In the Netflix horror movie The Perfection, Allison Williams plays a cellist named Charlotte who has given up her orchestra dreams to take care of her dying mother. But it was clear from the film's trailer that there would be a deeply sinister side to this character. While both roles are quite different, Williams says that she knew people would judge her character in The Perfection by another villain she famously played. In fact, it was partially her intention.
"The minute people see Charlotte, they’re not gonna trust her because of my part in Get Out," Williams says, speaking over the phone in late May. "In a weird sense, I knew that the two would be in conversation with each other and sure enough, when the trailer came out, everyone was responding to that element of it as well."
Fans on Twitter were quick to comment on Williams' pattern of playing characters with a dark edge. Others noted that, in The Perfection, she's once again playing a character who seemed to be tormenting a Black person — in this case, Logan Browning's character Lizzie (Logan Browning). That led to some speculation that The Perfection would, like Get Out, also deal with racial themes.
However, The Perfection is something else entirely, and Charlotte's relationship with Lizzie is even more complicated than Rose's relationship to Get Out's Chris (Daniel Kaluuya). Throughout the film, both women make unexpected decisions and the way the story unfolds allows the audience's impression of their respective moral codes to change.
"I find it appealing when I find characters that, like human beings, wear masks in different situations and are not consistent across the board through their entire lives," Williams explains. "In other words who are multi-dimensional, multi-faceted. [Charlotte] was definitely an extreme version of that, but I think that everyone has that everyone has that in common, and everyone has had the experience where the same set of events take place with two people and end up appearing completely different from [each of] their points of view."
Other actors may have wanted to follow up something like Get Out with a role that might be considered more flattering. But Williams tells Bustle that she's more interested in playing flawed characters than playing the good guy. "I don’t know anyone who is likable 100% of the time. That’s not a person that exists in the world. But I do think that actors probably get addicted to the feeling of being the hero. I’m sure that is a good feeling, [but] I’ve never experienced it," she says.
She learned from her breakout role of Marnie in Girls that some audiences prefer to spend time with characters who are simpler and more palatable. "We never said that we were trying to make likable characters, and also we couldn’t identify anyone that any of us knew who was likable all the time," she says of her Girls costars. "I think we were just playing real people, and the realness was grating to people."
Likable or not, Marnie is a much less threatening character than her more recent ones. Contrasting Marnie and Rose helped her learn that she could use the audience's perceptions of her to her advantage. "Jordan [Peele] wanted me to play Rose partially because he knew audiences would trust me immediately, you know this white girl from Connecticut and she’s playing a character on an HBO show, like she’s not someone we need to worry about in this movie," she says. "It was used as a sort of weapon against the audience."
Staying off of social media allows Williams to maintain a bit of mystery about who she is behind those these roles, but that's not necessarily the goal of her infrequent posting. "I’m on there, but it’s so bad. I just don’t have that muscle memory to start filming whenever something happens," she says. "I think I’m just inherently wired for introversion and privacy and wanting to be able to have my job and my life. That’s a duality that’s very appealing to me."
It doesn't sound as though Williams will become addicted to Instagram anytime soon. So how will The Perfection's Charlotte carry forward in the actor's career, as she keeps herself behind that veil of privacy? Viewers might find the through line in her next project, a thriller called Horizon Line. The synopsis of that film, via IMDB, reads, "A couple flying on a small plane to attend a tropical island wedding must fight for their lives after their pilot suffers a heart attack."
"We see someone who’s defiant and strong," Williams says of the end of The Perfection. "[Charlotte] is sort of at a moment in her life where we’re not sure where she’ll go next, but we know that she’s on her way, and I would say that the next project I picked was an example of someone who we find in that place and then, of course, everything gets a little bit more complicated after that."
Be wary, however. When it comes to the characters Williams picks, what you see isn't always what you get.