You know that moment Danielle Brooks broke your heart in Orange Is the New Black season four? Yeah, we're talking about that moment. Spoiler alert!
Brooks, Taystee Jefferson on the Netflix series, was pulling double duty while shooting the new season, she was living her on-screen prison life while working on the Broadway stage production of The Color Purple. She followed the moment when Taystee crumbled to the floor after seeing her dear friend Poussey (Samira Wiley) dead on the ground by going right to work on stage. But it wasn't just an easy moment to roll off her back. Brooks and Wiley go back to 2007 when Wiley helped Brooks move into her dorm room at Juilliard. The two stayed close since then.
"I don't know if it would've been the same performance if it was anyone else that day other than Samira playing Poussey because of how close we are as friends," Brooks told E! News.
Read on for more about their bond and how Taystee will forever be changed by the events of the final two episodes of season four.
I spoke with Samira earlier today and she said, this is a direct quote: "I haven't really experienced anything like the chemistry Danielle and I have on screen and the journey we've been able to take together. It's something really, really special." Can you expand on your chemistry and bond?
Sure, I don't know if many people know this: Samira and I went to Juilliard together, but Samira also helped me move into the dorms when I was a student my first year of college. I actually helped her with her audition. I had booked [OITNB] first and she had gotten for the second episode. She was like, ‘Why not read for the real Taystee?' We've been friends since 2007. We've seen each other grow. We've been in plays together, so we're very close. I don't know if it would've been the same performance if it was anyone else that day other than Samira playing Poussey because of how close we are as friends. I don't know, the release of it all is the fact that at the end of the day I got to still embrace Samira and feel her heartbeat on my chest after we finished that scene. I got to hug her and know that we're playing pretend and she's still alive…The reality is that there are so many people that don't get to do that, that are dealing with grief and that are dealing with the loss of their sister and their brother or their child or their mother and father. That's the reality for a lot of people, especially with our country.
It's been quite an emotional journey this whole time because I'm very passionate about these issues, like Black Lives Matter issues, Say Her Name and stuff. I'm not at all trying to be a politician [Laughs.] by any means, but I'm really grateful that we get to tell stories that aren't just entertaining, but are educating people about what's going on and shedding light on these issues. People are so invested in Poussey and Taystee, you're so invested in who they are, but I feel as a country we really need to start investing in people we may not know as well. I think that's the beauty of the show I'm on, is the fact that we have all these flashbacks and you get to really know who these women are. You start to think, ‘Damn. Well, s—t maybe I would've been an inmate too,' once you start to think about some of the things they did. I just wish that sometimes we would apply that to the world we live in and not be so quick to judge people, not be so quick to shoot, not be so quick to put somebody in a headlock for selling cigarettes or whatever that was. I just wish that we would show more love, that's why I'm glad to be part of a show like this.
It is definitely creating a lot of conversation and like you said most people don't know people in prison or friends who have experienced this.
Yeah, there's probably some little boy in Wyoming who ain't ever heard of no Black Lives Matter. Some girl in the middle of Hooha [Laughs.], sorry, who doesn't have a black friend. You know what I mean? But they had Poussey and now they know with social media by following Samira, following myself and Uzo, you start to learn more about the world that we live in. I'm glad to be in a show that's not just a fluff show and not just focusing on who's Piper hooking up with today and what joke did Taystee tell that's so funny. There's a place for that too, but right now, in the world that we're living in, I'm really just grateful that I'm in a show that's talking about real issues. You know what I mean? So yeah, that's how I feel.
This season we saw Taystee got a little taste of power as Caputo's assistant, how were those scenes with Nick Sandow? It seems like you were having a ton of fun.
Nick Sandow, he is such a great actor. He's so much fun to work with. It was so much fun to play his new assistance, even to show both sides, the comedy and the drama. Such a great arc for Taystee this season, but to work with Nick, one of the best scene partners. I love that the show plays off that, people you wouldn't normally pair together get to work together and come into each other's worlds a little bit. It was so much fun because Taystee's the type of person—she's very intelligent, but if you don't keep her busy, she's going to find something to get into. She gets bored really quickly, that's what you see happening with her trying to make money off of Judy King and getting a photo, being bored, looking at YouTube videos. She needs to be stimulated; her mind needs to be stimulated or she's just going to get into whatever she can until something real happens.
It's been quite a journey for her, even from season one ‘til now. Being somebody who was the light and the joy of the prison, who liked being there because she did have a forever family, and now losing both Vee and Poussey, and then the death of Poussey having no justice, she's ready for war. You're going to get a very different Taystee than the Taystee you met in the shower, season one, episode one, talking about TV titties. It's definitely going to be a different Taystee from here on out.
You mentioned Taystee getting on the computer, so what would you Google if you didn't have access to a computer for so long?
Me, Danielle? If I didn't have a computer for a very long time, the first thing I would look up is probably clothes. I would shop.
Orange Is the New Black season four is now on Netflix.