"There's this intense, intense love on my part but, like, I don't know if it loves me back, kind of thing," said Wiley, who spent her childhood participating in various arts programs. "I just never got any encouragement or any, really, indication at all that I was possibly talented. I just knew that I was in love with theater."
After high school, she applied to conservatories but came up empty-handed, landing at Temple University and eventually Juilliard. "Acting, it's almost like this addiction," said Wiley, who played Poussey Washington on the Netflix series that released its seventh and final season in July. "I can't imagine my life without it."
The show's creative team has established a fund that will support advocacy groups pressing for criminal justice reform and women re-entering society from prison, along with those working to protect immigrants' rights and end mass incarceration. The fund is named in honor of Wiley's character.
After Poussey's death under the knee of a prison guard on "Orange," Wiley went on to win an Emmy for Moira Strand on "The Handmaid's Tale." But Poussey, who died in Season 4, remains a part of her. "I think so much about Poussey's potential. If she wasn't in prison, who would she be? Would she be one of Samira's peers? There are real Pousseys out there being thrown away because people think they don't matter. Think about what we're depriving the world of."