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Michelle Williams Breaks Down Her Career, from 'Blue Valentine' to 'The Fabelmans'

Michelle Williams takes us through her illustrious career, including her roles in 'Lassie,' 'Dawson's Creek,' 'Brokeback Mountain,' 'Wendy and Lucy,' 'Blue Valentine,' 'Manchester by the Sea,' 'The Greatest Showman,' 'Fosse/Verdon' and 'The Fabelmans.'

THE FABELMANS is in theaters and at home now.

Director: Funmi Sunmonu
Director of Photography: Grant Bell
Editors: Cory Stevens
Celebrity Talent: Michelle Williams
Line Producer: Romeeka Powell
Talent Booker: Meredith Judkins
Associate Producer: Clarissa Davis
Production Managers: Andressa Pelachi, Peter Brunette
Production Coordinator: Carolina Wachockier
Camera Operator: Omar Elgohary
Audio: Kari Barber
Post Production Supervisor: Nicholas Ascanio
Post Production Coordinator: Jovan James
Supervising Editor: Kameron Key
Assistant Editor: Billy Ward
Production Assistants: Phillip Arliss, John Brodsky

Released on 01/05/2023


I think it's a connection between you and the material

and I think it happens the first time that you read it

and I think it sort of comes off the page

and you can hear it like a piece of music.

It sort of starts to play itself in front of you.

[bright jazzy music]

Hi, I'm Michelle Williams,

and this is the timeline of my career.

Put a blanket over it tonight

'cause it probably gets pretty cold in here.

I'll bring you some extra formula tomorrow.


I remember just being really excited.

I went on a lot of auditions as a kid

and so to get something

that wasn't an infomercial was a really big deal.

I remember multiple Lassies and I remember being,

I was like, ah, that's movie making for you,

multiple Lassies, now I know how things work.

There's a stuffed Lassie, there's a stunt Lassie,

there's a not as handsome Lassie,

and then there's like a Lassie

that's saved for the closeup.

Hi, I'm Paisey. Nice to meet you.

Hi, I'm Dawson. You're Dawson?

Dawson. Yeah, I know, we met before.

I'm Jen.

Oh, the granddaughter from New York. Okay.

Right, right.

[Dawson] Wow, you look different.

Puberty. Hi, I'm Joey.

I lived down the creek and we've never met ever.

It was exciting.

We got picked up.

Like it was such a big deal.

You shoot a pilot for something and

you don't know what's gonna happen or

if you'll all be together again or,

and then it turns out we ran for six and a half years.

It's how much we responded to it

and it was totally a thrill.

[gentle music]

I should go, but thanks for everything, Dawson.

But um...

I'm just gonna pretend we kissed, okay?

I mean I always took it very seriously,

maybe a little bit too seriously.

I think they thought we were kind of

like annoying kids because I was like

I have a note or I don't want her to do that

or I don't want her to say that.

But I think I was learning how to have a voice

and I felt very connected to the character

because I played it for so long,

and I think I was so young when I played that part

and my identity was still sort of forming and so

we were kind of meshing

with each other and so I took it very personally.

And then you come back looking all perky

and said you caught a bunch of browns

and you ate them up.

Do you remember?

I looked in that case first chance I got

and there was my notes still tied there.

Their land hadn't touched water in its life.

Didn't mean nothing.

Don't try and fool me no more, Ennis.

I know what that means.

My experience maybe is that the perception

that the film could change was

for men to see themselves in love with each other.

That that was a perception,

that that love I think offered a kind

of self-love that hadn't been given

to them in cinema before.

That was the experience that I had,

that people were so grateful to see themselves in this way.

I think that what the two boys did

was at the time incredibly brave.

And maybe even now still would be considered brave.

I don't know.

But I know that that wasn't really on my shoulders.

It's like in the way that it was on theirs.

It's one of those roles that you dream of.

But I never could have anticipated

what sort of impact it would have.

I just wanted to play it so badly.

Hey Lou.

Hey. Hey Lou.

Do you miss me? Huh?

Do you miss me? Huh?

I do like to work with dogs. [crew laughs]

I like to work with an animal.

My favorite animal now is the monkey though.

Man, what an actor.

I don't think I really felt any pressure

in making Wendy and Lucy

because nobody cared that we were making Wendy and Lucy.

It was a six person crew.

But it was precisely like the arrow

on the target of the kind of work that I wanted to be doing,

the kind of work that I had always wanted to do.

And then here I was, even though nobody cared about it.

I was familiar with Kelly's work.

I had seen her other films,

which is why I wanted to make Wendy and Lucy.

But then all of a sudden people saw it

and it's still maybe the movie that when people come

up to me and they say that they love Wendy and Lucy,

it has a really special place in my heart

because you don't really make a movie

like that thinking really anybody's gonna see it.

You're really just kind of doing it for yourself.

And it really, I think,

announced Kelly as the filmmaker that she is.

