There's perhaps no show more synonymous with millennial Brooklynites than Girls, but now, perhaps, Jessica Williams' new show can fill that gap. Lena Dunham's water cooler dramedy about four women floundering their way through early adulthood in New York's outer boroughs was widely hailed for its ability to break convention, trading Sex and the City's Manhattan glam for 20somethings' graceless strife. However, its perspective was noticeably limited: it rarely looked beyond the viewpoint of its predominantly white cast.
Enter Williams. As reported by Deadline, the The Daily Show alum slash 2 Dope Queens host is set to star in a new comedy for Showtime. The series will be written and executive-produced by her and Jim Strouse, who previously worked with her on 2015 Sundance darling People Places Things — Williams’ first major feature part — and last summer's The Incredible Jessica James, largely considered her breakout role. Williams will star; Strouse will direct. Similar to Girls, the project will follow her character coming of age (as a writer, no less) in Brooklyn. But this time, it will put a black woman at the forefront.
Williams will play an aspiring African-American science fiction writer. Details beyond that have yet to be announced, but it sounds like a cross between Girls and Issa Rae's Insecure, the latter of which unfolds through the eyes of two black female best friends navigating work and love in Los Angeles. In some ways, it's also an extension of Incredible Jessica James, in which Williams similarly played a young, black woman living in Brooklyn, recovering from a breakup and struggling to make it as a playwright. The film was well received, and was especially lauded for its approach toward gender and race. “What I loved about Jessica is that she’s a black woman, and that is part of her identity. But in this story, it’s relevant and also irrelevant," Williams told Vogue.
It's worth noting that Williams actually guest-starred in Girls back in 2014. She played Karen, a workplace friend to Lena Dunhams' Hannah Horvath after she landed a new (but short-lived) office job. But she didn't fault Dunham for the show's lack of diversity. “Her show has always been put through a magnifying glass, and I always take it with a grain of salt, because it’s her art and it’s her voice," she told Mother Jones at the time. "It’s not her responsibility to write from my experience.”
Williams is, however, quite conscious of representing the black community when approaching her own work. As she told Entertainment Weekly while discussing Jessica James in July:
"I’m always thinking about what a black lady would think about what I’m doing, just because I feel like they have such great taste, mostly because as black women, we’ve spent a lot of time downloading what a white male narrative is, so in my head, I’m like, if a black woman likes it, if she responds to it, then it’s probably pretty damn great."
Given that Williams is a writer for the new Showtime series, viewers can expect her voice to be quite present in the material, though it will undoubtedly examine issues that extend beyond her race. She is also a young, professional woman with her own original thoughts on love and work and life. But the show will certainly add to the growing (and necessary) call for a broadened perspective on television: one that more accurately reflects real, diverse experiences, and one that doesn't relegate its minority characters to the sidelines.
Much like in Jessica James, Williams will get to be the "star of her own narrative," as she put it to The Hollywood Reporter, and, hopefully, help pick up the slack Girls left behind.