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Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS -

■ Jes­sica Williams said it’s a great time to be an ac­tress of color, and she ap­plauds Net­flix for lead­ing the way in pro­mot­ing di­ver­sity. Williams, who cut her teeth as a cor­re­spon­dent on The Daily Show, takes on her first star­ring role in the stream­ing net­work’s orig­i­nal film, The In­cred­i­ble Jes­sica James. The ac­tress cred­ited Net­flix with help­ing shape sto­ries about di­verse peo­ple, cit­ing orig­i­nal pro­gram­ming such as Master of None and Orange is the New Black that are able to “show­case peo­ple of color in an amaz­ing way.” While in­clu­sion con­tin­ues to im­prove, es­pe­cially on Net­flix, Williams said the strug­gle for racial equal­ity is far from over. “I think it’s a dif­fi­cult time in some ways to be a per­son of color, and I think the same for ac­tors of color, but I also think it’s a great a time. Be­cause I think now … there’s so much more room, I think, for us to be seen, and there’s room for us to cre­ate our own sto­ries,” Williams said. Williams said she feels great pride that she’s part of a move­ment to­ward greater di­ver­sity on screen, call­ing it some­thing that makes her heart sing. Writ­ten and di­rected by Jim Strouse — who also di­rected Williams in his 2015 film, Peo­ple Places Things — the story of The In­cred­i­ble Jes­sica James was writ­ten with Williams in mind. Williams’ goal, she said, was to de­pict the “life of a mod­ern, young black woman.” She also took it a step fur­ther by also tak­ing on the role as an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer — “just in case I had things to say cre­atively.”

■ El­iz­a­beth Smart said she couldn’t have taken part in a movie about her kid­nap­ping or­deal im­me­di­ately af­ter her ab­duc­tion from her Salt Lake City home in 2002 at age 14. She was res­cued nine months later, and said Fri­day that she was ea­ger to “run away” from the ex­pe­ri­ence. Even as an adult, Smart said it took time and se­ri­ous dis­cus­sion with pro­duc­ers for her to agree to work on Life­time’s I Am El­iz­a­beth Smart. Smart said she be­gan to re­al­ize that such a project could make a dif­fer­ence. She nar­rates the drama, which stars Alana Bo­den as Smart and Skeet Ul­rich as her ab­duc­tor. “I will say that it is the best worst movie I’ve ever seen. I mean, I think it’s so well done. I think it was ac­cu­rate,” she said. “I’m very proud of it, but at the same time, part of me thinks I’ll be happy if I never have to watch it again.” I Am El­iz­a­beth Smart de­buts Nov. 18 on Life­time, pre­ceded by a two-part doc­u­men­tary on Nov. 12 and 13 that Life­time said will in­clude new in­for­ma­tion on the case and de­tail Smart’s life to­day. Brian David Mitchell, a Utah street preacher, was con­victed of kid­nap­ping and rap­ing Smart and sen­tenced to life in prison.

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