Last year, she became the the first queer woman of colour to receive the prestigious Vito Russo Award at the GLAAD Media Awards. In September, she took home her first Emmy win as Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series for her role as Moira in The Handmaid’s Tale. And in January, Aerie announced that the actress and advocate is one of its newest #AerieREAL Role Models.
“Aerie is all about empowering women and making sure that everyone feels seen,” Samira tells Refinery29. “When I found out that they don’t retouch any of their photos, [that] was kind of a novel idea to me. I don’t think the general public understands how unattainable what we see in our magazines is sometimes.”
She explains that Aerie’s brand ethos is in line with her own set of personal values.
“It just seemed like a really natural fit,” she says. “I try to be mindful of presenting myself in an authentic way. That influences how other people who are looking up to me are able to be their authentic selves — hopefully I’m doing a little bit of that.”
With the season 3 premiere of The Handmaid’s Tale slated for June 5, Samira is busy balancing her commitments with Aerie on top of her demanding shooting schedule for the critically acclaimed Hulu series.
[Warning: Spoilers ahead.] At the end of season 2, audiences saw Moira escape to Canada where she became a refugee, leaving many viewers to wonder what might be in store for the character.
“Even though Moira has escaped to Canada, the one thing that is always on the forefront of her mind is Gilead, what she can do to help, how she can get her friends back, and how she can save the world,” Samira says. “In this season, she’s having trouble trying to figure out what she can do from the outside because it is limited. It’s going to be a pretty exciting journey to see what she does.”
Samira addresses the eerie similarities between what’s happening on The Handmaid’s Tale — a fictional show — and the reality of the current sociopolitical landscape.
“I feel like the characters, and specifically speaking for Moira, are sort of on par with where our audience is,” she explains. “They’re sick of this. They feel like it’s time to do something, time for action. And I think that’s exactly where the characters in the show are as well.”
Since Moira is no longer in her handmaid’s red dress and white bonnet, Samira hints that one of the pieces Moira wears in season 3 has special sentimental significance for the actress.
“My wife [Orange Is The New Black writer Lauren Morelli] made this hat,” she says. “I had no idea she could knit, especially like that. I was just like, ‘How did you do this?’”
Lauren even made a pom-pom specifically for the hat, which got Samira’s wheels turning.
“I said, ‘You know what this looks like? It looks like a hat Moira would wear,’” she shares. “So I got her hat in the show. It was awesome to be able to have that piece of her while I was far away from her.”