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Jesse Williams Talks Cabin in the Woods with BlackBook

28 October 2011 Leave a comment

Jesse Williams On ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ & Ending His ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Sex Drought

By Ben Barna

October 18, 2011

Jesse Williams arrived at the BlackBook offices wearing a t-shirt that bore the unmistakeable silhouettes of Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins. (They’re unmistakeable if you’re as big fans of the actors as we are.) It was a tantalizing piece of promotional swag for The Cabin in the Woods, and was given to Williams by the film’s co-writer and executive producer, Joss Whedon. For horror buffs and the Whedon faithful, Cabin could not come out soon enough. Initially slated for release in February of last year, it was delayed until January 2011 for 3D conversion, a decision that nearly proved fatal—for the film, and for Williams’ budding acting career. 0digg

In July of 2011, MGM financially imploded, and The Cabin in the Woods was one of several anticipated films to find itself in distribution purgatory. Williams, a former high school teacher who had little acting experience, thought the film would be his big break. He was forced to regroup and embark on a career where his high-profile calling card collected dust on a shelf. It didn’t take long for the 30 year old to catch another break. After nailing a guest stint as Dr. Jackson Avery on the immortal ABC soap Grey’s Anatomy, producers awarded Williams with a full time gig beginning last season, the show’s seventh. Somewhere along the way, Lionsgate picked up The Cabin in the Woods, which is finally hitting theatres on April 13. So when Williams sat down with us for a quick chat recently, he was all smiles.

Under what circumstances did you become a regular on Grey’s Anatomy?
It was supposed to be two or three episodes and then they said, stick around for a few more weeks, because it’s a performance-based contract. I didn’t know if I had a job each week, and ended up doing like twenty episodes. But every week it was like an audition like shit, am I going to be around?

Did you really want to stick around?
I did. I hadn’t done anything that big, and I admired the work being done there.

Did you watch the show before?
I didn’t. I was aware of it, and I was kind of aware of the music on it, because they break a lot of artists. But I got the audition the night of my birthday. I was on my way out, but I stayed in so I could see what this show is that I was auditioning for. So I watched a bunch online, and gave a shitty audition the next day.

Your show is infamous for backstage drama. What’s it like now?
We had a bad couple of years, and I landed right afterwards. I kind of regret that because I wish I got to see all the good stuff, because now it’s like one functional family. I got there and Katherine had her last episode on my first episode. So we worked together for one or two episodes.

Was there a big goodbye for her?
Yeah I think there was. I didn’t work there on her last day, and I was brand new. She’s a tough cookie, but she respects being pushed back. I don’t know her, but my experience on set was she’ll stomp all over you if you let her, and she’ll respect you if you push back

What happens to your character that lets him stay for the long haul?
Well, they’d laid some of the groundwork before I got the offer, and I think it was probably a bit of a try out for me. My grandfather is character that’s been talked about for seven years on the show, this legendary surgeon, and I’m his grandson who shows up, and I resent him for the burden of his legacy.

Is your character a ladie’s man?
I might have the record for the most amount of episodes without banging anybody. It came to a screeching halt with an out-of-the-blue shower scene with Lexi Grey, who’s the main character’s half-sister. We’re talking and flirting outside her car, and the next thing you know it’s us having sex in the shower.

What do you like best about working on Grey’s?
I’ve been in this business for only five years now, but it feels like a luxury to be on a show as a person of color where the characters are complete people. They’re just individuals, not leading with race and not self-identifying all the time with some sassy TV bullshit. We don’t have to talk in slang, we’re just people. I think Grey’s has been a leader in that field for network TV, to have people from all backgrounds just be human and not have to wear that on their sleeve all the time.

I think your most watched performance in Rihanna’s video for “Russian Roulette.” It has 60 million views and counting.
That was her first song back after the Chris Brown thing. They called me up and were like, She’s a fan of the show and her manager is also a fan, so it was just one of those random things.

Did anybody mention Chris Brown on set?
Absolutely not, but I felt like I was playing the Chris Brown character. I’m a guy of similar complexion with tattoos, so I read into it.

Tell me about The Cabin in the Woods. There’s a lot of anticipation surrounding it, among a certain set of film fans.
It’s creepy and unnerving, but it can’t help but be really funny.

Do Bradley Cooper and Richard Jenkins play the villains?
I don’t know if I can say that, but in many ways, they’re not. I think it also really questions what a villain is, and how much damage you have to do to become a villain. I worked at a law firm defending people who did some pretty bad things, but were they villains?

You worked in a law firm?
Yeah, I actually wrote a comedy about working in a law firm that I’m starting to circulate. I worked in one on Park Ave. for a year and a half. I was a case manager, and I hired and fired contract attorneys who were way more qualified than me. It was stupid.

Has it been frustrating to watch Cabin in the Woods get pushed back repeatedly?
It was, because these are our calling cards. I’m nothing without my work, and we’re out here selling that I’m the lead in a studio film. It was coming out in 2009, and they pushed it back to make it 3D, and then MGM folded. I worked on that movie for three and a half months, and we became very close, and were all trying to do our thing. None of us were famous. And we were all waiting on this thing, and it puts you in a very vulnerable position, because you have no control over it, but in some people’s eyes, you’re nothing without it. This is a business of followers. If you’re in a movie, I don’t need to see your work. Someone could be in Twilight with no lines, but they’ll get something, because they’re in Twilight.

