Handmaid’s Tale star Samira Wiley says she was outed by one of her Orange is the New Black castmates.
In a profile in The Guardian, the Emmy-winner, who is set to star in the National Theatre’s revival of Pearl Cleage’s play Blues for an Alabama Sky, revealed that while she had already come out to her parents when she was 20, she didn’t have the opportunity to come out to the public on her own terms after rising to fame in the Netflix series.
“I definitely did specifically not talk about it for a while, but people just assumed I was gay,” she said.
She said that an unnamed Orange is the New Black co-star outted her in an interview.
“I just burst into tears,” Wiley recalled. “My publicist got it off the internet in 30 minutes, but what’s 30 minutes on the internet? A lifetime. Obviously, no one cared. Everyone already assumed it.”
“It was mine. It’s not yours to give someone,” she said of her reaction. “I felt like they took something from me.”
Wiley, who has been married to TV writer Lauren Morelli since 2017, also discussed her initial reticence to continue playing queer characters after her departure from Orange is the New Black, in which she played Poussey, an out inmate in the show’s fictional women’s prison.
“I was like, we’ve seen me do this, I know I can do this, I want to do something else.”
But, she says, Morelli convinced her to take the role of Moira, an out lesbian activist, in Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
“When I think about it now, it’s a little naive to say, I don’t want to play gay, because that’s the heteronormative idea that we’re all the same,” she explained. “Moira is a completely different, fully realized person to Poussey. For me, how powerful is it, to have a Black gay woman portray an actual Black gay woman on TV? I wouldn’t have been able to see that ever, when I was a kid.”
Now, Wiley says she’s enthusiastic about playing characters how represent marginalized communities.
“I don’t think there’s any other choice for me, at this point. Like, I’m part of every single marginalized community. I’m Black, I’m gay, I’m a woman,” she said. “My country hates me! So, I do feel like it’s my responsibility, or it’s one that I’ve definitely accepted, to be a voice for all of my different communities.”