Within weeks of taking finals at Cal State Long Beach, Jessica Williams moved from Los Angeles to New York to star in "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" -- becoming the long-running show's first African-American woman in a correspondent role. Now 24, the Comedy Central star and "Girls" actress spoke to Mother Jones about what it's like to be that cool, and we took careful notes.
A friend of fellow comedy wunderkind and "Girls" creator Lena Dunham, Williams stars in several episodes of the HBO hit as a workplace friend to Hannah Horvath, who has finally landed a new office job. While Dunham has faced criticism for the lack women of color on "Girls," Williams told Mother Jones art will always reflect the experiences of its creator, and that's OK.
"Her show has always been put through a magnifying glass, and I always take it with a grain of salt," Williams told Mother Jones' Lauren Williams, "because it's her art and it's her voice. It's not her responsibility to write from my experience."
Williams also expressed optimism about the overall place of women in comedy. Often it seems any woman starring in a television show also wrote, directed, or produced it. As Williams told Mother Jones:
Some of the best comedies now are led by women who are very involved: "Parks and Recreation." "Veep's" incredible. I love "Girls." There is more of a demand, especially on the internet and on Tumblr and Twitter, from women who are like, "We want to see more of us on TV!"
The interview comes at a time when many in the entertainment world are talking about African-American women in comedy, as "Saturday Night Live" adds Sasheer Zamata to its cast and has just hired two full-time black female writers. But for Williams, portraying black women is more of a privilege than responsibility -- a demographic she gets to represent in addition to many others:
I'm not walking around feeling black all the time. That would stress me out. It would make me crack. Some days I do feel that pressure of, "What do I mean as a black woman? What am I representing?" It honestly just gives me anxiety. Ultimately, when I deliver something, a lot of times it will be from a black woman's perspective, but other times it will be just from a satirical, goofy perspective. I'm a young correspondent, so sometimes I'm just young. Sometimes I'm just straightforward.
Sometimes, she's just awesome.
Read the full interview at Mother Jones. "Girls" premieres on HBO on Sunday, Jan. 12 at 10 p.m. EST.
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