It says something about the studio’s faith in the film that it’s still getting a theatrical release.
It looks like Lionsgate is very serious about it, and that’s exciting. It’s a memorable film. There’s nothing indifferent about it.

Original Interview at BlackBook

 

Assignment X Interview Jesse Williams (Cabin)

23 May 2011 Leave a comment

Interview: Actor Jesse Williams on GREY’S ANATOMY & CABIN IN THE WOODS

The actor talks playing doctor and working with Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard

By DON. E. PETERSON / Contributing Writer

Jesse Williams in Grey's Anatomy

Dr. Jackson Avery arrived at Seattle Grace Hospital when it merged with Mercy West Hospital last season on GREY’S ANATOMY. The surgical resident survived the shootout in the season finale and has been making waves all through this past season. It may tell you something about the appeal of Jesse Williams, the actor who portrays Jackson, that on GREEK, he played a character known as “the Hotness Monster.” Williams is adept at playing nonchalant, too – when someone comments that he’s created quite a stir on GREY’S ANATOMY, Williams responds innocently, “Oh, have I?”

The former high school teacher was previously on the TV series BEYOND THE BREAK and in the films THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS 2 and BROOKLYN’S FINEST with Richard Gere, Don Cheadle and Ethan Hawke. Here he talks about his work on GREY’S ANATOMY and in the finally-scheduled-for-release theatrical film CABIN IN THE WOODS.

ASSIGNMENT X: Have you done any research into being a doctor for the part?

WILLIAMS: Yeah, I do some reading, I’m reading a couple books about young surgeons, about surgery, about hospital life, about those hours, and I grew up kind of watching off and on those surgeries on public access on TV. They would show heart surgeries and brain surgeries, just on some random channel you’d skip through. And usually, you’re grossed out, but I wasn’t. I’m not squeamish; I’m fascinated by the whole process.

AX: How is it speaking all the medical jargon?

WILLIAMS: Sometimes that’s tough. I think what’s equally tough is the choreography, because we’re doing a lot of precise medical moves, and we’re “Close that aorta,” “Get through the sutures.” We have doctors on our set that come in and correct you. I could save your life right now [laughs].

AX: Season Six ended with a series of literal big bangs, in the form of gunshots. How was that finale to shoot? Were you worried that your character might not survive?

WILLIAMS: Absolutely. That whole season was week by week, “I don’t know if I have a job next week.” Remember, I signed on to do it for three episodes, in and out. I was looking for the next job, and they wrote me into the next one. And the next one. And then I got a small part in the next one. I joked there was a performance-based contract. Like an athlete or something. [The Season Six finale had] excitement, but it was also bittersweet. I mean, these [actors playing characters who got killed] are buddies of mine. Robert Baker is a tremendous actor, hilarious, a nice guy and Nora Zehetner – I mean, we all came in together, we all literally had our first day on the job together, we are that class. So when you find out one isn’t going on – it was the luck of the draw, it could have been any one of us. We also feel kind of bad. But they’ll go on and do bigger and better things. What I like is that they finished with a bang. They really work with a lot of friends here. But they finished with tremendous performances. What’s nice is, Meredith’s character invited [Jackson and other survivors] into her home. So we stayed with them for a little while. It’s kind of a nice symbolism, I think, and as a fan of GREY’S from the early years, people staying under one roof.

[The Season Six finale] was kind of four levels of experience. Reading it was very tremendous and the most tenuous table read we’ve ever had. Everybody was hanging by the edge of their seats. Then you shoot it, and you get this adrenaline and you have an experience in this way with your coworkers. And then you watch it, and that’s a whole different ballgame. And then you get the fans’ reactions, which is something completely unexpected. I’ve heard just unanimous people loved it, and I think it opened it up to a great premiere this season.

Cabin in the Woods

AX: Before you were on GREY’S ANATOMY, you made CABIN IN THE WOODS, the horror movie written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, with Goddard directing and Whedon producing, which is finally supposed to be coming out via Lionsgate this October. How was it working on that film?

WILLIAMS: Those guys are terrific, Joss and Drew – they’re like kids in a candy store. We’re working with a lot of gory content, we’re working in Vancouver in the woods in the middle of the night in brutal conditions, and they’re so happy, they get so much joy, it transcends – it goes into us. It really was like summer camp. We loved the process, they had a great sense of humor and I think just terrific imaginations. So that was a big task. It was the first time I had a lead in a film, and was working on a film for three-and-a-half months or whatever, and gosh, they were a dream.

AX: Obviously, executive producer/creator Shonda Rhimes frowns on story spoilers, but can you tell us of any guest stars who may be coming up on GREY’S ANATOMY for the season finale or early next season?

WILLIAMS: We always have really wonderful guest stars, but I don’t know of anybody [specific[.

AX: You’ve got the summer hiatus coming up. What did you do during your previous hiatus?

WILLIAMS: I took a break. I traveled. I went to the World Cup in South Africa, I went all over South Africa. I saw four matches in Johannesburg and Cape Town. It was awesome. We had a great time. I was in France, I was in London – I just travel as much as possible, because otherwise, I just live in my trailer.

Original Interview at Assignment X

AX: Did you do any promotion for GREY’S while you were traveling?

WILLIAMS: I did some promotion in Cannes during the film festival. Huge fans out there, and I did one interview in Cape Town. It was tough during the World Cup, because the finale was airing [in South Africa] then, so the fans were extra-rabid. And I had no idea – I had expected to be totally anonymous out there, but they treated me like I was freakin’ Leonardo DiCaprio. It was absurd.

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