Why Diane Guerrero Is No Longer On OITNB

Millions of viewers took notice of Diane Guerrero in Orange Is the New Black, as she portrayed inmate Maritza Ramos for the first five seasons of the series. But it wasn't easy work for Guerrero to stand out from the cast of the Netflix hit for two big reasons: First, the long-running prison dramedy has one of the biggest collections of regular characters in TV history, and, second, every single one of those nuanced roles is played by a remarkably talented actress. But Guerrero still managed to steal scenes, many of which were opposite Jackie Cruz, who played Maritza's best friend Flaca. 

But after the fifth season of Orange is the New Black ended in chaos (with the end of a riot and a hostage situation at Litchfield Correctional Institution), the show started anew, set in a cold and frightening maximum security facility. Some characters even suddenly disappeared from the show — most notably Maritza Ramos. So why is Diane Guerrero's character missing from the series? 

Goodbye, Litchfield

Orange is the New Black was never a simple, straightforward show. When it first hit Netflix in 2013, the action centered around Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a privileged woman sent to a minimum security prison for a drug offense from a decade earlier. It was a comedy laced with drama, with most of the laughs deriving from the dark fish-out-of-water premise. Then the show aggressively evolved into an ensemble series, as well as a searing drama about race, gender, politics, and the criminal justice system. And because it's set in a prison, there are lots of characters ... and those characters come and go, just as as inmates do in real life. 

After the fifth season, which took place entirely in the few days after the riot that capped season four, a large number of fan-favorite inmates were narratively unaccounted for. Among them: Brook Soso (Kimiko Glenn), Yoga Jones (Constance Shulman), Brandy Epps (Asia Kate Dillon), and Maritza Ramos (Diane Guerrero). The action of the show shifted to Litchfield's maximum security sister prison, while there have been mentions that other notable characters were moved to other prisons. That's probably where Maritza is ... and why Guerrero was absent from the sixth season.

She's tackling big issues

Immigration — or, rather, the different political approaches to immigration reform — is one of today's most intensely debated issues, particularly in light of high-profile raids and deportations by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the separation of immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border. These are issues that are very important and personal to Diane Guerrero. According to The Washington Post, in 2001, 14-year-old Guerrero came home from school one day to find that her parents had been arrested by immigration officials for staying in the U.S. after their visas expired, and their efforts to obtain citizenship hadn't been fruitful. Guerrero's family was deported back to Colombia, while she got to stay — she was born in the U.S. — and lived with friends and neighbors until she finished high school.

Guerrero spends as much time as she can at speaking engagements, discussing the plight of immigrants and detainees. In 2016, she wrote a memoir called In the Country We Love, and, in 2018, she adapted it into a book for children called My Family Divided. And, of course, being politically active and outspoken about the issues of the day doesn't leave much time in one's schedule for acting in quirky streaming dramedies. 

Her next role is 'Crazy'

Guerrero certainly didn't waste any time finding a new gig. On the same weekend that Orange is the New Black's sixth (and first Maritza-free) season premiered in July 2018 came news that Guerrero had landed a starring role in an upcoming series for the brand-new DC Universe streaming service. Greg Berlanti and Warner Bros. TV, who have partnered on a slew of DC character shows for the CW like Arrow and Black Lightning, will next tackle Doom Patrol. Sort of like Suicide Squad meets The Avengers, the show is based on a comic book team of misfit heroes and anti-heroes, including Robotman, Elasti-Woman, and the character Guerrero is set to play, Crazy Jane. Guerrero has her work cut out for her portraying Jane, one of the most complex characters in comics history, as she has 64 separate personalities and each one possesses a different superpower. Doom Patrol is headed into production in late 2018 for a 2019 premiere on DC Universe.

It was time to make the donuts

Rather than appear in the New York state-set Orange is the New Black, Guerrero chose to act 3,000 miles away on a Hollywood soundstage. Based on a play of the same name by Pulitzer Prize-winner Tracy Letts, Superior Donuts is set at a donut shop in a culturally diverse neighborhood of Chicago. In the second season of the show, Guerrero joined the cast as Sofia, a Colombian-American food truck owner who serves healthy food outside the titular Superior Donuts ... and who serves as a love interest for main character Franco (Jermaine Fowler). That relationship could have developed into something special had CBS not canceled it at the end of the 2017-18 season (via Deadline). 

But still, it takes a lot of time to film even a supporting role in a TV series, which makes it hard for an actor to be in two shows at the same time. And it'd seem that Guerrero went with Donuts over Oranges.

She's spending time with her TV BFF

A lot of actors struggle to find enough work to both make ends meet and find creative fulfillment. Diane Guerrero does not seem to have that problem. In 2017 and 2018, Guerrero was part of the casts of three high-profile TV series. In addition to her work on Orange is the New Black and Superior Donuts, Guerrero also kept up a recurring gig on the CW's comedic telenovela Jane the Virgin

Since the show premiered in 2014, Guerrero has occasionally portrayed Lina, co-worker and best friend to main character Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez). As a supporting character, Lina has shown up in over 20 episodes of the series. With so many acting roles at her disposal, Guerrero had to choose which ones she could do, and, unfortunately, Orange is the New Black, for whatever reason, wound up as the odd show out.

She's ready for her close-up

It would seem that Guerrero is ready to headline a show of her own, as opposed to being a part of large ensemble casts like Orange is the New Black, Superior Donuts, and Jane the Virgin. And she's actively been looking to star in a TV series for a couple of years now. 

In 2016, CBS commissioned a pilot based on Guerrero's memoir, In the Country We Love. Teaming up with a few Jane the Virgin executive producers and Jane the Virgin scribe Paul Sciarrotta, Deadline said the pilot was about a wealthy corporate attorney who confronts her past as a child of deported parents by taking on cases for undocumented immigrants pro bono. In addition to producing and co-creating the potential series, Guerrero would've starred as the attorney. 

According to VarietyCBS ultimately said no to that pilot. Fox also briefly considered it, but then left it off its schedule

In 2017, however, Guerrero already had another new series on the horizon. Deadline reported that she signed on to co-star on Distefano, a sitcom based on the comedy of stand-up Chris Distefano, who'd also star in the show written by How I Met Your Mother masterminds Carter Bays and Craig Thomas. Guerrero would have played Distefano's wife. But, according to The Hollywood ReporterCBS passed on that series as well.

She'll be back (probably)

So the much-missed Maritza was nowhere to be found in Orange Is the New Black's sixth season, stuck in some unseen and presumably horrible prison far away from the remnants of Litchfield. So what? With its multiple perspectives and frequent use of flashbacks, OITNB has never been a predictable series. There's always the possibility that, in the seventh season (Netflix greenlit seasons 5, 6, and 7 back in 2016), Maritza and any or all of the other absent OITNB favorites will come back. Writers could show what happened to them after Litchfield's chaotic end, or just catch viewers up with what they did concurrently to the action of the sixth season.

Orange is the New Black executive producer Tara Herrmann teased as much to The Hollywood Reporter, saying that they don't want to abandon any part of the world they've so intricately set up and presented. "If the story takes us there, it has to be organic for us," she said. "We never want to suddenly be in a world that we haven't set up. But we love those characters and miss them as storytellers for sure, so we hope to always see them."

Hopefully that means fans can look forward to seeing Diane Guerrero grace the popular Netflix series again in the future!