If you haven’t caught Netflix’s original drama Orange Is the New Black yet, we’re sorry to say, but you’re missing out. The prison dramedy follows a colorful bunch of women behind bars, surviving by their wits. A heartwarming friendship between two of the show’s outspoken characters, Taystee and Poussey—played by Danielle Brooks and Samira Wiley—will have you in stitches and in tears. Brooks and Wiley happen to be friends off-camera. They spoke with us during an off day in New York City.
ESSENCE: You two play friends Taystee and Poussey on the show. So awesome finding out you’re also friends in real life.
DANIELLE BROOKS: We went to Julliard together. Samira attended a year ahead of me but we were friends before. We’ve been friends for about six years.
ESSENCE: So how do two friends and up playing two friends on the hottest show on TV?
DANIELLE: It’s fate. It’s very easy to work with Samira and the chemistry is amazing and we don’t have to work so hard. We speak a similar language because we both went to the same program.
SAMIRA WILEY: We didn’t have to break through any weirdness in the beginning when we started working on the show because we had already broken through that years before so I could easily just be like, ‘Hey Danielle when you do this it’s not helpful or when you do this it’s really helpful’ and not worry about her thinking I’m anything other than just trying to move the project along.
ESSENCE: Is your relationship in real life anything like the relationship you have on the show? Is Danielle the loopy one like Taystee and Samira the more grounded one, like Poussey?
DANIELLE: I think Samira is very tell you how it is. She keeps it real with you and I think that’s the similarity between her Poussey. She does that with me.
SAMIRA: In the same way, I’m so attracted to Danielle and Taystee both and their light. Like you see that person and they’re glowing or shining because there’s something about them. Danielle has such an amazing spirit and light. I’m so happy she’s able to bring that to Taystee.
ESSENCE: Where would you like to see the characters going next season?
SAMIRA: For me I don’t really have a particular choice or preference for where our storyline goes, I just want to make sure we delve deeper into finding out exactly who they are and getting into their back stories. I kind of trust the writers that we have on our show. I think they’re amazing and they probably have much better ideas than I could ever come up with.
ESSENCE: Danielle you’ve said you really wanted to stay away from the stereotyping of Black women on the show. Then I read something in The Daily Beast’s Allison Samuels felt like it may have been doing just that. What are your thoughts on that?
DANIELLE: She didn’t watch [the show] at all. That’s the problem. That’s exactly what stereotypes are. What she was doing, just saying this is what it is without delving into it and really seeing what it was, is disappointing to me because if she would have watched the show, she would have seen that it isn’t stereotypical. It wasn’t that and so it disappointed me that she wrote that article and said that we were playing stereotypes. Also, there are truths in stereotypes. They wouldn’t exist if there weren’t but I think the important part about it is to go beyond that.
ESSENCE: What’s the best part about the sudden fame?
SAMIRA: I think for me the best part is that we’re not going through it alone. Having Danielle and all these great women on the show who are not big stars before this and have done mainly theater work and are just working actors in New York. Being able to have this big community where we can sit down and have brunch together and talk about the changes that are happening in our lives and have a support system within our cast. That really is what’s the most amazing part.
DANIELLE: It blew my mind too. All of this is happening and the response has been amazing. I think the most exciting part is being acknowledged for your work because we work really hard and we trained for this.
ESSENCE: Will we find out next season why in the world Taystee ended up back in jail?
DANIELLE: I don’t know sister. I wish I knew.
ESSENCE: Your show has us binge-watching Netflix for like 10 hours straight. Do you ever do that?
SAMIRA: I love House of Cards and I watched a season in less than a week once. I did a play with Reg E. Cathey who stars in House of Cards and I went to school with the guy who writes and created it for television. So there were a lot of people that I know so it was super appealing but also that show is just amazing. I think Robin Wright did an amazing job. Plus, Kevin Spacey also went to Julliard.
DANIELLE: There are international films on there that I love. I’m definitely a fan of House of Cards, I can’t wait for season two of that.
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