't completely answer and neither could anyone else. Then it led to this discovery that my husband didn't really know and my mom didn't really know. When I brought it into the Orange writers' room, I think two people in the room were like, "Yeah, I think it's above the clitoris or maybe it's below the clitoris." That whole moment ended with us sending people to the bathroom with compact mirrors to look at their own vaginas and figure out where everything was.
We joked about "The Vagina Conversation" in the room and then, for every episode, we tried to work it in because we all thought it was so funny. We knew that we wanted to have that conversation, but we weren't sure where it was going to fit. Finally, I was able to work it in a whole episode and make a little arc about it.
It fit with Taystee and Poussey and what was happening with their friendship at that time. It's so funny that's where it landed. I love writing for that crew of black girls. All of those characters are so fun and specific and have such distinct voices. They enjoy each other so much that those are the scenes in Orange where I feel like I get to have a field day. Those actors are so much fun and they have so much fun together that the scenes really pop when you're writing them.
Laverne is completely in her element teaching Vagina Class, the scene where Sophia has a giant drawing of a vagina and she's got all the inmates in front of her. When the actors got it, it led to a lot of laughter on set as people tried to figure out how much they knew about their own situation. All of the crew came and watched it as well, because I think there were some grips and some second ADs who were maybe not so clear on their anatomy and had to sit in on that class. It became a very funny thing: Vagina Class on the Orange set was open to all.