The Orange is the New Black star was in the Big Apple when she was told a person matching her description was accused of vandalising property, but she is convinced she was stopped because she is black.

"I was taken aback," she recalls to Haute Living magazine. "I was backing up slowly because I thought I was about to get raped, mugged, killed. My instinct was to run. I wasn't really interested in taking that encounter lying down, so to speak."

"I knew what they were saying I was responsible for couldn't be more fictitious...," she continues. "I was like, 'Someone matching my description who was wearing a bright red T-shirt that says Switzerland on the front and a yellow backpack that says Jamaica on it? Come on.' If only they had opened my backpack, they would have seen the complete works of Shakespeare in there, which I was reading for (college). I couldn't have been more (of a) theatre kiddie."

The 35-year-old subsequently ran away from the police officers and called for help.

"I remember thinking I did not want to have my dignity taken from me that day," she says. "I walked away from that situation with my life, but I was also keenly aware that this was the first time that this had ever happened to me."

Now Uzo is able to tackle many of the racial injustices she sees going on in America in her hit prison drama.

"We're watching on our show what is happening right now in our world," she continues. "We didn't shoot this yesterday; we shot it a year ago. (Show creator Jenji Kohan) is someone who knows where we are as a society and wants to address it in such a magnificent way. She's excellent in holding up mirrors to people's faces."

For the Emmy award-winning actress, that also means being able to use her character, Suzanne 'Crazy Eyes' Warren, to humanise what is going on in society.

"I try to go to a place of expression or giving voice to the people or things that I feel have no voice," she explains. "I try to reach inside the stomach of the people who are lost, the people who feel oppressed, the people who feel misunderstood and just try, to the best of my ability, to let them sing."

"That's the beauty of art," she adds. "All I ever want to do with my work is give it out, not take it in. I just want to give it away. That's the easiest way I can express myself."