And now we just had a movie at Cannes together

and she has a cinema dedicated to her at the Sorbonne.

She's the only woman to have that honor.

So you know that

that's where it all started as very meaningful to me.

You're hungry, huh?

Bet you are. Come on, let's go.

When I was on Dawson's Creek,

it was such a great time for me

because we lived in North Carolina, small sleepy town,

and there was a record store, a DVD store,

and a Barnes & Noble.

And I didn't go to college

and I didn't really go to high school.

And those three places gave me my education.

And what I was seeing was independent cinema.

And I thought, oh, I'd really like to work there.

I'd really like to be in that community.

I'd like to be one of them.

And so Wendy and Lucy,

a number of years had passed

between first having that desire

and then finding myself there.

And so I was like, oh, here I am,

this is what I wanted and what I was aiming towards,

and here I am.

I can't do this. I can't take this shit.

[Dean] Come outside Dean,

I cannot take this shit anymore.

I cannot take this shit.

[Dean] Just come outside.

I am not going outside with you. I've had it.

[Dean] I've had it. Come and talk.

I have had it. I am up to here.

I'm done, okay? I'm done.

[Dean] Let's go outside. I'm done.

I really hungered for this one, Blue Valentine.

There was a time in my life where just everything

was Blue Valentine.

I had read the script and I was totally obsessed with it.

And it was like a fire inside of myself.

And everything that I saw, everything that I listened to,

it was all just sort of like through this lens

of Blue Valentine.

And then we just hung onto it for a really long time.

I hung onto it,

Ryan hung onto it, Derek hung onto it.

And then finally we actually got to make it.

And it had been living inside of all of us.

When I think back about that time

when I read the script and in that sort of interim period

before we made it,

that period in your life where

you really know what you wanna be doing,

but you aren't doing it and it burns.

And that burning is so generative

when you can't possess something

and you just have to live in desire,

that's what I think about when I think about

the Blue Valentine years.

I was just like burning with desire for this expression.

You're caring me. Don't say it.

Don't say that stuff.

Be a man, what is that shit?

I mean, don't bully. I'll be a man.

You want me to be a man? Here you go.

[Dean slamming objects]

Stop it, get out. I'm a big man. Look at me.

Derek would set up these rehearsals

for us where he would say, okay,

now I want you to make a family budget,

and now I want you to get into a fight,

and now I want you to try and fix the kitchen sink.

And now I want you to take your daughter

to the playground and now I want you to try taking her

to the playground after you've had a fight.

And so we had an entire night that we improvised,

we had like a a 12 hour dusk till dawn

that we shot on these streets upstate New York

that was all improvised and sort of told Ryan

and I to just kind of like stuff our pockets

with things we might wanna come up with, but we had no plan.

And then all of a sudden,

we wound up doing each other's makeup and tap dancing

and that kind of deep immersive rehearsal

experience gets a little bit more difficult

when you have more children to make that kind of time.

My heart was broken.

It's always gonna be broken,

but I know yours is broken too.

When I think back about Manchester and I think about

some of those scenes that we filmed,

I remember saying to Kenny,

I remember both of us saying to each other

I don't wanna do this,

I don't wanna do this, I don't wanna do this scene,

I don't wanna play this day,

but I do know that I get to go home.

And I know that for people who have lived through this,

they never get to go home.

And so whatever I think I'm afraid of on that day

has no comparison to

what people have lived through.

And I didn't wanna feel sorry for myself.

[woman screaming incoherently]

[radio chatter]

[dramatic music]

That day, that night after the fire was kind of a blur.

It's just sort of like one big emotional blur.

Kenny is right there with you

and his scripts are so beautiful

and so poetic and they look very simple.

It's a lot of overlapping dialogue.

It's a lot of pauses, um, huh, yeah well, uh,

and the reason that they're so perfect.

And then when you see them, they kind of are transcendent,

like Kenny's lived through everything.

He's the reason that I know where to put

the uh or the mm is because I've said it out loud.

I've played each of these characters

by myself at home where I'm writing

and that's why I know where they go

because I've said it for them.

So there's this person

behind the monitor who is like walking your path with you.

And I don't know, I think I just remember

feeling that on all those really difficult days.

This isn't the life I promised you.

But I have everything I want.

What about the magic?

What do you call those two girls?

Hey partners, look who mozied into the corral.

What are you-- Daddy!

It feels good.

Those songs come on the radio and I'm singing them.

I hear it in the grocery store and I wanna dance to it.

The Greatest Showman, sequel, part two, come on.

♪ This is the greatest show ♪

♪ We won't come down ♪

♪ and the sun gets up on them now ♪

♪ Watching it come true, it's taking over you ♪

♪ This is the greatest show ♪

That movie makes you feel good.

People love it. Kids love it.

Grownups love it. I love it, more please.

♪ Make up your mind to have. ♪

They're not gonna let you do this, you know.

♪ No regrets ♪

Who's they?

George, the audience, critics,

you can't do a striptease on Broadway.

