Michael Harney, “Sam Healy” Talks Everything Orange Is the New Black

By Priscilla Liguori 9/16/2015

Orange Is the New Black is a pioneer show for streaming services. The wildly popular Netflix drama was nominated for four Emmys this year, including Outstanding Drama Series.

Michael Harney, who plays Corrections Officer Sam Healy, says, when he was casted, he wasn’t sure if the show would be successful. On the first day of shooting, his opinion quickly changed.

“I was on set and I asked to look at the frame for this particular shot.” Harney explained. “I came behind the monitor. I was like, “wow.” It was so rich.  The texture was so deep and I felt the atmosphere just by looking at the shot.  And it was in that moment I kind of had a click inside.”

While some shows have one leading star, Harney explains that OITNB is successful because of everyone involved.

“It’s really a group effort. We’re an ensemble cast.”

With a powerful series comes a powerful effect. Harney reflected on how OITNB has contributed to the discussion on prison reform.

“I just saw Obama get on TV the other night about how so many nonviolent criminals are incarcerated and he was questioning that. I’ve seen a lot of things on the press in the last couple of years. I hope that we have something to do with it.”
Harney expressed that he thinks art is an effective technique to cause change.

“My hope is that in our little way is that we could make a difference, in that way for people to make more life affirming choices when making decisions about people’s futures.”

Sam Healy is a character that viewers either love or hate, depending on the episode. Harney enjoys the multiple layers of the corrections officer he plays.

“I think that I like the fact that I’m actually portraying someone who could be considered an oppressor or somebody that is not supportive of the inmates sometimes. If we’re going to have compassion for the inmates, we also have to have compassion for the people who are working in the prisons. They have their story too. “

Harney adds, “I think when it gets down to the people at the negotiation tables, if they could really listen to each other, that’s huge.”

The actor’s personal experience volunteering at prisons affects how he portrays Mr. Healy.

“It probably gives me more of a strong foundation of compassion, the inmates inside, the incarcerated people, as Michael, and so that really blends into my role too, when I’m living though Sam.”

The fourth season of Orange Is the New Black is set to premiere in June 2016. Harney says he can’t give any spoilers away, however, “The writing is excellent. The acting work is excellent.”

If OITNB wins the Emmy for Best Drama Series, it will be the first streaming services show that has won in any Best Series category.

The show’s other Emmy nominations were Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series, Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series (Pablo Schreiber as George “Pornstache” Montez), and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Uza Aduba as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren).

The 67th Emmy Awards are Sunday, September 20, 2015 in the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.