Our fears have never defined us; it’s the courage that keeps us going. Actress Nafessa Williams is living proof of why fear should not be a reflection of greatness. She is starring in her latest role as Robyn Crawford in the film “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” which will be released on December 23, 2022. Williams portrays the best friend of one of the greatest singers today, Whitney Houston. William’s character holds the meaning of being someone who is near and dear to one’s heart, along with speaking towards the journey of embodying the role on and off the screen.
What were your emotions when you received the role of Robyn Crawford?
Oh, I cried. I was in the Bahamas, and I just remember screaming and definitely shedding a couple of tears. I mean, this is one of the ones that I found out about. I was really grateful to have been a part of it and to tell Robyn’s story because we’ve heard it, we’ve heard about her, but we’ve never really, you know, gotten to see who she is, what she’s about, and who she really was to Whitney. So yeah, I was excited to give voice to this character, for sure.
What about this role made it so special for you to play the Best-friend of Whitney Houston?
I’m a Whitney Houston fan, and Whitney is aunty in my head, so it was very easy. There’s no question about it, to recreate all of her iconic moments, like the Super Bowl, which was one of my favorites to film, and, you know, the Soul Train Awards. I remember being a little girl and seeing flashes of these moments without really understanding them. So, to go back into the 90s was really, really fly.
As you embodied this specific character, how was it witnessing Whitney’s journey to fame?
That’s a good question. It was really interesting to see how much of a protector she was. I think for her, she knew that. Whitney needed her. She needed her to have her back. She needed her to protect her. And, you know, you had to get through Robyn to get to Whitney. I loved how seriously she took that role and how well she was responsible with it. I think she really had empathy for Whitney and wanted to be the light. And that’s what she is. She’s the light. They are the light when you see the film; most of their moments together are lighter, happier moments. I think she knew that’s what Whitney needed. And I think also just organically, that’s how it happened for them with their friendship in general.
What were some of your best moments during the process of filming?
Okay, so, like I mentioned, the Super Bowl scene was like a dream. Also, me and Naomi have a chemistry that I was hoping translated onto the screen, but it was just us being on set, getting ready for our scenes, and laughing. We prayed a lot. I would grab her hand, and we would pray every day before we started filming, just building that bond with her. And when you have someone with whom you have chemistry, like I feel we do, it makes the job so easy. I never really felt like I was acting. I didn’t feel like I was feeding you a line. It was just very fluid. And I felt it worked really well for us.
Being as though you’ve played a character previously that was a part of the LGBTQ+ community, was it easier to grasp the romantic relationship while channeling Robyn?
100% It’s funny; this was one of my first projects right after Black Lightning. So, you know, I’ve always been really passionate about being an ally and making sure that black lesbians, in particular, had a voice through Thunder. So going right over into this, I was like, “Okay, God, there’s still more work and more of my voice that you need in this area.” And I was just really happy to give (myself) over to it, and very comfortable. I mean, I played Thunder for four years—four and a half years straight. So, it was a matter of familiarity and understanding what voice I needed for Robyn.
How would you express Robyn’s character now that you’ve seen the movie come to life?
Robyn is a real one. Okay. Robyn is very, very loyal. She is the “ride or die” character, and she just had good intentions, I feel, and that was what I wanted to make sure translated from her perspective or my perspective of her in the movie. She was a solid person. I feel like she came with good energy. She played her part really, really well. She didn’t want to be Whitney in any kind of way. She was very good with being the best friend who had her back and, you know, also was a good employee to her as well.
What’s next for you now that you have completed yet another achievement toward your acting career?
So, I have something that I’m not able to speak too much about right now, but you’ll know about it when it comes up. But being a businesswoman is also really, really important to me. I have a brand called Y-FEAR. Your fears and your egos aren’t real. This is a streetwear brand; it’s unisex and gender-neutral. Its streetwear meets mental wellness. I want to remind people of our power and of what we’re capable of doing, but mix it with streetwear and also bring the idea of mental wellness and therapy to the inner city. I come from Philly, so it was really important for me to put that out there. Family philanthropy is also really important to me. So even when I’m not on set, those are some of the things that I’m constantly working on and that fill me up.
What message would you give to yourself when you look back and think of all the things you’ve achieved as of right now?
Just be yourself, and it’s all going to happen at the exact time it’s supposed to.
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