Her new rom-com, "The Incredible Jessica James,” begins streaming on Netflix July 28.
She stars in this movie as the lovable and complicated Jessica James. Here is the conversation, edited for clarity.
Carol Shih: What was it like to watch the entire movie for the first time?
Jessica Williams: It was really intense, actually. The first time I saw it was at Sundance. I was with my mom, her best friend and my best friend. Through all of my make-out scenes, I would just clench and look over at my mom and then pray to God that she wasn’t looking. I was just scandalized, you know.
CS: Did she say anything after?
JW: No, she didn’t. She loved it. She was cool about it.
CS: What about the rest of your family?
JW: I know my dad’s going to see it tonight, so I’m pretty terrified.
CS: How do you think he’s going to react?
JW: Honestly, I don’t know. Now I’m sweating just thinking about it. I think I’m going to duck out, and go and grab a bite to eat while he watches it, because the idea of that is incredibly stressful.
CS: Maybe he’ll just close his eyes to avoid the awkwardness.
JW: If he has to, he has to. I’m going to respect that. But I really don’t want to be involved in that. I’m really nervous. [laughs]
CS: By the way, I heard you play “RollerCoaster Tycoon.”
JW: Yeaaaa, hellooooo! Do you play?
CS: I used to play. I used to be obsessed.
JW: Get back in there. Get back in there!
CS: What else do you do when you’re hanging out by yourself?
JW: Obviously, “The Sims,” because it’s the best game ever. Watch TV. I’ve been coloring lately. I text my friends. That’s pretty much it. That’s like a full schedule.
CS: How would you describe “The Incredible Jessica James” in a two-sentence pitch to someone?
JW: Sweet, but not cheesy. Fun, funny and with heart. There’s heart in there.
It’s about a young 25-year-old playwright who’s going through a bad breakup and really needs to figure out what she’s going to do next.
It’s a comedy with romance in it.
CS: You dance a lot in the movie. Where did you get your dance moves?
JW: My go-to is the butterfly. Growing up, my dad did the butterfly a lot, I don’t know why. But that was one of the first things he taught me and my siblings. He’d put his hand on his hips and just do the butterfly. And now it’s one of my go-tos, just because it’s a classic. Everybody likes it. It looks good.
CS: Your moves looked so effortless on screen.
JW: For the dance moves, I worked with this really awesome choreographer named Celia Rowlson-Hall. I worked with her for the opening number. She’s an incredible choreographer. She’s amazing.
CS: I don’t remember hearing any characters say the words “black” or “white” throughout the entire movie. (Correct me if I’m wrong.) Was that omission purposeful?
JW: The writer and director Jim Strouse wrote the script. I don’t know if he did it on purpose. He’s a white guy. I think it just turned out that we didn’t necessarily need to bring attention to it. I think it’s really progressive to be able to talk about race, in movies, and sometimes not talk about it or make mention of it. There’s room for both, and I think that’s another thing that’s interesting about the movie. We get to watch this black woman exist, and race isn’t necessarily a factor.
CS: How do you plan on celebrating the release of your movie?
JW: You know what. It’ll be my birthday July 31. So I think I’m going to travel a little bit. I wanna go somewhere tropical. Somewhere that’s beach-y.
CS: Happy 28!
JW: Thank you. I’m really excited.
CS: Anything else you want to mention?