Samira Denise Wiley
April 15, 1987
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Juilliard School (BFA)
|Relatives||Asante Blackk (nephew)|
Samira Denise Wiley (born April 15, 1987) is an American actress. She is best known for her starring role as Poussey Washington in the Netflix comedy-drama series Orange Is the New Black (2013–2019) and as Moira in the Hulu dystopian drama series The Handmaid's Tale (2017–present), for which she won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.
Wiley was raised in Washington, D.C. Her parents, Christine and Dennis W. Wiley, were the co-pastors of Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ until 2017. Wiley's parents have been referred to as "pillars of the LGBT religious community," as the Covenant Baptist Church was the only Baptist church in D.C. performing same-sex unions in 2007. She has two siblings: Aiyana Ma'at and Joshua Wiley.
Wiley attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., and the Juilliard School in New York City, graduating in 2010. At Juilliard, she trained in theater performance and worked mainly in theater in her early career.
When the Netflix television series Orange Is the New Black —based on Piper Kerman's memoir of the same name— came into development, Wiley was told about the auditions by a friend from Juilliard, Marco Ramirez, who was a writer for the show. After discovering that another Juilliard friend, Danielle Brooks, had won a role in the show, Wiley asked Brooks to rehearse lines with her to prepare for her audition for the role of Poussey Washington, the on-screen best friend of Brooks' character. Wiley's audition was ultimately successful; she appeared in all twelve episodes of the series' first season and was featured prominently throughout the second season. The darker and more violent plot of the second season allowed for the growth of Wiley's character, whose evolved story lines led to Wiley's prolonged screen exposure and ultimate development as a "fan-favorite." She was promoted to series regular for the third season. The fourth season revolves heavily around her character, leading up to the reactions within the prison upon Poussey's death at the hands of a prison officer. Wiley's wife, Lauren Morelli, is a writer on the show.
In between seasons of Orange Is the New Black, Wiley filmed Rob the Mob (2014), an independent crime film directed by Raymond De Felitta. She appeared in an advertisement for the digital monetary service PayPal in 2014. In 2015, Wiley featured in the 21st episode of the 16th season of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, "Perverted Justice", portraying a young adult wishing to recant her rape accusation of her father when she was 6 years old, and set him free. In December 2015, it was announced Wiley had been cast to voice the titular character in the video game The Walking Dead: Michonne. The game was released by Telltale Games in February 2016. In 2017, she narrated one of two versions of Max Brooks' book, Minecraft: The Island: A Novel. Wiley also starred in a film called 37 (2016), a true story of thirty-seven people who witness a murder and none call the police or intervene. In 2016, she starred in a new play by Quiara Alegría Hudes called Daphne's Dive.
She competed against New Black co-star Laverne Cox in an episode of Spike's Lip Sync Battle. With performances of "Un-Break My Heart" by Toni Braxton and "O.P.P." by Naughty by Nature, Wiley emerged victorious.
Wiley was featured in Maniac Magazine, appearing on the cover and in an editorial of the 2014 September/October issue displaying "a series of bold, chic, high fashion looks." She was also featured on the cover of 2014 edition of Out magazine, along with Sam Smith, Elliot Page, and Zachary Quinto.
In 2014, Wiley was named Out magazine's Ingenue of the Year. In February 2015, she was awarded the Human Rights Campaign's Visibility Award. According to the Human Rights Campaign's website, Wiley was always accepted and embraced by her parents, regardless of her sexuality, and to this she attributes her success.
In 2017, Wiley received an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her role in the Hulu series The Handmaid's Tale, going on to win Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series the following year.
On October 4, 2016, Wiley announced her engagement to Orange Is the New Black writer Lauren Morelli and they married on March 25, 2017. Morelli gave birth to their first child, a daughter named George Elizabeth, on April 11, 2021.
|2014||Rob the Mob||Agent Annie Bell|
|2021||Breaking News in Yuba County||Jonelle|
|TBA||Untitled Lila Neugebauer project||Post-production|
|2012||Person of Interest||Triage Nurse||Episode: "Many Happy Returns"|
|2013–17, 2019||Orange Is the New Black||Poussey Washington||Main role (seasons 3–4); recurring (seasons 1–2); guest (seasons 5, 7); 51 episodes|
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series (2015–17)
|2015||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Michelle||Episode: "Perverted Justice"|
|2016||The Catch||Captain Nia Brooks||Episode: "The Benefactor"|
|Lip Sync Battle||Herself||Episode: "Samira Wiley vs. Laverne Cox"|
|2016–19||You're the Worst||Justina Jordan||6 episodes|
|2017–present||The Handmaid's Tale||Moira Strand||27 episodes|
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (2018)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (2017, 2020–21)
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
|2017||Last Week Tonight With John Oliver||Forensic Scientist||Episode: "Forensic Evidence" (CSI: Crime Scene Idiot skit)|
|2017–19||Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television||Jessica Mathers||10 episodes|
|2019||Drunk History||Bessie Coleman||Episode: "Trailblazers"|
|Love, Death & Robots||Lieutenant Colby (voice)||Episode: "Lucky 13"|
|Will & Grace||Nikki||3 episodes|
|2020||Night on Earth||Narrator||6 episodes|
|Equal||Lorraine Hansberry||Episode: "Black is Beautiful, Gay is Good!"|
|2021||Blade Runner: Black Lotus||Alani Davis (voice)|
|2016||The Walking Dead: Michonne||Michonne||Nominated—BTVA Video Game Voice Acting Award for Best Female Lead Vocal Performance in a Video Game|
- Ahearn, Victoria (July 5, 2016). "'Orange is the New Black' star Samira Wiley on how Black Lives Matter inspired Poussey Washington". Toronto Star. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
- Berlin, Mike (November 11, 2014). "Out100: OITNB's Samira Wiley, Ingenue Of The Year". Out. Archived from the original on February 15, 2017. Retrieved April 2, 2015.
