If we actually think about it, being an actor is kind of crazy. Instead of working in one place with the same people for years, each project has different roles, different co-workers and different locations. And, let’s face it, not every team is going to gel perfectly right off the bat. For comedian and actress Jessica Williams though, her newest project, Apple TV+’s Shrinking, was the perfect place for her to act, be inspired and learn.
Since the beginning, Williams knew joining the show was a “no brainer,” she tells SheKnows’ Reshma Gopaldas. “I was really excited because I really, really wanted to work with Jason Segel in one project, Bill Lawrence in another, Brett Goldstein in another,” she says of the star-studded cast and crew of the show. In the series, which premieres Jan 27, How I Met Your Mother alum Segel plays a therapist in the middle of a breakdown following the passing of his wife.
What made the project even more interesting for Williams, however, was the freedom she’d have with her own character, fellow therapist Gaby. “They had a bare bones version of her then they really wanted to write her to the actor, and they only had maybe a couple of scripts,” she recalls. “So it was sort of a leap of faith that we would develop her as we go.”
After their first Zoom call, which she made sure she came with plenty of ideas for, she felt an instant connection. “I got along with everybody,” she recalls. Later, on set, the collaboration only continued. “What was the best was being able to improvise on set, a lot of my lines are improvised,” she says.
She continues, “On this set, I felt very free to express myself as Gaby whether she’s drinking water, or driving her boss, or going through something personal or being vulnerable. It’s cool to experience all those different sides of her.”
Speaking of cool experiences, the 2 Dope Queens star also got to work with a Hollywood legend in the show: Harrison Ford. “I think my reaction was ‘What the shnikes? Are you kidding me?'” she recalls about the moment she found out Ford was joining the show. “You know when it’s so surprising that you’re just laughing like a maniac? That was me.”
Though Williams agrees that working with Ford was “very surreal” because “he is the movie star,” she also felt the pressure. “I just wanted to be able to do my best work working with him,” she recalls. “And so I just wanted to make sure the only thing in my control was how I prepared for Gaby, and the choices that I made for her. And I just wanted to make sure that internally I felt strong about Gaby so that I can act freely with someone who’s as talented and lovely as Harrison.”
Regardless of the high bar, Williams and Harrison got along great. “I just had a great time,” she says about working with the 1923 star. “He’s a nice guy and a giving actor.”
During the interview, Williams also raved about working with Segel, who’s the lead in the show and an executive producer. “A big part of the reason [I joined the show] was to be able to work with him and watch him work,” Williams admits. “He works really, really hard and that inspired me in a way.”
Williams also recalls that when she started working with Segel it was somewhat “weird,” because they “work very similarly.” She adds, “Our brains operate in a very similar way and so quickly it became clear that we improvise really well together, and we know what needs to happen in the scene and so most times they became (about) just kind of making each other laugh. It was kind of a game within a game. It was really fun.”
“[Segel] is one of my favorite people that I’ve ever worked with,” she adds. “The show gave me the range to have comedic timing, but also to take Gaby to some really vulnerable, really sweet, very personal places.”
With such an in-sync team, Williams felt proud of herself after filming wrapped. “I walked away from this job, in particular, being like, ‘Oh, I know my s***. My instincts are funny. I’m good and funny,'” she says. Indeed you are, Jessica! We can’t wait to tune in!
Before you go, click here to see the most iconic roles played by Black women in movies & TV.
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