Samira Wiley is having a Disney princess moment.
The Orange Is the New Black alum received rejection letters from all of the acting schools she applied to over a decade ago. Last month, Wiley, now 30, earned her first Emmy nod for her role as Moira on The Handmaid’s Tale.
“I remember being so sad and downtrodden after hearing that I couldn’t even go to an arts school,” the outstanding supporting actress in a drama series nominee tells PEOPLE. “And now this Emmy thing is happening. I feel like Cinderella.”
Wiley, who ultimately graduated from Juilliard, learned of her nomination from her agent while she was in the car on the way to a photo shoot. “I couldn’t believe it!” she recalls. “I was like ‘Me? Actually me?’ ”
“We’re not both actors, which I like. There’s no competition there, but also she works in this industry so she understands it so much more,” Wiley says. “I just feel so blessed to be able to have her on my team.”
On set of Handsmaid’s, Wiley relied on her costar Elisabeth Moss. “You can only be as great as the partner that you have,” she says of the outstanding lead actress in a drama series nominee. “Elisabeth really makes me great.”
The ladies even had “little games” they’d play between takes to lighten the mood of the show’s heavy dystopian material.
“I keep talking about this cookie tray that comes out that me and Elisabeth are obsessed with,” the Los Angeles-based star continues. “We also have a little bet going on of what exact time we might finish that day.”
As for what fans can expect from The Handmaid’s Tale season 2, Wiley admits, “I do not know much.”
“The last thing that we saw was Moira overwhelmed from getting her health insurance card, all the money she got from the nation, and we’ll be able to pick up there and see what their journey is like,” the actress explains of Luke (O-T Fagbenle) and Moira’s futures in Canada. “And hopefully see — this is just my speculation — how they’re going to get the rest of their family back.”
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Viewers will, however, get to see where the “unwomen” get sent when the series based on Margaret Awtwood’s novel returns. “We’ve sort of had to imagine what this place is and in season 2 we’re really going to see what that place is,” Wiley says. “We’re going to go there, see the women who live there, what their life is like, what’s their day-to-day.”
Until the series comes back in 2018, Wiley will take on costar Ann Dowd, OITNBs Uzo Aduba, Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown, This is Us’ Chrissy Metz, and Westworld’s Thandie Newtown at the Sept. 17 Emmys.
“How would I celebrate? Oh man. I’d probably faint,” teases Wiley. “That’d be how I celebrate. People would think I’m super excited, but I’m just fainting.”
The 69th Primetime Emmy Awards, hosted by Stephen Colbert, will air live on CBS from the Microsoft Theater in L.A. on Sept. 17.