It wasn’t long ago when Michelle Williams made her Broadway debut in the revival of Cabaret — in fact, her time as Sally Bowles ended less than a year and a half ago. Williams is now back on Broadway in a play, Blackbird. She stars as Una, a young woman who had a sexual relationship as a 12 year-old with a much older man (played by Jeff Daniels, who played the same role in the 2007 off-Broadway production) and has come back into his life to confront him about their history. In an interview with Vogue, Williams reveals her admiration for the script and why an actor shouldn’t be afraid of taking on extraordinary material.
Williams remarks how thrilling it is for a performer to challenge himself or herself by working with great material. She explains, “The play is an undeniable piece of great writing, and the thing about great writing is that my job becomes about how to live up to the material, rather than how to fix or make sense out of the material. I have to reach for it. ”
One of the aspects she has explored is how Una has in some ways remained a twelve year-old girl because of what had been done to her. She says, “A part of Una is frozen in time, forever a twelve-year-old girl. What happens to you in those early years is what you wrestle with until your middle years—if it hasn’t killed you or numbed you first.”
A lot of that involves Una (and, by extension, Williams) confronting and admitting her own fears and realizing that challenging work isn’t something to be fearful of. She continues, “When things are spoken aloud, there is a power. The darkness exists in the quiet, in the alone-ness. I want to speak for Una. I am afraid of heights and snakes. I am afraid of experimenting to the point of irrelevance. I am afraid of failing my daughter in ways I am unable to perceive without hindsight. I am afraid to appear lost on a street. But I will only ever be grateful and amazed when I have the opportunity to attempt material like this. This is the work of my dreams.”