Jessica Williams. Jessica Jones. Jessica James. Netflix is clearly having a moment with this popular girls name. It doesn’t help that two incarnations are basically one in the same. Comedian, podcast A-lister, and actress Jessica Williams is the titular star of the Netflix original film, The Incredible Jessica James. In the film she plays a 20-something playwright, waiting for a big break and trying to move past a breakup with someone new, and white. The trailer is hilarious, and I can already imagine how Williams is going to bring this character to life. But according to recent interviews, we might see a departure from the Jessica Williams we all know in The Incredible Jessica James.
Williams’ career took off when she snagged a role as a correspondent on The Daily Show, a gig she held for four years before leaving to pursue projects like The Incredible Jessica James. She became a staple in what I like to call “conscious comedy” for her funny takes on issues like race, gender, and class. 2 Dope Queens, the podcast that she co-hosts with Phoebe Robinson, is also a platform where she has used comedy and a social justice lens to respond to pop culture and her own life. At this year's Sundance Film Festival, Williams engaged in a public verbal sparring with Selma Hayek when the latter suggested that Williams was too deep in “victimhood” when processing her experiences as a Black woman. Williams is woke bae if there ever was one.
However, we might not see that side of Williams in her new role as Jessica James. In the film, she embarks on a new relationship with a white guy. But it won’t be addressed or treated as a central storyline in the film. Williams told NPR that even though she thinks it’s “progressive to talk about race in relationships,” the opposite can also be true. “I think that there is something to having a minority or person of colour or somebody who is queer or whatever just exist in a story and have it not be about that,” she said. She has a point. Minority representation doesn’t always have to come with an explainer.
Williams told Vogue in a separate interview that she definitely does not miss covering politics. Her exact words were “hell no” and “fuck this.” I’d be interested in hearing how she really feels about it. Obviously, Williams’ interests extend way beyond the realm of social justice. As a Black woman, I know that just existing in the world means constantly engaging in the political nuances of our country, a point Williams also made in her NPR interview.
Given the current state of our political system I can't say that I blame her. I’m joining her in taking a step back from political coverage. In fact, content like The Incredible Jessica James is exactly the kind of thing I watch to avoid it. I might like this version of Jessica Williams even better.