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Embracing Self-Love Through Poussey: Samira Wiley’s Journey on “OITNB”

Over 10 years have passed since then [laughs]. To be completely honest, during that period, I was a struggling actor in New York, juggling auditions while working as a bartender. Back then, Netflix was primarily known for its DVD rental service. I wish I could say that I carefully analyzed the script and recognized the character’s potential impact, but truthfully, I was just in need of work at that time.

I strongly believe that there was a destined path for me, and Poussey was a significant part of that journey. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have portrayed that character. The influence she had, not only on the global audience of the show but also on a personal level for me, is profound. Poussey truly transformed me as an individual. Her admirable qualities, particularly her loyalty as a friend, have left a lasting impression on me, shaping how I navigate my own life.

Having Poussey in my life has irreversibly changed me — she not only impacted my career but also played a role in me finding love and starting a family. It’s every actor’s aspiration to embody a character like her on a show as impactful as Orange Is the New Black. I am simply grateful that I stumbled into this opportunity.

In a previous interview, you mentioned, “I think falling in love with Poussey, which is a real thing that happened to me, helped me fall in love with myself.” Could you elaborate on what that experience meant to you?

When I first landed the role, I was not publicly out as an actor. This fact is not widely known. Many people assume I was always open about my identity, but back then, before fame found me, I was grappling with questions like whether I could bring my best friend to events. As I started gaining visibility, various voices weighed in on the implications of being open about my identity for my career and personal life.

I had to come to terms with the realization that my responsibility extended beyond acting; it encompassed utilizing my platform authentically. It would have been a missed opportunity not to embrace my true self and let that authenticity resonate with others. Through portraying Poussey, a character comfortable in her own skin, I began to see the radiance within myself. I learned to embrace and love myself, disregarding external influences that once clouded my path.