Samira Wiley is trading in a prison cell for a therapist’s office – and, it seems, a café?
Wiley joins You’re the Worst for five episodes of its upcoming third season as Justina, a therapist who tries to help Gretchen (Aya Cash) with her crippling depression. EW has an exclusive first look, above, of her character in action on the FXX comedy, returning Aug. 31. Plus, the Orange Is the New Black alum gives EW the scoop on her first post-Poussey role.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did this role come about? Were you a fan of You’re the Worst before taking the part?
SARIMA WILEY: The creator of the show, Stephen Falk, I’d worked with him before on Orange Is the New Black. He actually wrote the episode that was [Poussey’s] backstory, so we got to work pretty closely together. And I am a big fan of [You’re the Worst]; I think it’s such smart television. So he had this character that’s gonna be part of this season, and he thought of me for the role.
What can you tell us about your character Justina, Gretchen’s new therapist?
Justina is a very new and young professional. She hasn’t been doing this for that long, and she really values professionalism. Gretchen is very difficult, so she comes in and challenges Justina’s textbook, follow-the-rules way of being a therapist. And Gretchen, as people often do, makes her have to adjust to a different way of seeing things.
What’s her relationship with Gretchen like?
The relationship with Gretchen definitely starts out as a professional one. And Justina is trying to desperately have it remain a professional relationship. But there are some funny things that happen in some of the episodes in terms of how Gretchen pushes the boundaries.
Do we learn a little more about Justina, beyond her relationship with Gretchen?
We get to see some teasers, not too much. We do get to see some of Justina outside of the office. [As teased in the photo above.]
What was it like stepping on set for the first time and interacting with the cast?
Orange really felt like my home set. So I sort of felt like the new kid in school, being on a different set. My experience was made so much better by everyone on set. Those actors are so warm and welcoming, genuinely excited for me to be there, and I felt excited to be there. Honestly, the best thing on set was – I’m a really big fan of Aya Cash (Gretchen). She’s such an amazing talent, and most of Justina’s scenes are with Gretchen. So just being able to be across from her and seeing her work was inspiring and such a memorable part of the experience.
Both You’re the Worst and Orange Is the New Black blur the lines between comedy and drama, with You’re the Worst now tackling depression in Gretchen’s storyline. Are you especially interested in projects that balance comedy and drama so well?
It’s something I love to be a part of. The way that You’re the Worst has dealt with real issues of depression in the second season, I think, was so bold and daring. It’s really like life, you know? We laugh through our tears – there are moments of sorrow followed immediately by laughter. So I think it’s probably the truest reflection of how we live. I think that’s why I gravitate toward that.
How do you feel about the fan reaction surrounding Poussey’s death in Orange is the New Black?
It’s been so many different things. There are people who are so upset; there are people who are so confused or angry; there are people who don’t really understand the separation of the character and me. I see so many comments online of, like, “Is she alive?” [Laughs.] So one thing I would love for fans to know is that not only am I alive, I’m okay and I’m doing great. I’m honored to be apart of a story that has such a powerful impact.
Is there anything you can tease about your new Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale?
We haven’t started [filming] or anything yet. I’m anticipating the first day on set, and I am so happy to be apart of this. This show is gonna be very timely, in terms of what’s going on in America right now. My goal is to try to have a repertoire, as an actor, playing roles that are different from the last one. And this one’s very different from Poussey, so I’m excited to show the world that character.
You’re the Worst returns to FXX on Aug. 31 at 10 p.m. ET.