- Wiley, Samira [@samirawiley] (September 18, 2014). "Lol, that is Aiyana Ma'at. She's my sister" (Tweet). Archived from the original on August 6, 2017. Retrieved August 6, 2017 – via Twitter.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
- Wiley, Josh [@imjusjoshin] (May 6, 2015). "Watch my sister @samirawiley on Law & Order SVU tonight!" (Tweet). Archived from the original on August 6, 2017. Retrieved August 6, 2017 – via Twitter.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
- "Wiley, Doris W." The Washington Post. July 5, 2009. Archived from the original on August 6, 2017. Retrieved August 6, 2017 – via Legacy.com.
Also survived by three grandchildren, Aiyana Ma'at, Samira Wiley and Joshua Wiley...
- Wiley in "Exclusive Interview: Samira Wiley on Orange is the New Black". Voice.Fan.TV. December 27, 2013. Archived from the original on September 15, 2014.
I went to a performing arts school for high school and went to Juilliard. ... I went to Duke Ellington School of the Arts in D.C.
- Abdulhamid, Yassmeen (September 2013). "Fame Is the New Reality for 'Orange' Actress". The Juilliard School. Retrieved April 25, 2014.
- Martin, Rebecca (July 29, 2013). "Orange Is the New Black's Samira Wiley on Playing Poussey and Tweets From Regina King—Exclusive!". Wetpaint. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
- Morales, Wilson (October 22, 2013). "Exclusive: Catching Up With Orange is the New Black's Samira Wiley". Blackfilm.com. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
- Brantley, Ben (October 31, 2011). "O, That Rowdy Passage From Celibate to Celebrate". The New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
- Fitzpatrick, Kevin. "'Orange Is the New Black' Interview: Samira Wiley Talks Taystee-Poussey, Netflix Model and Season 2". ScreenCrush. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
- Breger, Esther (July 1, 2014). "Interview: Orange Is The New Black's Poussey on Playing the Season's Tragic Heroine". NewRepublic. Retrieved April 2, 2015.
- Rowles, Dustin (July 8, 2014). "Everything You Need to Know About Samira Wiley, The Extraordinary Poussey on 'Orange is the New Black". Pajiba. Retrieved January 10, 2015.
- Kay, Ariel (August 25, 2014). "Bustle". Bustle. Retrieved April 7, 2015.
- "'Walking Dead' Just Cast An 'OITNB' Actress As Michonne". MTV News. Retrieved December 31, 2015.
- "Let Jack Black and Samira Wiley transport you to Minecraft: The Island". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 17, 2017.
- "Daphne's Dive - Off-Broadway | Cast". Broadway.com. Retrieved December 31, 2018.
- Garner, Glenn (October 27, 2016). "Laverne Cox & Samira Wiley Slay on Lip Sync Battle". Out. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
- "Samira Wiley Rocks High Fashion Looks For Maniac Magazine. Images by April Hubal". SUPERSELECTED Black Fashion Magazine Black Models Black Contemporary Artists Art Black Musicians. October 31, 2014. Retrieved April 2, 2015.
- Miller, Hayley (February 25, 2015). "Human Rights Campaign". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved April 2, 2015.[permanent dead link]
- "Big Little Lies, The Handmaid's Tale Lead the 2017 Emmy Winners". Vulture. September 17, 2017. Retrieved September 18, 2017.
- "OUT100: Samira Wiley, Actress". Out. November 8, 2017. Retrieved November 9, 2017.
- Macatee, Rebecca (October 4, 2016). "Samira Wiley Is Engaged To Lauren Morelli". E! News. Archived from the original on October 27, 2016. Retrieved October 6, 2016.
- Savada, Shira (March 23, 2017). "Exclusive: Samira Wiley and Lauren Morelli Are Married!". Martha Stewart Weddings. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
- "Samira Wiley and Lauren Morelli welcome a baby together". CNN. May 10, 2021.