Jessica Williams is kind of a big deal. You already know the actress and comedian from her tenure on “The Daily Show” and her WNYC podcast “2 Dope Queens,” which she co-hosts with Phoebe Robinson. And now she’s getting her first starring role in a feature film, “The Incredible Jessica James,” which she also executive produced, out Friday on Netflix. Director Jim Strouse even wrote the role for her.
But while the 27-year-old has “made it,” by conventional standards, the character she plays isn’t quite there yet. A 25-year-old aspiring playwright living in “deep Bushwick,” Jessica James is having a bit of an identity crisis after she and her boyfriend break up.
In one scene, James meets her idol, playwright Sarah Jones, who tells her you never feel like you’ve made it; it’s always a process. Williams concurs.
“I was really happy that scene was in the movie, because I’m often like, ‘Will I ever make it?’” she tells me at the Bryant Park Hotel. “It reminds me of yoga, when you’re doing your poses and your instructor’s like, ‘Don’t fiercely correct yourself; gently correct yourself and remind yourself to be back in the present.’ When I’m like, ‘Am I making it? Am I doing this?’ I feel such urgency. But then I’m like, “No you’re doing it, you’re in it.’ Gently reminding myself that is really nice.”
The Clinton Hill resident talks joking with Robinson about dating white baes, that time she got to kick it with J. K. Rowling, and how there’s always room for another Brooklyn story.
This is yet another tale of a twentysomething in Brooklyn trying to figure out her life. Is this one different because Jessica is more firm in what she wants, compared to a “Frances Ha,” who’s more flighty?
I love that movie! I think it’s different because women are different. We’re not all the same. One story in Brooklyn is different from another story and it doesn’t have to be scarce. There could be different ways to tell it. It’s important to give different people an opportunity because even telling a story of a romantic comedy set in Brooklyn, if a Latina did the movie, it would be different from if I did the movie. But there’s room for that. That’s why so many stories are set in New York, because people are so different. Everybody here has a lot of different sh— going on.
The film depicts an interracial relationship. On your podcast, you talk about dating a white guy, and you joke about “white peen.” Does making light of it help diffuse the awkwardness that some people (unfortunately) still feel about interracial dating?
On my podcast we joke a lot about having white baes because since we met each other that’s kind of what we’ve both had. But we’re also not just into white guys. We just think it’s funny to laugh and joke about that especially because I know for me growing up I always heard, “You’re going to date a white guy,” and so there was such a stigma to it. It’s fun to take that back and be like, “Yeah, I guess I do date white dudes.” But also, we’ll date literally anybody. [Laughs] They just need to be cool. That’s the policy.
What’s your experience dating in Brooklyn?
I met my current boyfriend by walking outside and he was there. I was like, “Cool.” But I have other friends who have dated successfully through Tinder, and I have others who have met at parties through friends of friends. There’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s.
On an unrelated note, I saw on your Instagram you were excited about meeting J.K. Rowling. Tell us about that?
It’s not not related! It’s related to everything in my life. It was amazing! She started following me on Twitter. I have the same birthday as Harry Potter, and she has the same birthday as Harry Potter, so we have the same birthday. She messaged me, “I just want to wish you a happy our birthday” and then I sort of stopped tweeting because I was like, “Now she follows me. What do I say?” And then I got some liquid courage at a bar and I messaged her. She said if I was ever in London to look her up, and I was like “Gahhh!” cuz I was going to London in a week. We totally met up and it was amazing, she was wonderful.
And you met Queen Latifah! Have you seen “Girls Trip”?
I loved “Girls Trip.” “Girls trip” was amazing. I love Queen Latifah, I’ve loved her since I was little. It was so surreal to have her on “2 Dope Queens.” I f—ked up that interview so much. I was stumbling over my words. I tried to get up from the chair when I was sitting next to her and the chair came with me cuz my phone hooked on the top — it was a mess. She was so fun, but I was so nervous. I biffed it!
You live in Clinton Hill. What are some of your favorite hangs?
I love this pizza place Emily, I go there and get the Colony. There’s this bar Hanson Dry, the bartenders there are wonderful. I like to get fried pickles at Sisters, they are delicious. I don’t go farther than two blocks from my apartment. That’s kind of a beautiful evening for me. [Laughs]