actress jessica williams

Jessica Williams on Fantastic Beasts and Her Off-Duty Beauty Routine

Plus the $12 blue eyeliner she won't stop wearing.

Jessica Williams loves bejeweled pimple patches and playing Pokemon Snap when she's not working. They're small parts of her wit and humor—on and offscreen— that is the center of her career. Williams' portfolio consists of appearances in GirlsThe Daily Show With Jon Stewart, Netflix's The Incredible Jessica James, Olivia Wilde's critical darling Booksmart, and Mia Hines in HBO Max's Love Life. Williams' latest role as Professor Eulalie Hicks in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is her second appearance in the series—and it's one of our favorites yet.

Williams dialed into our Zoom call in a bright purple dress and candy-colored hair, excited to discuss her role as Professor Eulalie Hicks, and it was apparent they share the same commanding energy. Williams quickly revealed that she aspires to be like her witchy character one day, and some would argue she's already there. During our call, we spoke candidly about her love for all things Harry Potter, beauty lessons she's learned during her career, and her favorite products. Williams is generous in everything she gives, from her favorite sunscreen to Black women who inspire her beauty philosophy. Read more from our conversation, ahead.

actress jessica williams

Jessica Williams/Designed by Byrdie

Congrats on your film Fantastic Beasts: The Secret of Dumbledore. Talk to us about how it feels to be part of such a massive franchise.

The Wizarding World has been around for a long time, and I feel like I've been inserted into a huge machine. My teacher read the books to us when I was in the third grade, and I had a Harry Potter tattoo long before I was cast in the film. I felt excited and intimidated but was honored to portray Professor Eulalie Hicks, a tenacious, capable, and formidable witch, in this film.

What's your most fun memory on set or while filming? 

My favorite memories usually involve stunt work and fight sequences. I did one with Dan Fogler (Jacob Kowalski), who is a funny, talented person. We have a scene where I'm running up these books, wearing a beautiful gold dress by Colleen Atwood, and I'm wearing heels, and there are stunt people along the sides ready to catch me in case I fall. It reminded me of why The Rock probably does so much stunt work because it's challenging but so much fun.

Do you share any similarities to your character? If so, what are they?

We're both six-foot-tall and Black [laughs]. Eulalie grew up reading many books, which is a pastime I share. I admire her ability to see the heart in people, and she inspires me in that way. I hope to emulate her innate qualities of being intelligent, capable, and an overall badass. 

How did you prepare to play Professor Eulalie Hicks?

I already had a ton of knowledge about the Wizarding World since I'd been introduced to the series as a child. I even had a few souvenirs, like Professor McGonagall's wand, so I did a lot of practicing in my apartment. I spent about six months practicing my accent before shooting and would study orators from that period to draw inspiration for her voice. I always made sure I reviewed my lines the night before to stay in character. Overall, I had to trust that I could handle anything that came my way.

Let's switch gears a bit. What's your relationship with beauty like?

jessica williams zoom date

Jessica Williams

Beauty is a journey, not a destination, so my relationship changes daily. I deal with hormonal acne, and my hair requires a lot of care due to its blended texture. There are days I care about beauty, and other days I want to keep it chill. It's a personal experience, and I can't always describe what makes me feel beautiful or the steps I take to get there, but it's a feeling that's ongoing. 

Throughout the film, your character wore her natural hair and intricate braids. What role did you play in helping achieve her look?

We had an incredible hair and makeup department, and it was challenging to find looks from the time period to draw inspiration. This is a magical character who isn't constrained by muggles, so we tried to take that concept and look at women who were walking around Harlem at that time, and we added a whimsical element to her style. In the book, my character has origins from African mermaids, so we paid homage to that by keeping her hair long. The production team felt it was important that I had a voice in what my hair looked like, which isn't always the case for Black actors in Hollywood. 

What's your current skincare routine?

I have endometriosis, and my hormonal acne causes monthly breakouts. I have to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated when sometimes all I want is apple juice. My skin is also prone to hyperpigmentation, so I try to get routine facials and work with an esthetician experienced with POC skin who can help me. I protect my skin with Black Girl Sunscreen ($19), which doesn't leave a white tint, and I wear a wide brim hat to keep my face covered.

Do you have any go-to or non-negotiable beauty products or services?

Facials and pimple patches are a must. I have these adorable ones from Urban Outfitters that have pastel flowers and rhinestones. I can rock them anywhere from working out to getting coffee because the pimple has to go. It's very reminiscent of Lisa Frank, and I love them.

Talk to us about your beauty inspiration? Who or what inspires you?

My mom is really beautiful, and it's like looking into a mirror because we resemble each other so much. Like my mom, Black women inspire me, and I love our skin, look, and complexities. Rihanna and the space she has created for others in the beauty market with Fenty Beauty has also been inspiring. 

actress jessica williams

Jessica Williams/Designed by Byrdie

Did you have an ongoing relationship with makeup?

I have always loved makeup, and I used to douse my face in the throwback Mac glitter products. Sephora Collection's Cobalt Blue liner ($12) is a favorite of mine that looks great on my skin. I try to find YouTubers who look like me and use their recommendations because they do all the heavy lifting and provide such an easy way to find accessible makeup. I am also blessed to work with incredible makeup artists who understand my skin and how to create the best looks—I've learned so much from them.

What's a solo self-care day look like for you? Paint the picture for us.

It will include a lot of sleeping. My partner has been championing that I start daily walks with him, so I've incorporated that into my schedule. I just landscaped my house's front yard, and I enjoy days when I'm just sitting and taking in nature. 

You're busy with various projects in the works. How do you stay balanced?

I like to stay in communication with my family and friends. I drink a ton of water and play Pokemon Snap on my Nintendo Switch. 

What are you looking forward to most for the remainder of 2022?

I have a new job in Los Angeles that I am looking forward to, and I can't divulge the details. I'm also excited for people to get introduced to Professor Eulalie Hicks. I want to go to Universal Studios and ride roller coasters, play with my nieces and nephews, and maybe even get a dog. I also want to manifest a pool. I want to build a hole in the back of my house and invest in making it a paradise.

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