Jessica Williams in "Shrinking"
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Awards Jessica Williams celebrates her WGA strike Emmy nomination: ‘We’re out of the woods, baby!’

Jessica Williams celebrates her WGA strike Emmy nomination: ‘We’re out of the woods, baby!’

Jessica Williams in "Shrinking"

On the phone with Jessica Williams the morning she earned her first Emmy nomination, car horns blare in the background and the conversation pauses for those approaching her on the street with good wishes. “I’m picketing. That’s what’s happening,” the “Shrinking” star told IndieWire. “We’re out of line, baby!”

Playing Gaby, a spirited therapist who works with Jimmy (Jason Segel) at a studio run by Paul (Harrison Ford), led alumni of ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’ to be one of four black women nominated in the Best Actress category Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Category, Tops in any Acting Category, in any Year.

Below, Williams talks about what it’s like to be part of a historical candidate group, the best parts of playing Gaby in “Shrinking”, how it relates to her work on the second season of “Love Life” and what makes his former boss, and now fellow Apple TV+ star, continues to be a Television Academy favorite.

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This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

IndieWire: Congratulations! How does it feel to be nominated for the first time? And I just saw that also comes with achieving this year with the most Black women ever nominated in an acting category.

Jessica Williams: Truly? Oh my god, I didn’t know that. You are telling me this. It’s great. I’m honoured, honestly. I’m in great company. I am literally obsessed with everyone named and I feel very lucky. I love Gaby. I feel very lucky to be able to play her. What’s great about her is that I really got to breathe with her and let her come into herself. And that was truly an amazing opportunity. I am very grateful to (creators) Brett Goldstein, Bill Lawrence and Jason Segel for this. They really trusted me with her.

How did you find out you were nominated? Have you watched the live?

Oh, absolutely not. I wasn’t looking. My best friend came over from Long Beach last night and we went to a few bars. My plan was to sleep all over and of course I woke up at 8am and started at 8:30 so I acted like a brat and said, “Please, nobody has your phones, everyone put away your laptops, don’t look for it. We’re not looking at it. So we were just sitting in the living room in silence, not talking. And then my publicist called me, and it was so funny, I just started screaming.

1689267002 915 Jessica Williams celebrates her WGA strike Emmy nomination Were out | ManOfTheCenturyMovie

How does it feel to land “Shrinking” after playing the field? Since your time on ‘The Daily Show’, we’ve seen you do everything from hosting ‘2 Dope Queens’, to starring in movies, limited series, etc.

Yes, it was happening right near my house. I live very close to where we shot it, and it was really good. It was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. It felt like my first 9 to 5 job in Los Angeles and then on set I felt very supported and loved. Everyone was just working together to try and figure out what “Shrinking” is and who these characters are in relation to each other. So it was very collaborative. It was amazing.

Before we delve into this, one of the past jobs I wanted to ask you about was, did you feel like the second season of “Love Life” opened doors for you?

Absolutely. I think one of the reasons I got Gaby is because I had done the second season of “Love Life”. I think many EPs of hers had seen it. That was also one of the best jobs she’s ever done. I miss that show. I love that show. I wish it was on. “Love Life” was really great for it, and I definitely think I got it for it, because I had this body of work back then. I got to work alongside William Jackson Harper, who is just a fucking amazing actor, and I got to play Mia Hines, who was also a very complicated and funny person. So that helped me show what I was capable of, especially coming from a “Daily Show” background. And 2 Dope Queens podcast and live show, that background. So it really opened things up for me. I am very grateful for that show.

Did it come to you that season really developed this cult following now?

Oh no, it’s not like that. This means a lot, yes. I try not to google anything, but I like it. I love that show (laughs). It was really good and sweet. And I’m really sad that it’s not on anymore.

Love Life Season 2 Jessica Williams William Jackson Harper
Jessica Williams and William Jackson Harper in “Love Life”Sarah Shatz/HBO Max

But what a special season it was. Returning to “Shrinking”, what can we expect from the second season? We saw Gaby being such a good friend to everyone in Season 1, but so much has happened to her as well over the course of it. I’d like to hear more about her perspective on losing her best friend in the divorce.

Before our strike I went into the writer’s room and saw what they were joking about, and we’re definitely getting into all these characters and Gaby a little bit more because she lost her best friend. This is really a big loss. And so we will definitely talk more about it. I think that’s all I can say, but what excites me the most is that now we really understand the dynamics between all the characters. And so we’ll do it again and even more double down.

Have people been quiet about Jimmy and Gaby’s relationship? Are you already seeing talk about it?

I can’t google myself, I can’t see the feedback. It’s just too depressing. I can’t hear it. I just want to go home and play The Sims on my computer (laughs). Mainly, with feedback and stuff like that, I love my job, but I’m also trying to have a very balanced life, and not have my job be my life. So I’m so sensitive to that.

What was it also like working with Harrison Ford in this moment where he’s really resurrecting?

So good. I love Harrison Ford so much. He’s a great scene partner, I’m obsessed. Gaby and Paul’s relationship is — I’m biased because I’m into it — but one of my favorite relationships on the show. I don’t think you stand much chance of seeing a black woman talk to Harrison Ford the way he does Gaby (laughs). And so I think they have a really beautiful relationship, and one of my favorite scenes is when he comes in for her at the end of the season and shows up for her job interview.

I know you said you’re trembling about the feedback, but have you heard from other Black female therapists about your performance on the show?

No, but I think it’s a really good conversation, about… Black Lady therapist trope. No. I mostly just talk to my therapist, that’s who I keep in touch with. But I think the way to kill it and subvert any kind of trope is to attack it with specificity. Be as specific as possible to avoid this.

Do you know if your therapist has seen your schedule?

He tries. He doesn’t let me know personally because we have that boundary, which we should have ethically, but I sure think so.

Jessica Williams, Hasan Minhaj, Aasif Mandvi, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Steve Carell, Jordan Klepper, John Oliver and Wyatt Cenac appear in
Jessica Williams, Hasan Minhaj, Aasif Mandvi, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Steve Carell, Jordan Klepper, John Oliver and Wyatt Cenac appear on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” #JonVoyage.Brad Barket/Getty Images for Comedy Central

The last thing I wanted your opinion on is that there have been some changes with the Outstanding Talk Series category, but since 2003, “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” or a series hosted by one of its alumni has won that Emmy , and now Jon, Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert are back. Why do you think “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” is so big and stays so resonant?

I wouldn’t even be where I am today without Jon Stewart. And it’s cool, I’m on the line right now and I see one of the lead writers of “The Daily Show” that I’ve known forever, and another really amazing writer, and one of my field producers, is with him, so it’s like a family, this huge, huge family. But the amazing thing about “The Daily Show” is that it gives people vegetables, but they think it’s dessert. There has always been power in satire, people who are driven to respond to their situation with comedy. It’s really powerful. And Jon, I love all the fellow correspondents and everything. I’m biased because I was one of them. But he’s really hired some amazing writers, field producers and correspondents. We all need to expand and flourish. It’s really, really, really great. And one of my favorite things, he actually did nice chirp I’ve seen, I guess he was watching “Shrinking” and he just tweeted that he thought you were amazing and I cried when I read it.

It’s so sweet.

Yes, he is my first big boss. He was damn awesome.

Would you say something like “All Talk Series nominees are my deserving friends” or is it a “Dance with what brought you” situation.

Oh, that’s really funny. I mean, I don’t know. I’m this way-

I’m sure Apple would like to know.

I know right? Like, “What did you say?” Yes, I have definitely seen “The Problem”. I love that dude. He is the best.

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