Jessica Williams on Her First Starring Role in 'The Incredible Jessica James'

Jessica Williams on Her First Starring Role in 'The Incredible Jessica James'

V caught up with the actress and comedian for our summer issue.

V caught up with the actress and comedian for our summer issue.

Photography: Sharif Hamza

Styling: Ellie Grace Cumming

Text: Joshua Lyon

Ostensibly, Jessica Williams traveled to Utah to promote her new indie comedy The Incredible Jessica James, but she almost upstaged herself with an empowering and much-discussed speech at the festival’s satellite Women’s March. While the former Daily Show correspondent did incorporate a couple of great one-liners, for the most part there was an earnestness and passion not often seen in a comedian standing before a rapt audience. Thankfully, this year’s festival offerings reflected her talking points: “There were a lot of diverse films,” she says. “And there were so many people willing to have a new kind of conversation around film.”

One such discussion took place much earlier and resulted in the aforementioned movie, her first starring role, written by director Jim Strouse specifically with her in mind. (They’d previously worked together on his film People Places Things.) “He was like, ‘Wow, you’re so great. I loved working with you and can’t wait until somebody writes you a big part,’” she recalls. “Then he said, ‘Wait, I can do that.’”

The finished story revolves around a young Brooklyn playwright navigating her career and dating life. Netflix promptly bought the worldwide rights and early reviews are near unanimous in their praise of Williams for carrying the picture. “The character totally felt natural to me,” she says. “A lot of her reactions and mannerisms—I didn’t have to go too far to figure out how to express it.”

Which isn’t to say that she’s not up for expanding outside of her comfort zone. “Feature films are really intense,” she details. “It’s sort of the opposite of how I used to work on The Daily Show, where you work on something for a few hours a day, and then you put it on that night and it’s over. With a movie, it’s more like letting it incubate for a long time, and that’s really exciting to me.” Genres she’d like to explore in the future include science fiction, action, and drama. “I would have loved to have been in any of the Harry Potter movies, but those have passed,” she says with a sigh. Producers of the Fantastic Beasts franchise should take heed.

The Incredible Jessica James will be released worldwide on Netflix July 28.

JESSICA WEARS TOP MICHAEL KORS S/S ’17 DRESS (UNDERNEATH) BURBERRY P/F ’17 JEWELRY HER OWN

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