Jessica Williams is best known for her work on The Daily Show and her podcast 2 Dope Queens. She also stars in the Netflix comedy The Incredible James and now she plays Lally Hick in the latest Fantastic Beasts installment. And according to Williams, the latter is all thanks to her friendship with J.K Rowling.
Yes, she’s friends with J.K. Rowling in real life, and told Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show” in 2017, that their friendship started in 2013, during her second year on “The Daily Show.”
One day, out of the blue, Rowling randomly DMed her on Twitter. “She was like, “Hey, it’s me.’” And in my head, I was like, ‘I know!’” said Williams, who claimed, she’s loved the Harry Potter books since childhood.
Williams said the Author had noticed they had the same birthday and decided to wish her “a happy our birthday.” It also turns out Rowling was a huge fan of Williams’ work on The Daily Show.
“And she said, ‘Anyway, I think you’re funny, brave and courageous, and I always know it’s going to be a good ‘Daily Show’ when you’re on,” Williams said. “And I was just like, sobbing.”
As time went on, they’ve become messaging pals, so much that Williams messaged the author about downloading Rollercoaster Tycoon. But then, when Williams heard back Rowling, it became immediately obvious that they had something more important to discuss.
“I messaged her about downloading Rollercoaster Tycoon,” Williams told The Cut in 2018. “And she was like, ‘Hey, I’ve been working on this character for Fantastic Beasts. What’s your email? I want to send you this character description and see what you think.’ I read it and was just crying — it was unreal.”
Meanwhile, the producers of Fantastic Beasts also watched Williams’ Netflix film, Jessica James. Then there was a phone call. A tour of the Leavesden studio in England was arranged, and that was that: Williams was in. “I was just shaking,” she says. “Just to be where they shot Harry Potter…to see hair and makeup and renderings and how much thought and detail goes into creating and living in the Potter universe.”
“Jo flew down to make sure I was okay with how my character appeared,” says Williams. “She wanted to give me autonomy as a woman and also as a black woman. That’s incredible on such a massive production. She wanted my character to look the way that I felt like this character should look.”
“The night before I shot, she sent me this Word document and it was nine pages. She was like, ‘I’m supposed to be working on my book deadline, but instead, I’ve spent all day writing this, and anyway, I hope you enjoy it.’ It was this very thorough background on my character. I didn’t really need it, but she spent so much of her personal time writing it for me. A lot of the lore of my character ties to my personal history. She gave me all this cool information and did it just because she wanted to. That to me is so representative of her heart. I could have never imagined at nine years old that I would be able to get this document from her. It’s part of lore, it’s canon. It feels like I got a custom tarot reading or I got my custom charts made. It’s mine. And it feels like mine.”