“She’s kind of a street chick. She’s seen a lot of shit. She’s surprisingly, kind of, down. I’ll leave it at that.”
– Jesse Williams on his friendship with Grey’s Anatomy co-star Ellen Pompeo
Jesse Williams sat down with host Ashley Ford to discuss all things Grey’s Anatomy, including his friendship with Ellen Pompeo, whether he will stay with the show until the final season, and which characters he wishes he could bring back, as well as his famous BET Awards speech, why he doesn’t fear speaking out about social issues.
Highlights and clips are below, and the full episode can be viewed on Facebook Watch on Sunday, May 12th at 8AM ET.
On his friendship with ELLEN POMPEO [watch clip HERE]:
“That’s my homie. Ellen is the homie. She’s actually a really good, real cool person. Our kids are very good friends. Her and I kick it, she’s actually really cool. It’s not a forced thing. The support is sincere. We’ve taken vacations together with the kids. She’s incredible, and has a lot of layers to her. She’s actually a really interesting, fascinating person, so I love her support and her as a person…She’s really not like that character at all. She’s kind of a street chick. She’s seen a lot of shit. She’s surprisingly, kind of, down. I’ll leave it at that.”
On whether he will stay on Grey’s Anatomy until the final season [watch clip HERE]:
“We are staying afloat in an amazing way. You know, I’m not sure. I’m honestly not sure. I love this job, I truly do. It’s a real blessing, I’m learning a lot. I work with amazing, amazing talented people top to bottom. It’s such an example and a pioneering show in so many ways, particularly in inclusion, not as charity, but inclusion because it’s the best way to make things work, to get shit done. It’s a really great job, and I get to live out there, I get to raise my family and see my own bed. Life of an actor can sometimes be nomadic…and it offers me a lot of stability that I’m incredibly grateful for. I’m learning a lot, and directing in a way that is really challenging and fulfilling.”
On JOHN SINGLETON’s influence of his directing [watch clip HERE]:
“The youngest person ever to be nominated for an Oscar as a director, and first African-American nominated for writing an original screenplay at 23-years-old. I don’t know what I was doing at 23-years-old. Boyz N The Hood was a transformative film for me and for anybody, certainly my generation, that kicked down a door bigger than people can really understand. We did not have movies about the hood in that way. We didn’t have movies by young black men and women dealing with the issues of coming of age. Laurence Fishburne, one of the greatest actors to ever live in my view, his role as a father, being a disciplinarian but also a mentor and a teacher, not just to his children but to the the peer group of his children. It’s a really important piece of cinema, regardless of race, regardless of being the first of anything. There’s no asterisks on that piece of craftsmanship. John Singleton is a G and always will be. I actually just saw him a month ago and we were talking about Emmett Till stories. Much respect, and he deserves all the the love and energy his family should be getting right now.”
On which Grey’s Anatomy characters he wishes he could bring back to the show [watch clip HERE]:
“I wish all of them didn’t die. To come back, I’d love to see Eric Roberts, who played my father come back. I think that was a really interesting storyline, not just for my character, but I think for what it represents. But look, Sandra [Oh, who played Cristina Yang] is amazing. Chyler Leigh, who played Lexie [Grey] is amazing. I miss Eric Dane as Mark Sloan. He was hilarious, and the writers really got him, I really enjoyed his presence. Obviously I miss Sarah Drew [who played April Kepner], who is my road dog, that was my person for a long time, and Jessica Capshaw [who played Arizona Robbins] is a dear friend and she’s hilarious, and so good, and was really fun to direct last year.”
On his speech accepting the BET Humanitarian Award [watch clip HERE]:
“I just kind of went with my gut and went how I felt and I got a lot of offers to do covers of magazines, and interviews, and of course politics, and book deals, and all this stuff. And I want to be real, it didn’t sit well. I didn’t want to come up off of it. I’ve been an activist my whole adult life. This is an ongoing struggle about real life and a real path towards liberation. I’m not trying to make money off of it. I’m not trying to come up off of it…That just didn’t feel like what I wanted to do. I was just coming to work. They gave me a microphone, they shouldn’t have done that. I just say speak the truth as I know it directly to people. I knew that that broadcast was going to be beyond BET, I knew that it was going to be a Viacom overall broadcast that was on a lot of otherwise white networks that did not expect to hear us or make direct eye contact with the system. That was an opportunity, and that’s why I just put my foot on the gas.”
On the racial disparities of marijuana in this country [watch clip HERE]:
“I’m not a weed head, I’m not a huge cannabis guy, but I see a glaring disparity in the adjudication of war on drug related laws in this country. I see tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of black men and women locked in cages for shit that white people are getting rich off of, that have the money to be able to do so. I realize that we clearly can’t trust the system to enforce its laws in a non anti-Black fashion, so why don’t we just decriminalize it? Be honest about the history of weed in this country. Corporate culture, traditional American middle class culture actually doesn’t really care about weed like that. You’re not really scared, you know your kids smoke weed.”
On fans reactions to his relationship with KELLY MCCREARY as Maggie Pierce [watch clip HERE]:
“They didn’t like her or me for different reasons and that pairing was hard, but then you figure out a rhythm and a chemistry. Kelly McCreary, who plays Maggie, is an incredible actress and person. We did have to kind of figure out how to be deliberate about how we’re forming and shaping them as individuals, which is as important as any union, having them be complete people so they can exist without each other. So it’s a process, we’re getting there. I think we made a lot of strides this year, and we have a really interesting end to the season. The episode I directed airs this week, and these last few episodes of the season are going to be pretty impactful for ‘Jaggie’ I guess. I’ve given up, I’ve tried to resist using the ship name.”
On why he doesn’t fear speaking out about politics and social issues [watch clip HERE]:
“No. I feel like I’m supposed to, I see other people doing it, and I’m not saying that to like sound cool, I just don’t. I care about the human condition far more than I care about Hollywood….I don’t think that the consequences are that dire. I think they were getting smarter, faster, younger, more tolerant, less scared of the boogeyman every five years. When I see the changes that we’ve seen in the last ten years alone, I think that it ain’t gonna be that bad….I just choose not to live in fear in that way, and it certainly helps if I first of all, am employed, have been consistently employed for a long time. I have incredible privileges. I’m straight, I’m light skinned, I’ve got European features. I’m good in terms of how hard life is. I work for the baddest, dopest, smartest people in the business – that’s Shonda Rhimes, and Debbie Allen, and all these incredible examples most of the year so no, I’m not worried.”
ABOUT PROFILE by BuzzFeed News:
PROFILE by BuzzFeed News is a longform interview show featuring a different newsmaker each week. Hosted by writer, TV, and podcast host Ashley Ford, the show delivers in-depth conversations with the biggest names in entertainment, politics, business, music, sports, tech, including; Michelle Yeoh, Anthony Rapp, Serena Williams, Chris Christie, Regina King, Steve McQueen, Janelle Monáe, Anthony Scaramucci, Ken Jeong, Jonathan Van Ness, and Leah Remini. PROFILE by BuzzFeed News airs weekly on Facebook Watch.