Samira Wiley stars as a wife and mother in the gripping indie drama ’37.’ The film follows the shocking story of Kitty Genovese, who was murdered outside her apartment in 1964, while a reported 37 witnesses did nothing. Samira talked to HollywoodLife.com EXCLUSIVELY about her new role, her thoughts on the murder, what she’ll miss the most about ‘OITNB’ and more!
What about this role stuck out to you the most?
As an actor, I want to do a lot of different roles and different from the things people know me for. So that was the first thing that definitely attracted me to the role. The Kitty Genovese story, which I actually wasn’t familiar with before this film. Researching and figuring out the particulars of what happened that night was definitely — I felt like — a story that needed to be told. To be able to have the opportunity to not only tell that story but also working with such an amazing cast and especially Michael Potts, I just felt like I learned so much to better myself as an actor.
With your character, do you really think she ignored what was going on outside or didn’t understand what was really happening?
To be honest, I think it was a mixture of both. I don’t want to debunk the idea it was a conscious decision on their party, but they’re the first black family moving into this neighborhood. They just moved in that day. The thinking of that time in 1964, and not just the thinking but the reality for African Americans, was to be falsely blamed or accused. It was not necessarily a naive conclusion because of racial relations during that time. I think that there was definitely a lack of understanding exactly what was going on but maybe a conscious decision to turn away and not know exactly what was going on.
Do you think a situation like the Kitty Genovese murder could happen today?
Honestly, I really do think something like that is possible in happening today. I think people are so afraid of speaking up because I think there’s this notion of: “If I’m the first one to say something, then I’m going to be the first person that suspicion is cast on.”
Do you find yourself enjoying TV or film work more?
I think my job and which projects I’m taking on don’t really have to do with the medium that they are going to be presented in. I love working in theater and, of course, in film as well. I think what drives me is the role. In my training, being in school we played different characters over the course of the year and being able to learn the craft of being on camera has been fun for me because I really didn’t have that before Orange.
What is the thing you’ll miss the most about Poussey and Orange Is The New Black?
I’ve never had any experience of playing a character that long — for years. I feel like I know Poussey like the back of my hand. It’s easy and natural to be able to bring her to life. Being so familiar with a character in that way was really a privilege and something that I had never experienced. So there’s that, to be able to step into a character and know exactly who that person is. But then, I think the thing I’m going to miss the most is the family I gained from being on set. A lot of the media had talked about the cast’s friendship, which really is true. We hang out together. We enjoy each other’s company outside of set. Not having that is a real bummer. I have people who I have relationships now from that cast who will be my life for as long as I can see foreseeable future. To give that up is really, really hard.
37 is now in theaters and On Demand.
HollywoodLifers, are you going to go see 37? Was Poussey your favorite character on OITNB? Let us know!