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Jessica Williams: 'This is my ancestors' dream'




Jessica Williams in
Jessica Williams in "The Incredible Jessica James."
Beachside Films

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UPDATE: Jessica Williams' film debut, "The Incredible Jessica James," drops on Netflix on July 28.

Jessica Williams is only 26 and she's living the dream. Hers and her ancestors.

She first came on the scene as a correspondent on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Now she's co-host of “2 Dope Queens,” a hugely popular podcast and live show with Phoebe Robinson. This summer, she makes her debut as the lead of a feature film in the Netflix movie, “The Incredible Jessica James." She is also an executive producer on that movie, which also features Lakeith Stanfield and Chris O'Dowd.

Williams met with The Frame's John Horn at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year when "The Incredible Jessica James" had its premiere. They discussed her career, identity, and what she wants to do with the creative power and platform that she has.

You can hear their conversation by clicking the play button on this page.  

Interview Highlights:

On her success as a black actress:

This is my ancestors' dream, is me — and the people that come after me, [Because of] the black women and the black people that died before me, I get to choose what I want to do and I think that really does speak to how far we've come and what everybody's done to fight for our freedoms. I know that makes it seem a lot grander, but there was a time where people that looked like me weren't able to choose what they wanted to do. I do feel really blessed and honored to be able to choose and to be able to say no. 

On how she wanted her "Jessica James" character portrayed:

I wanted to make sure that Jessica came across as confident, but with insecurity. I think people have a lot of layers. I know I do in particular. I just wanted to make sure that there was a female-driven movie where she wasn't a slave to romance and she wasn't a slave to one thing. I wanted to make sure that she was complicated and dynamic and just a force to be reckoned with, because those are my friends and those are the women that I know and those are the women that raised me. So just wanted to show that in a young, millennial way in Jessica James.

Jessica Williams stars in
Jessica Williams stars in "The Incredible Jessica James," her second collaboration with director Jim Strouse.
Larry Busacca/Getty Images

On co-creating the podcast, "2 Dope Queens":

"2 Dope Queens" is very interesting because Phoebe [Robinson] is a really amazing standup [comedian]. She's also a woman of color. So we are two women of color that host this live standup show in Brooklyn. We do it two times a month. We wanted to make sure that with our show, we gave people of color, we gave women and we gave members of the LGBT community opportunities to do storytelling, standup or music, because often times in comedy and in the industry in general, a lot of white voices are brought to the forefront and showcased because that's the trend. That's just us recycling what the trend is. With "2 Dope Queens" we get the opportunity to love and enjoy each other and have fun being best friends and being women of color and talking about our personal experience. Also, we give an opportunity to elevate voices for many different people that otherwise would not get such a large platform. 

On why "Jessica James" isn't defined by her race:

The black experience for me has been very interesting. Some days I wake up and I feel really black. Some days I'm like, This is me. I'm black. Black Lives Matter. Black pride. Look at my cocoa skin. I just feel it's my being. Then some days I wake up, I turn on the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," have a glass of rosé and I'm like, I'm just me. I'm just me right now. I just sort of forget. Then you see somebody get shot on the news, a person of color and you're like, Oh, I feel black again. It sort of ebbs and flows. I think that's what's so great about Jessica James is you get to sit back and take a moment and realize that this person is black. And some days this character wakes up and feels black and some days she doesn't. That is, for me, a fully black experience.

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