Samira Wiley went from prison to a dystopia and in the process got herself an Emmy nomination. Wiley, who starred in four seasons of Orange Is the New Black, picked up an Emmy nomination for her work in The Handmaid's Tale, Hulu's new drama that picked up 14 nominations total.
"I totally didn't realize what was going on. My agent called me. I sort of missed the beginning part. I saw that the show got nominated and that [Elisabeth Moss] got nominated and I was just so overjoyed for that," Wiley told E! News shortly after getting the nomination news. "Then my agent called me, and I was like, ‘What are you calling me for?' and he was like, ‘For you getting nominated!' Ever since that moment I have just been overjoyed and my phone has been inundated with text messages and phone calls of love and congratulations. I'm just over the moon."
After she got the news, she made some calls. "I called my wife. She was out to breakfast with a friend. She was like, 'What?!' She was definitely the first call I made and then I called my dad. So just the usual people who build me up every day and who raised me," Wiley said.
Wiley stars as Moira, a Handmaid in Gilead, the former United States of America. Gilead is plagued by a plunging birthrate and environmental disasters. Handmaids are women assigned to houses of Commanders, powerful men, with the task to have their children. Wiley turned in a gripping performance, which is why she got nominated for an Emmy, but she was also eligible for Orange Is the New Black season four, the season her character—spoiler alert!—died.
See what she had to say about her nomination, season two of Handmaid's and returning to OITNB below.
I honestly thought it'd be for Orange Is the New Black season four.
I am just so happy that I was considered for both. Ever since there has been buzz about and talk about it, I've been so grateful for that. Didn't even think it would come to this, but it's such a show that people have embraced in a way we never thought would happen. Again, I'm just overjoyed and can't even speak in complete sentences right now. [Laughs.]
Have you heard from any of your castmates from either show?
Yes. I've gotten emails and [Danielle Brooks] from Orange posted something on Instagram about it. It's been such a short amount of time from hearing the news I'm still just processing and trying to stay grounded. [Laughs.] Just remember all the work that we did and how important it was. It feels like this show is in a time that we need it and remembering all the hard work everyone did on the show. I think that nomination and nomination for the show itself is just a testament for all the hard work that went into it.
I was so excited that Moira got out and she's in Canada at the end of season one. What do you know about season two? Have you seen scripts yet?
I have not. I know we have obviously been picked up and are supposed to go back to work momentarily, but as of what I've heard for season two, I haven't really heard too much. Just we see Moira and Luke in Canada, so I'm assuming we will have a storyline there and be able to see what can happen in this new country in season two. In terms of concrete storylines, I don't know.
Do you have a favorite thing about Moira?
Oh, yeah. There are so many favorite things, but I think just the essence of who she is. She's such a badass. She's someone who I feel like I would like to aspire to some of the character traits that she has. She's someone who is going to stand up for the causes she completely believes in. We see that even in episode eight when she seems a little downtrodden and a shell of herself. We get sort of discouraged by that, but by the end of the next episode we see her return to herself. For a person to be able to do that, to return to themselves over and over again I think is exhilarating and inspiring.
What was it like returning to Orange this year?
Honestly, it was like going home. I feel so at home on that set. It is something that will never be able to be duplicated. Everyone on that set, including the producers and writers, feel like family. That job gave me my life as an actor. I would not be able to be where I am today without it. It was great to be able to go back and step into that character one more time, Poussey, who I feel so close to. I feel like she is another person from me. I miss her. To be able to do that was like a homecoming.
Who are you excited to meet at the Emmys? Your category certainly has a lot of talented people in it.
Yes. I briefly met Thandie Newton…She made such an impression on me. I will never forget the last thing she said to me was, "We will see each other again. Don't you worry about it, we'll see each other soon again." Those words sort of rung in my head this morning when I saw us being in the same category. I'm most excited about connecting with her.
Is there anything you want to add?
Well, one of the people in the category with me is one of my best friends, Uzo Aduba from Orange…Also Laverne Cox is nominated. To have people from both shows standing next to me: We've got Ann Dowd in the category, we've got Alexis Bledel in the guest category. It seems like I won't be going through this alone and that's really fun.
I was so excited to see Alexis Bledel get nominated. I feel like it was a career-defining performance because everyone knows her as Rory Gilmore and here she is with those big eyes breaking hearts.
She's so amazing in it and it's so amazing to see the world see these different parts of her. Her nomination is honestly something that I thought would happen because she is so amazing in it and I'm just so proud of her and the work that she was able to do and showcase to the world.
The Handmaid's Tale will return in 2018. The Emmys air Sunday, Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. on CBS.