Names and faces
■ 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.