[Warning: The following article contains major spoilers about Orange Is the New Black Season 4. Read at your own risk!]
Orange Is the New Black star Samira Wiley is finding the silver lining in the fact that her character, Poussey Washington, was killed off in the penultimate episode of Season 4 - a twist that Wiley had to keep under wraps for about a year. In addition to feeling "honored" that her character allowed the show to tell a story about the Black Lives Matter movement (more on that later), Wiley said she's looking forward to being able to approach the show from a different perspective.
"It's honestly sort of nice being on the other side now, not knowing [what's going to happen]," Wiley tells TVGuide.com. "I'm really anticipating being able to watch Season 5 and to live in the not-knowing place with everyone else."
TVGuide.com chatted with Wiley - who has already lined up her first post-OITNB role, on FXX's You're the Worst - about how she found out about Poussey's death, what it was like on set as she filmed her final scenes, and whether she's been able to watch the episode. Check out our full Q&A here:
TVGuide.com: How did you learn about Poussey's fate? Was there a meeting with [creator] Jenji Kohan, a phone call ... ?
Samira Wiley: There was no meeting, no phone call. My girlfriend, Lauren Morelli, is on the writing team of the show - they had a conversation and decided she would tell me, which was pretty great. [Ed. Note: Morelli wrote Episode 12, in which Poussey is killed.] I appreciated the care that they took in that.
And after I talked to her, I had a conversation with Jenji and the other executive producers, and they just explained to me about the whole Black Lives Matter [connection]. I didn't know exactly what the story was going to be, but I vaguely knew it was going to have to do with Black Lives Matter. And basically, they felt like they couldn't tell this story with anyone else. They felt like it needed to be a character that had a bright future ahead of her, a character that everyone connected to and loved and had a good moral center and was basically just a good guy. They felt that Poussey was that, so I felt pretty honored to be able to tell this story with them.
Was there any part of you that thought, "Does she actually have to die though?"
Wiley: When I first heard about it, I didn't go there. I knew that, in order for it to have the punch that it did, it needed to have some finality. I hear that from so many people - from my cast, from viewers. Like, "Why can't she just be in a coma?" But I think that's the whole point. If she was in a coma, it wouldn't pack the same punch. And it wouldn't be true to life, to what's happening out here. People are dying, and I think that that's what they're trying to reflect in the show.
Do you have any ideas or opinions about where things will go in Season 5? As a viewer, it would nice to see some vindication for Poussey's death. But on the other hand, if the show's trying to be realistic, it's probably more true to life if her death just gets swept under the rug, as we started to see in Episode 13.
Wiley: The only thing that I knew from the beginning was that Poussey was going to die. But when we got the script for Episode 13 and I saw how Caputo (Nick Sandow) was handling this ... I guess I should have known, because like I said, they're trying to be true to life, and that's what we've seen in life. But it was so shocking to me how he dealt with it, and it made me so angry. I think I'm in the same boat as you. I obviously want there to be some vindication, but I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know, but I'm excited to see. And I'm also a little scared to see.
Her death was even more heartbreaking because the whole episode showed her starting to plan for life after prison. Do you think she would have actually gone to work with Judy King (Blair Brown)?
Wiley: You know, I actually really do. I actually really do believe that. They had gotten to a place in prison where they had gone through some things with each other. I think Poussey really saw the real Judy King. They really did become friends, and Judy was fond of Poussey in a way that she actually wanted to help her.
Not only that, Poussey was good at what she was doing. She wasn't looking for a handout. She was saying, 'I'll work in a kitchen. I'll wash dishes.' I think that Judy would have been true to her word, or I hope she would have. And [that's] another reason why it's so messed up, because it looked like, wow, things are really going to work out for her. To have it happen the way it did is just so devastating.
The scene looked very taxing, physically and emotionally. Alan Aisenberg told us you wore a brace. What was the vibe on set that day, and how was it to film that day?
Wiley: Our set is one of the most fun sets you'll ever be on. There's always so much noise and dancing and singing. That day was a little different. It was pretty quiet that day on set, and everyone was very respectful of the work that we had to do.
Alan is great. He would check in with me - probably a little too much, because he was so nervous. But he would check in with me all the time to make sure I was OK. And like he told you, they made this body cast brace thing for me, so he didn't have to worry too much about actually hurting me. Because I'm pretty small. He probably would have actually hurt me. (Laughs)
But no, we worked well together, and everyone else on set - they had just found out about it, and I'd known for so, so, so long. So there was that part of it being quiet and somber. But also, when everyone else is sad, I sort of have to do the opposite. So I was running around trying to cheer people up. I was like, "Hey, it's OK, guys! It's alright!" I've been doing my grieving for months, and I was really OK with it by the time we had to do it. So I needed to let everyone else know that I was OK.
Alan also told us that, in a way, his character Bayley dies in that scene too. Would you agree with that?
Wiley: I think it's completely true. Especially that character. He's a kid. You see his back story in that episode, and he's just a kid. How can you ever be the same again? He just killed someone. I think that everything he said is completely true, and I agree with him.
Have you watched the episode yet?
Wiley: I've seen parts of it, but I haven't watched the entire episode yet. I don't think I can yet.
Do you plan to eventually?
Wiley: Yeah, I think I will eventually. I do.
Season 4 of Orange Is the New Black is available to stream on Netflix.