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Prison Shanks and Penis Cookies: The Stories Behind 17 Orange Is the New Black Props

If the mushy prisonmeal and vaginas made up to look like Yosemite Sam make you cringe, just think about the Orange Is the New Black crew members whose job it is to make life at Litchfield seem like a reality. “We deal with a lot of embarrassing, sensitive stuff, a lot of squeamish things,” Orange Is the New Black prop master Rachael Weinzimer tells Vulture. “The episode we’re doing for season three right now, which I’m not allowed to tell you about, it’s really made me realize the resistance I’ve built up.” That says a lot coming from someone whose first order of business for the Netflix show was to cook up a tampon McMuffin — that is, a used tampon McMuffin. Here, Weinzimer walks Vulture through the process of making 17 of Orange Is the New Black’s most memorable (and, often, most memorably gross) treasures. To ease you into it, we’ll start with the corgi bobblehead.

The corgi bobblehead Sophia swallows
I bought about 20 of them locally at a store called Love Saves the Day. Someone wanted Healy to be a bobblehead collector. When they got to the scene where they wanted Sophia to do something drastic in front of Healy, they decided to have her bite off the head of that corgi. I bought a boatload of corgis. We also made six or seven out of cake fondant so she could swallow if she needed to. In the end, she just bit off the head of a real one. 

Nutraloaf
I actually made that myself. It was very close to a lentil loaf. I stuck bits and pieces of black beans and veggies [in it] to make it look even grosser. I remember Taylor not liking it, but I thought it tasted pretty good. Anything I have to give to an actor, I taste first. I didn’t taste the fondant corgi, though. I don’t like sugar.

Maxi pads turned surgical masks
We try to make stuff with what the prisoners would have available to them. It was a little tricky to figure out how to adhere the pad to her ears. The writers wanted to use hair ties, but they were a little small, so there was some finagling. In episode one it’s established that the prisoners don’t have all their basic needs at Litchfield, but they have cases and cases of maxi pads. I don’t know that these masks exist in regular prisons, but in our prison we use maxi pads wherever we can.

Red’s tampon McMuffin
The assumption was this was an actual tampon that somebody removed from themselves and put on an English muffin for Piper. It was never supposed to be a gag. It was always meant to be what it is, so our job was to make it look real. I was horrified by that. That was the first script I read, and my introduction to Jenji Kohan. It was pretty gross for all of us to have to deal with that. The guys were really freaked out by it.

The frozen cat Miss Claudette pulls from the freezer.
Jenji likes the element of surprise. It doesn’t have to make sense. We don’t want anyone to get too comfortable. Thus, they find a cat in the freezer. It’s a lot easier to get a fake dead cat than you think. I actually got that one off the shelf, so to speak. I had a guy. He had a dead cat in stock and he made it look frozen for us. 

Boo’s screwdriver turned dildo
Another way to use maxi pads! The writers came up with that one. It’s exactly what they scripted. We did try different sizes. We went for a girth that read well onscreen but was still believable, you know? As I recall, that one was middle-of-the-road.

The WANTED poster
I call it the Rootin’ Tootin’ Vagina. I think we took it to a higher level than how it was written. We added the gun belt and the sombrero.

Pennsatucky’s wooden crucifix
We had originally envisioned and built something much more elaborate than that, but they wanted something Pennsatucky could actually make. So during a walk around our exterior prison location, I see two sticks and I pick ‘em up like a cross and show the writer and director and they go, “That’s it!” It was just a matter of whittling it down so it was more of a weapon and getting twine to put it together.

So many prison shanks
I’ve made most of those myself. I just sit there with knives and/or a Dremel — I cheat a little — and goggles, of course. I’d say one takes me an average of 45 minutes. I got all my research off the internet, too. If you google “prison shanks,” you’d see tons that look like the ones I made, except for the one made out of the crochet hook. That one doesn’t exist in the real prisons. That one I came up with.

Pin the Cock on the Hunk
In our heads, Daya made that manga character, so we hired the artist who does her drawings to make the hunk. Then a bunch of us did a lot of rough sketches of what the cocks should look like. They had to look like they had come from different brains. You only saw a small fraction of the three-to-four dozen we made. That was a sight. Our entire team sitting around, coloring cocks.They were phenomenal, too. I still have all of them.

Valentine’s Day cock cookies
Again, we made all different sizes, all different curvatures. There was serious variety. That wasn’t something I could hire somebody to do. I couldn’t call the bakery and say, “I need dozens of penis cookies.” So we made penis sugar cookies, and they were delicious. Who doesn’t like a sugar cookie?

John’s drug-smuggling artificial leg
How is he gonna smuggle drugs in here? How would that work? We made a leg specifically for that episode with those considerations in mind. It had to be free-standing, for one thing. But actually, it turns out a fake leg is pretty convenient even without the slight alterations. In a real situation, someone with that kind of prosthetic leg could smuggle drugs in, absolutely.

The floating dead rat
I ordered a few taxidermied rats — so they were real, first of all — to see what they would look like. Then I special-ordered one to look dead and drowned. I had a fake one, but they didn’t look as good as the taxidermied ones. But then things happened on the shooting day that I didn’t expect. Once the rats got really waterlogged, they started to sink. Fortunately I had several, [so] we we worked it out. The wet ones didn’t dry for six months, and they stunk to high heaven. 

The cigarette-running cockroaches
We had live ones and freeze-dried versions of the real thing. We had to have the cockroaches who ran through the maze trained. I built a prototype maze to send to the roach handlers, and we had to adjust certain turns and things like that. We didn’t just attach a cigarette to a cockroach and send it on its way. A lot of planning went into it.

The flaming shit bag
Her shoes were fireproofed for that. It was a real collaboration. The wardrobe department, the effects department, the scenic department, and the prop department all worked together on that one shit-bag gag. The scenic artist made the shit. I don’t know what her recipe was, only that it burned, was non-toxic, and looked like real crap. It was not chocolate pudding, I can tell you that.

Vee’s cleanser cans filled with tobacco
I went to the supermarket next door to our studio and started picking up the cleanser cans, thinking, How am I gonna get the tobacco in here? and I actually found one with a plug in the bottom of it. The company that made them were kind enough to send me several cases of empty cans. Again, that’s something anyone can do. You can really go get some Zud and carry your tobacco in it. 

Gloria’s crayon candle
I always try to make things the way they’re described, but this one didn’t work. It didn’t melt right. We ended up using a combination of melted crayon, wax, and candles. But it was an actual tampon string we used for the wick! That was real.