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Orange Theory

Samira Wiley, DC native and star of Orange Is the New Black, says the show’s new season is nothing short of historic.

Actress Samira Wiley, a DC native, stars in the new season of Orange Is the New Black.

Samira Wiley considers the question of her character’s development and ultimately comes to a very John Lennonesque conclusion: It’s all about the heart. Wiley, who portrays Poussey Washington in the Netflix smash hit Orange Is the New Black, says the moral compass of Litchfield Penitentiary has evolved each season and in each episode. “Poussey is very sensitive and smart, and this season she’s discovering what she cares about,” says Wiley. “She wants to think bigger than her surroundings; she wants to be able to dream beyond Litchfield. At the end of last season, she was pretty down and sad, and she was battling alcoholism.” Wiley pauses a few beats and says with a laugh, “Actually, I’ve said all along that what she really needs is some love.”

Orange has received unbridled love from critics and viewers. The show’s three seasons have garnered numerous achievements, including a Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding performance by an Ensemble and a People’s Choice Award for favorite streaming series. Wiley, who grew up in Fort Washington, Md., and whose family still lives in the area, attended the District’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts and, upon graduation, The Juilliard School. While at Duke Ellington, Wiley attended shows at Arena Stage, Studio Theatre and The Kennedy Center, but the Shakespeare Theatre might have had the biggest impact. “I didn’t have a grasp of Shakespeare,” she says. “But seeing it [performed so well] onstage, I wanted to master it.” The 29-year-old’s skills have also landed her TV parts on Person of Interest and Law and Order: SVU, and in movies like Being Flynn.

Wiley’s Orange theory for this season is simple, despite the hype: It’s going to be one of the most influential in the history of the medium. “The issues that the writers are tackling this season are ones we haven’t seen on TV before. If you take the prison aspect out of the show, these characters are incredibly real—viewers may not see themselves, but they definitely see people they know.” Season four premiere, June 17, Netflix

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