You think it's vulgar?

Gosh, TV hadchanged a lot

and everybody kept telling me it was different now

and that it was really a place where you would be

fully supported and people were making

really interesting work, and gosh,

I just totally found that to be true.

Like I loved working for this network,

I loved working for FX.

I loved the belief that they put in all of their artists.

They really gave us so much liberty and support

because when you're singing and you're dancing

and you're aging and you need a lot of help,

you really need the right things

and the right things cost money.

The right teeth costs money.

The right prosthetics costs money.

The right dance teacher costs money.

And that's how you are enabled to

go to another level with your work,

which is ultimately for them.

And they seem to understand that transaction.

So I found it a totally thrilling place to work.

I love the limited series form.

You get to embed yourself with this character

like you do in a play,

but you get to have new experiences with them.

So by the end of it you feel so close to them,

you don't really know where you begin and they end,

and you sort of go through a very awkward

transition phase as you're kind of letting them go.

It's kind of like growing out your hair

and you're just like, oh,

when am I gonna feel like myself again?

But I would love to do another limited series.

Having Nicole Fosse on set,

she offered things that nobody else could,

she'd sort of whisper in my ear,

oh my mom would add this word here.

These like really invaluable details.

And it's the same thing with Steven now I realize,

you kind of have these two experts

who are whispering into your ear.

That was great because I got to learn how to dance

or how I learned how to pretend to dance or I learned

that I can't dance.

Dancers are like superheroes,

they look like us and they walk around

and then they take their clothes off

and they are not of this earth.

I love their tenacity

and I love how dancers are in pain.

They're always in pain and they power

through it and they make it look so glorious,

and make you think that you can do it, but you can't.

But I just loved being in their world.

Sammy, we're going to use daddy's camera to film it.

Only crash the train once, okay?

Then after we get the film developed,

you can watch it crash over

and over till it's not so scary anymore

and your real train will never get broken.

One more thing, Dolly,

let's not tell your father.

It'll be our secret movie, just yours and mine.

I didn't know why Steven wanted to talk to me.

I could not allow myself to think

that he wanted me to be in one of his movies.

I really thought he just wanted to ask me a question

about something that I couldn't even really imagine what

because it just didn't make any sense.

Like Steven Spielberg wants to talk to me?

He knows my name? What's happening?

So when we were on this Zoom together and he's talking

about his life and he's talking about his childhood

and then it sort of hits me what's going on.

And I can't even believe

that I had the nerve to ask him

if I understood correctly what I thought he was saying

because even that seems audacious to imagine

that he was in fact asking me to play his mother.

And he said yes,

that is in fact what I'm asking you to do.

And I just am still shaking my head in disbelief.

I don't know,

I think the only way that I approached this role

differently is like the accumulation of years.

I was 41 when I made it.

And so I couldn't have made this when I was 39 or 22.

I couldn't have made this at any other point.

I wouldn't have been ready until I was 41.

So I brought 41 years to it.

We talked, he shared, open heart, open hands,

what a memory he has too.

He carries all of this richness

with him and then he just sort of like lays it

at your feet and you get

to sift through it and find what's most useful

and then take it to work with you,

and then what you're bringing makes something else

occur to him.

And then it's just like throwing a ball

back and forth and you're just kind of

watching the trajectory together

and then sort of seeing how much further you can go.

Gosh, I thought, you know,

when I finished reading the script,

I just thought it's a feast

and they let her live as a woman.

She was a girl,

she was a woman, and then she became a mother.

A mother is one part of her identity.

I also felt like they

didn't judge her for the choices that she made.

I felt like she was allowed to live

without punishment or apology.

And that really, the way that she lived her life,

is celebrated by the way that Steven has lived his life.

And all of her children have gone

on to live their own individual past

because they saw their mother do it first.

You can't just love something,

you also have to take care of it.

It's more important than your hobby.

Can you stop calling it a hobby?

Mom got a monkey. [screams]

[Father] Why'd you get a monkey?

[Mother] Because I needed a laugh.

That monkey was so impressive.

I was like, I wanna go to monkey acting school.

There is nothing she can't do.

And just pure presence,

like you really gotta be careful

or that monkey's gonna upstage you.

All animals can upstage you.

They can't not be in the moment.

And that monkey taught my toddler how to give a high five,

which was the cutest thing I've ever seen in my life.

I'll tell you what's not better is a pigeon.

Not my favorite scene partner.

[bright music]

I really don't know what's coming next.

And it's sort of exciting to think

that anything can happen just the way that it always does.

Everything, every job that you get,

you can't really see it coming.

And then you meet it

and it meets you and you sort of understand, oh this is...

I kind of think you get the right job

for the right moment or you say yes

to the thing that you kind of unconsciously wanna work on

in yourself or find some kind of expansion in.

So I feel excited right now to not know what's coming

and to not know what the thing is

that I'm gonna be trying to expand or figure out.

Starring: Michelle Williams

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