You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Samira Wiley on How ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Helps Her ‘Embrace Every Single Part of Me’

Former “Orange Is the New Black” star Samira Wiley wasn’t initially sold on playing Moira in
“The Handmaid’s Tale.” “I had just come off playing another lesbian character for the past four years, so I didn’t want to get pigeon-holed,” says Wiley. Her wife — a Margaret Atwood fan — urged her to take the role, which would land her an Emmy nom. Clothes are crucial to the show — “These colors are talking without even having a script!” she notes — and she’s exploring their significance in her own life. “I’m learning that it’s OK if people can’t figure out which box I fit into,” says Wiley, who can feel fully herself on a red carpet or at home in sweatpants. “I’m learning to embrace every single part of me.”

The first year “Orange is the New Black” racked up Emmy nominations — including ones for casting, writing, directing, and comedy series — Wiley was pretty new to fashion. She was also most eager to abandon prison attire. “It’s hard to not be aware of the fact that we’re in the same exact clothes every single day, and wanting people to see me as being able to play different things,” she says. Her stylist Sam Spector encouraged her to try this Christian Siriano dress from the back of a rack, and Wiley obliged, only to find it was “awesome.” The other thing she wore to her first Emmy awards? “A big smile on my face the entire time,” she says.

Wiley credits the Netflix show, a best drama series nominee in year two, for giving her “a family of sisters” and instant fame. “It was really one of the first shows that was in this binge-watching format. And so people were sitting on their couches, just watching us, hour after hour, and they got pretty close to us,” says Wiley, who began being recognized days after the show’s debut. She felt a little more confident this second Emmy year, and considers the fuchsia Jill Stuart look her favorite. “I think I had like two outfits up until the last second, and I finally just picked that one and it ended up being perfect.” The news media overwhelmingly seemed to agree.

An Emmy nomination for her work on “The Handmaid’s Tale” “was the furthest thing from my mind,” Wiley. Siriano was less shocked: “He had already sent over to my stylist maybe 10 sketches,” she recalls. The custom end product was “pink and bright and pretty girly,” and she modeled her hair after Whitney Houston’s first album cover. Wiley, who was rooting for co-star Ann Dowd to take their supporting actress category, doesn’t need an award to recognize Moira’s impact. “Since there has been a shift in our leadership in the country, I have felt a little more emboldened to be more outspoken in terms of what my own beliefs are, and I think that comes from Moira’s openness.”

More TV

  • TV Roundup: Netflix Sets 'Tidying Up

    TV News Roundup: Steven Yeun Joins 'Twilight Zone' at CBS All Access

    In Wednesday’s roundup, Netflix reveals the premiere date for “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” and Steven Yeun joins Jordan Peele’s “Twilight Zone” reboot. FIRST LOOKS  Related Rachel Brosnahan on Emmy Win and 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Season 2 Writers Guild Awards Announces 2019 TV Nominees Variety has an exclusive behind-the-scenes first look at Season 2 of Showtime’s “SMILF,” [...]

  • Charlie Rose Sexual Harassment

    CBS News Settles Suit Alleging Harassment by Charlie Rose

    CBS News settled a lawsuit filed by three women who alleged they were harassed by former “CBS This Morning” co-anchor Charlie Rose, and claimed CBS did not act despite being aware of the situation. The amount awarded to the women was not disclosed at their request, according to a CBS News spokesperson. “The matter has [...]

  • 'Liga' Kicks Off At Ventana Sur's

    Ventana Sur: 'La Liga' Kicks Off at Buenos Aires' Animation!

    Spain’s Quirino Awards, Argentina’s Animation! and Mexico’s Pixelatl Festival, three key events in Ibero-American animation, will join forces to create La Liga (The League), as announced Wednesday at an Animation! round table hosted by the Quirino Awards, titled “Iberoamerican Alliance Models.” Speakers included Quirino Awards promoter José Luis Farias, Mexico’s Pixelatl director José Iñesta, Gonzalo [...]

  • Netflix - Marvel's The Defenders

    Don't Expect 'The Defenders' on Disney Streaming Service Any Time Soon (EXCLUSIVE)

    Fans of the Marvel Television series recently canceled by Netflix who hope to see the shows revived on Disney+ may be out of luck. Sources tell Variety that the deal for the original four Marvel shows includes a clause that prevents the characters from appearing in any non-Netflix series or film for at least two years after [...]

  • One Dollar CBS All Access

    'One Dollar' Canceled by CBS All Access After One Season

    “One Dollar” has the ignominious distinction of being the first CBS All Access original series to be canceled. Variety has confirmed that the streaming service will not be bringing the drama series back for a second season. The series was set in a small rust belt town in post-recession America, where a one-dollar bill changing [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content