Orange Is The New Black’s Samira Wiley for Refinery29’s ‘Rising Stars’
Orange Is The New Black actress Samira Wiley, who portrays Poussey Washington on the hit Netflix prison drama, is captured in a different light for Refinery29‘s “Hollywood’s New Power Players” list, which features seven rising stars “poised for a Hollywood takeover.”
For her Olivia Malone-photographed shoot, the Juilliard graduate is styled by Tara Williams, with makeup by Tanika McConnell.
Check photos and the interview from her feature below, and be sure to catch OITNB’s second season premiere on June 6th.
Advice she wishes she was given when she first started out:
“The one thing I would tell myself is that you don’t have to be anything for anyone. And, that it’s all right to just be who you are. When I was first starting out, I would meet people who were famous, or who I thought were influential or important, and I would feel like I had to talk a certain way or be a certain way to have them like me. But, you kind of realize as you go along that either people are going to like what you do or they’re not going to like what you do — and that’s fine! Everyone has his or her own aesthetic. And, if you’re changing yourself for every person and every situation, you can’t really find out who you are for yourself.”
Her first acting job:
“It was right after I graduated from Juilliard — I had been out for about three months, and I booked this movie called The Sitter with Jonah Hill and Method Man. It was great, but it was also really overwhelming. It was kind of a big part to be my first one. But, I had Method Man by my side, so I felt very protected!”
On whether it was an adjustment to work on such a female-dominated show:
“Well, Orange Is The New Black is definitely the biggest job I’ve had in my career, so I don’t really have a lot to compare it to. But, it’s interesting to hear a lot of other women who are on the show talk about how this set is so different from other sets, and how it’s so much better. I think this show has probably made me really spoiled, because I haven’t been on other shows’ sets, so I’m totally not able to appreciate how different this set is.”
On the show being empowering to work on:
“Oh, it’s very empowering! I think our show probably has the most women writers on staff than any other television show that’s on now. There [are] so many women on the show, and so many women who work on the show behind the scenes. And, all of these women are of different generations — it’s so wonderful to have a wide range of experiences and backgrounds. Orange feels like such a family. The girls feel like my sisters.”
On cast members she’s closest to:
“I was friends with Danielle [Brooks] before we got cast on the show, but I think the show has definitely brought us closer. Natasha Lyonne has really become one of my closest friends — and Uzo Aduba who plays Crazy Eyes. Those two have really taken me under their wing. It’s great to feel like I have people looking out for me, regardless of whether I’m on the show or not. I feel like I’m forming lifelong friendships with them.”
On what it’s like wearing a prison uniform every day:
“That was probably the easiest thing to get used to! I go to work, and I get to put on basically pajamas. And, I don’t have to worry about any vanity or anything like that. All the girls wear the exact same thing. I’ve actually really enjoyed not having to worry about wardrobe!”
As an actor, is there one genre you’re drawn to more than others? What comes more naturally to you — comedic roles or dramatic?
“My motto these days is that I don’t want to close myself off from anything. I don’t want to say, ‘Oh, this is the kind of actor I am.’ I don’t want to pigeonhole myself as just one thing. I want to be able to do high drama and high comedy. I would love to be the type of well-rounded actor that you can’t put your finger on exactly what they do, or what type of actor they are.”