Why Samira Wiley almost passed on "The Handmaid's Tale"

Samira Wiley of "The Handmaid's Tale"

Samira Wiley nearly passed on the project that would become the hit Hulu series "The Handmaid's Tale," which was just renewed for a third season. The actress, who first gained fans when she played the beloved character Poussey on Netflix's "Orange Is The New Black,"  told "CBS This Morning" it was her fear of being typecast that made her hesitate about taking on the role of Moira.

"I pride myself for being a member of the LGBT community and have brought Poussey to life for so many years, and I didn't want to get typecast as a gay actress. I wanted to be an actress," Wiley said.   

Luckily, Wiley's wife is a huge fan of Margaret Atwood, the author of the bestselling novel the series is based on. She urged her to consider the part.

"Basically she was just like, 'You need to take this one,'" Wiley recalled. "And so smartly because Poussey and Moira are two totally different characters....They're not the same thing at all and I love that, being able to show two completely three-dimensional characters."

The drama takes place in a dystopian future when a ruling fundamentalist regime has overthrown the U.S. government and treats women as property of the state. In Season 2, Wiley's character has recently escaped that regime and finds herself struggling to adjust to life as a refugee in Canada.

Moira, portrayed by Samira Wiley, in Season 2 of "The Handmaid's Tale."   George Kraychyk / HULU

"On the surface, it looks so wonderful. She's gotten access to health care, she's gotten money – things that women aren't even allowed to possess. But there's also the other side of it, which is that she is a refugee in a new country where she's never been before. She's lonely and going through a lot of depression, PTSD, from being in that horrible, horrible place," Wiley said. "We see them being broken down over and over and over again, but one thing we do see is them getting back up."

The show primarily centers on Moira's longtime friend Offred, who is played by Elisabeth Moss. It was in their real-life bond where Wiley said she found the initial inspiration for the character.

"For me, portraying this character has a lot to do with my connection with Lizzie (Elisabeth Moss)," she said. "I think I really find and have found my character through our relationship. That's how I started the character."  

The show's Emmy Award-winning first season received widespread critical acclaim with many pointing to parallel themes between the series and today's social issues. That relevance continues in the second season through Moira's experience as a refugee.

"I think for me, specifically for the story line of Moira this season, it's the refugee story…trying to make that experience authentic," Wiley said. "We suddenly have an audience, people who are listening to us….It's an incredible amount of responsibility and it feels like I need to go ahead and step up the plate."