Samira Wiley says she’ll never forget her character Poussey

FILE - This June 28, 2019, photo shows Samira Wiley posing for a portrait in New York to promote the seventh season of "Orange is the New Black." Wiley has some advice for us all: “Find something that you love to do and get somebody to pay you for it.” Wiley told The Associated Press her love of acting is like an addiction, but it wasn’t until she attended Juilliard that she realized it could be a living. (Photo by Christopher Smith/Invision/AP)
265805 Pinchos- PGB promo Banner (25 x 5 cm)-5 copy

Samira Wiley has some advice for us all: “Find something that you love to do and get somebody to pay you for it.”

Before that happened to the “Orange is the New Black” co-star, before she was even accepted to The Juilliard School, there was little more than her “tortured love” of the craft. That was no deterrence, though.

“There’s this intense, intense love on my part but, like, I don’t know if it loves me back, kind of thing,” said Wiley, who spent her childhood participating in various arts programs. “I just never got any encouragement or any, really, indication at all that I was possibly talented. I just knew that I was in love with theater.”

After high school, she applied to conservatories but came up empty-handed, landing at Temple University and eventually Juilliard.

“Acting, it’s almost like this addiction,” said Wiley, who played Poussey Washington on the Netflix series that released its seventh and final season in July. “I can’t imagine my life without it.”

The show’s creative team has established a fund that will support advocacy groups pressing for criminal justice reform and women re-entering society from prison, along with those working to protect immigrants’ rights and end mass incarceration. The fund is named in honor of Wiley’s character.

After Poussey’s death under the knee of a prison guard on “Orange,” Wiley went on to win an Emmy for Moira Strand on “The Handmaid’s Tale.” But Poussey, who died in Season 4, remains a part of her.

“I think so much about Poussey’s potential. If she wasn’t in prison, who would she be? Would she be one of Samira’s peers? There are real Pousseys out there being thrown away because people think they don’t matter. Think about what we’re depriving the world of.”q