10 Facts About ‘Oz’

One of the most groundbreaking shows in television history, HBO's "Oz" was a violent uncompromising portrayal of prison life in America, and these 10 facts about "Oz" illuminate just how intense and pioneering the show really was. The following facts about "Oz" help to illustrate the level of commitment by the show's creator, Tom Fontana, along with the show's writers, directors, and actors to bring forth the most realistic depiction of prison life on TV to that point. If you have not watched the show, you might want to avoid these facts about "Oz" as they contain spoilers! Here are some important facts about "Oz":

  1. "Oz" was the first hour-long original drama presented on HBO. As such, it paved the way for other groundbreaking shows like "The Wire," "Six Feet Under," and HBO's crown jewel, "The Sopranos." Another fact about "Oz" related to this: David Chase, creator of "The Sopranos," felt he could do what he wanted with his show after seeing the freedom given to the writers of "Oz."
  2. The tattooing in the opening credits sequence is real. The striking image of the show's title being tattooed on the arm of an inmate is a crucial part of the show's opening credits sequence. The arm being tattooed belongs to show creator Tom Fontana.
  3. Sister Peter Marie is an award-winner. Rita Moreno, the actress who portrayed the show's prison psychologist, Sister Peter Marie, has won an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony.
  4. Ryan and Cyril really are brothers. Conniving Irish crook Ryan O'Reilly and his brother Cyril on the show are brothers in real life as well, played by Dean and Scott William Winters.
  5. The show's original title was "Club Med." Originally conceived as a show about a minimum security prison, the show's initial concept had a much different feel. This is one of the little-known facts about "Oz."
  6. Two cast members had served prison time. Chuck Zito, who played an Italian gangster, and Craig "Mums the Schemer" Grant, who played Poet, both spent time in prison before appearing on "Oz."
  7. No one is innocent. Unlike many other prison drama's, all of the imprisoned characters on "Oz" are guilty of the crimes of which they've been convicted.
  8. Poet wrote his poems. The actor who played Poet, a rapper and poet in the real world, wrote all of his own verse.
  9. White-power biker Jaz Hoyt is played by a Jewish actor. Hoyt was played by Evan Seinfeld, formerly of the band Biohazard.
  10. There was no grand plan to write Adebisi's death. One of the story arcs that resounded most with viewers was the death of Adebisi at the hands of Said. This was written in the show because Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje was leaving the show to appear in "The Mummy Returns." This is not one of the commonly-known facts about "Oz."


Fontana, Tom, commentary. "Oz: The Complete First Season." DVD. Home Box Office, 2002.

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