JoJo Whilden/Netflix
June 20, 2016 at 03:45 PM EDT

Massive Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t watched Orange Is the New Black yet, do not continue reading!

Amidst a season of ever growing tension, unease, and disturbing behavior on Orange Is the New Black, the fourth season’s penultimate episode delivered a stunning tragedy. During a peace protest staged by the inmates of Litchfield Penitentiary, things escalated out of control and left one of the show’s most beloved characters dead: Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley), who rushed to the aid of Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” (Uzo Aduba) during the unrest, was killed by a guard who mistakenly suffocated her while kneeling on her back. EW caught up with Wiley just as the season, her last, was about to premiere.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you find out about Poussey fate?

SAMIRA WILEY: They came and talked to me before we started the season. So I actually knew for months before the rest of the cast did which means I had to keep it a secret from people that I work with every single day. That was hard.

RELATED: Orange is the New Black: Before They Were Stars

Were you surprised when they told you?

I was completely shocked. But at the end of the day I feel so honored to be able to be the one who is trusted to tell this story. Honestly? It’s been an honor. Jenji Kohan and [co-executive producer] Tara Herrmann came to my dressing room and told me. They talked about how beloved my character is and—the way I think about Poussey — is that she, out of anyone, has so much potential for a life outside of prison. So to so see something like this happen to her? They wanted it to hurt. To have this issue permeate our culture…some people turn a blind eye to things that go on in our prisons and in our world and Black Lives Matter and all of that. I think they’ve done a wonderful job of putting it in a TV show.

The way Poussey dies felt reminiscent of Eric Garner, who died in 2014 after being put in a police chokehold during his arrest. Was that intentional?

Yes, I think it really was. It’s the most similar — it’s an homage, in a way, of Eric Garner’s death.

What would you tell fans who are probably feeling incredibly sad right now?

I want to let them know I’m still here! [Laughs] I’m still alive, I’m still good. I’m looking forward to working in movies and I’m going to be here. I’m okay.

Jenji Kohan’s absorbing ensemble dramedy, based on Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name, takes viewers inside the walls of Litchfield, a minimum security women’s prison where nothing’s as simple as it seems—especially the inmates.
type
TV Show
seasons
6
Genre
Rating
TV-MA
run date
07/11/13
Network
Complete Coverage

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