SPOILER ALERT: This article contains Orange is the New Black Season 4 spoilers!
Samira Wiley, who played fan-favourite Poussey Washington on the prison drama Orange is the New Black, wants you know one thing, “Samira is alive!”
Since her character’s shocking death near the end of the fourth season her fans have been leaving strange messages on social media for her.
“I get a lot of comments on social media when I tweet something or I post a picture,” she says. “People are like, ‘I’m really happy you’re posting so I know you’re alive.’ Yes, I am. I haven’t gone anywhere.”
The Juilliard-trained actress appeared in fifty episodes of the acclaimed Netflix series, bringing Poussey to vivid life. Dealing marijuana earned the character a stretch at Litchfield Penitentiary— “We all in here because we took a wrong turn going to church,” Poussey joked—where she was an outspoken, and caring woman who stood by her convictions.
“Poussey is really like an ideal person,” says Wiley. “I’ve said this before, she is such a great friend and a great person sometimes when I don’t know what to do or want to be better in a certain situation I think, ‘What would Poussey do?’ She had a great heart. A great moral center and a great smile. She is someone that you look up to.
“I feel so, so honoured and privileged to give her life and to give people the strong feelings they have about her.”
Based on Piper Kerman’s memoir about her experiences in a women’s prison, the series has been a commercial hit and critical success for its candid depictions of race, sexuality and gender.
“I think the show in general has ushered in a new era of television,” says the actress who will next be seen on the comedy series You’re the Worst. “Orange is the New Black shows you different kinds of women, different shapes of women, different backgrounds of people. The barriers are less and in some ways, invisible because that is you, or your mom or your sister. I feel really proud to be part of the television show that started that.
“With season four I think we really amped it up a notch in terms of reflecting not only the people we see everyday but the issues we deal with everyday, specifically Black Lives Matter. We’re showing some responsibility as artists, as creators of this television show, because we need to reflect what is going on in our time. That is our responsibility.”
As Wiley’s former cast mates gear up to begin shooting season five of OITNB, she says she’s not up to date on the storyline.
“I think it might be too difficult for me to binge,” she says. “I don’t anticipate it. After most seasons, especially the third season I definitely binge watched immediately. I thought I would be able to do that this time but I have only watched about half this season.”
She stopped before Poussey is accidentally suffocated during a demonstration in the prison cafeteria.
“I haven’t watched it yet. In way I feel like actually watching it will be me really saying goodbye and I am not ready for that yet. I can’t do that yet.”