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June 12, 2015

It's been a long time coming, but Season 3 of Orange Is the New Black is finally here—and the ladies of Litchfield couldn't be more excited about it. Last night, the Netflix show's entire cast and their most enthusiastic super fans descended on Skylight Clarkson SQ in N.Y.C. for the first-ever OrangeCon, an invitation-only fan event with panel discussions, autograph signings, and a special screening of Season 3 (think: Comic-Con, but exclusively for OITNB).

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And what a scene it was. As each cast member entered the space, they were greeted by throngs of people clamoring for answers about what to expect from their favorite characters in the next batch of episodes. "Faith is a strong theme this time around," Yael Stone (pictured above) told InStyle, above the high-pitched screeches from the crowd. "It's about the idea of clinging to your hope and lighting a candle for that one belief that you have. These women are reaching for something to hold onto, and sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn't."

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For Uzo Aduba, aka Crazy Eyes, the topic of faith was a personal one. "I got this project the day I was going to quit acting altogether, so I'm definitely a believer," she said. And Suzanne? "She's just trying to piece things together and figure out where her faith lies, because she's never been rocked that way before," she said, referencing Vee's sudden demise in the Season 2 finale. "But she's someone who's always a believer."

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The event wouldn't be complete without OITNB's shining star (and Crazy Eyes's token dandelion), Taylor Schilling, who arguably elicited the most screams when she posed with co-star Natasha Lyonne on the red carpet. Later on, she chatted and snapped selfies with the O.G. Piper (Kerman, pictured above), who penned the novel upon which the TV series is based. As for the fictional Piper, Season 3 is looking grim. "She's definitely not trying to hold onto ideas of the outside world anymore," Schilling said. "She's very focused on where she is."

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Inside, the warehouse space was transformed into a makeshift Litchfield, complete with prison beds, a commissary bar, a mug shot photo booth, and even a simulated S.H.U. Fans noshed on cafeteria trays of meatloaf, chicken tenders, roasted carrots, and mac and cheese before taking their seats for the cast panel. Once the chat culminated, Aduba said she had a special announcement.

Like clockwork, she had Netflix's CEO, Reed Hastings, on video chat to announce an early release of OITNB Season 3—three hours before the slated time. The audience, unsurprisingly, went bonkers. Within seconds, Regina Spektor's infectious theme song was blaring and the first episode of Season 3 began, but the crowd had yet to simmer down. So as the minutes rolled by, everyone slowly began exiting their seats, opting to go home and binge-watch the whole series in private, as any true fan would.

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