You’re Going to Want to Get to Know Samira Wiley

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty
Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Samira Wiley has had quite the year, starring in the broadway breakout, Daphne’s Dive, filming Nerve, which hits theatres July 27, 2016, and of course, finalizing the latest season of Orange is the New Black, which is out now on Netflix.

We caught up with the lovely lady, to gain some insight on her life, her inspirations, what it’s like to play the role of Poussey Washington, and who she wants to be when she “grows up.” Happy reading!

S/: What about the new season of Orange is the New Black are you most excited about?

Samira Wiley: I’m excited for everyone to watch it, so I won’t have to hold onto this secret any longer! [Laughs]. No, I’m excited for the message we’re trying to tell with it. I think that it’s a really important one and I think that we have a responsibility as artists to try to tell stories of our time. It’s really going to reflect some of the Black Lives Matter issues that have been coming up in recent months—people losing their lives senselessly, you know. We’re going to tackle those issues, especially in the penal system.

What draws you to this role?

She’s so kind. Jenji [Kohan] and her team of writers have done a great job of making all of the characters so three-dimensional. You know, she’s not a stereotype. She is, in a way, the moral compass of the show and I feel so honoured to be able to portray a character like Poussey.

Who do you look up to as a role model?

My parents. That might be the cheesiest answer ever, but I really do look up to my parents as role models. They are both Baptist pastors and the things that they have done in their life and work is truly inspiring and I really want to be like them when I grow up. For real.

That’s so sweet… Is there a film that you’ve watched that’s either inspired you or changed your way of thinking?

It’s interesting, one of my cast mates is currently in The Colour Purple on broadway, and I remember when I first saw that movie it was really, really inspiring to me as a woman, as a black woman, and especially as an artist and as an actress.

What about a book?

I loved the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I can read it over and over and over again; it completely inspires me every time. It reframes the way we think about things. We always think we know something until we reach the end of it and we learn lessons and we learn that ‘oh gosh, I don’t know everything,’ you know?

What does success mean to you?

Success to me means happiness and being able to live a comfortable life where you can smile every day.

How do you like to unwind?

I like to kick back and watch some Netflix! [Laughing]. You know, I don’t really binge-watch, though; my system can’t really take that. Like two and a half episodes and I’m capped out. I’m a big fan of Kimmy Schmidt. But I just finished up a play on broadway so I haven’t really had too much time to watch television. I’m a big fan of Bloodline on Netflix and I haven’t been able to watch the new season yet, so that’s on the list.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

To me, life is all about finding happiness, going back to what we were saying about success. I mean, success to me is to be able to have a family and a life where I’m happy and smiling every day, regardless of what I’m doing in my career. I’m not looking for something specific like ‘I want to be on a hit television show’ or anything like that. I just want to be happy and I want to be working on projects that matter.