Brittany N. Williams is an actress, writer, and nerd of many fandoms. She is also an actress, writer, and singer who’s performed across three continents and several US states. Some of her favorite credits include Universal Robots (Helena), Margaret I (Joan of Arc), and Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds (Nansi – Helen Hayes Award Nom.). You can find her writing on Tor.com, Black Nerd Problems, The Indypendent, and in the Star Wars anthology From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @BrittanyActs.
What do you create?
This is always a tough one to answer succinctly because I do a lot. Simplified, I create and tell stories. More specifically, I write sci-fi and fantasy fiction, creative non-fiction (essays, interviews, and reviews), and I perform both onstage and on camera.
Why do you create?
It feels like storytelling is in my blood, it’s something I’ve never been able to resist doing. My Grandma tells me when I was very little and had to do chores, I’d start reciting lines from Disney’s Cinderella. LOL. This is me.
Who is your audience?
Whatever I do, I do it for Black people. I always want my people to see my work, read my work, and find some reflection of themselves there. If other folks enjoy it, cool, but Black people are always at the front of my mind.
What did it mean for you to be able to write a Star Wars story? What is the plot and what inspired it?
Mayne, what a wild, incredible, and wildly incredible moment. I’m just so excited and proud to be part of such an expansive property. Like, Star Wars is huge and spans beyond my lifetime. And as a fanfiction writer and reader, you write these stories and character explorations where you pick apart canon and fill in the gaps that affected you the most but maybe weren’t touched on or handled satisfyingly and it exists somewhere where fans can engage with it outside of the body of the main story. But I got invited to write Star Wars canon, to add to the history of this thing that I’ve engaged with on a fan level and that’s just mind-blowing. And what great company to keep with these other brilliant writers in this anthology.
My story “Faith in an Old Friend” is set during The Empire Strikes Back and it follows L3-37, Lando’s old droid partner and co-pilot. Her body gets destroyed during the film Solo and she gets uploaded into the computer of the ship the Millennium Falcon. My story shows a bit of what she’s been up to since then and shows why C-3P0 says the Falcon “has the most peculiar dialect.”
What is Issa Flop and what’s your hottest take?
Ha! Issa Flop is a weekly show I do on the Black Nerd Problems Twitch channel where I examine a movie that flopped–didn’t recoup its budget at the box office–and kind of extrapolate why it did so poorly. It’s not all bad, we talk about the good too especially because a lot of good movies flopped like Bébé’s Kids and Rise of the Guardians. Geez, lemme check my notes for my hottest takes… I think it would be that in creating Cats, someone opened the gates of hell and unleashed 2020 on the world. But, like, that feels less like a hot take and more like an informed opinion because I watched it…I watched that movie…
Who/what inspired you to do what you do? Who/what continues to inspire you?
I decided that I wanted to be an actor when I was ten years old when I was in my first school play. That was the clincher but before that, as a kid I saw Stephanie Mills as Dorothy in the national tour of The Wiz and an all-Black production of Annie at the high school close to my elementary school. I was like, “Bet, I’m doing that.” On the writing side, that came from loving books and stories so much. It took me a while to get to the place where I could confidently call myself a writer and I have to thank my friends, my grandma, and my wonderful husband for helping me to get there and keeping me there. I have an amazing support system and they honestly keep me going when self-doubt tries to take me out.
Why is it important as a black person to create?
Creation is a foundational element of life. To be alive is to have the power and the drive to create. As Black people, we’ve had that aspect of ourselves corrupted and repackaged as labor that should only be used and exploited in the service of other people. And I think part of liberating ourselves, reaffirming our humanity, and reconnecting with God is through allowing and encouraging ourselves to create. Making things is beautiful and personal and an act of holy inspiration no matter what the final product looks like.
How do you balance creating with the rest of your life?
Balance? What is that???? Just kidding…a little. Honestly, balance is something I still struggle with between working to overcome attaching my self-worth to my productivity and being really passionate about my work. It’s a process that I’m working through on my own and with my therapist. I try to detach from work when I can and I’m looking for a hobby that doesn’t engage my work brain–which is hard because that pulls out watching movies and TV and even reading. I do know how to knit, so I pick that up occasionally. Like I said, it’s a work in progress.
What is your favorite piece of art you’ve created?
My favorite was a show I did several years ago, Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds. I played a little girl named Nansi who was the main character’s friend and had a pet spider. This was honestly the most fun I’ve had doing a show. Rehearsals were easy, the cast was full of professionals who were a joy to work with on stage, the music was fun, I got to cut loose in the role, it was fantastic. We originally did the show at Adventure Theatre-MTC, a children’s theatre just outside of Washington, DC, in 2013 and I got nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for my performance. That was wild. Then in 2014, we did the show again in New York at The New Victory Theater on 42nd Street and I had a giant billboard with my face on it right there in Times Square. Talk about a dream. I also had several little girls and boys come up to me after the show to let me know Nansi was their favorite character and that always made my heart happy. What a time.
What is your favorite creation by a Black person, and why?
Wow, the struggle of this question. I’ll say Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. It was a Broadway musical from 2016 that was a reimagining of the musical Shuffle Along by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle and it used the music of the original to tell the behind-the-scenes story. It was written and directed by George C. Wolfe, choreographed by Savion Glover, and starred Billy Porter, Audra McDonald, Adrienne Warren, and–my forever love–Brian Stokes Mitchell. Like, this show was stacked with brilliance, amazing performers, brilliant performances, and it just closed after 100 performances. There’s no cast album, no script I can buy, it just exists in our memories. I just remember being so touched and inspired and incensed watching it from my balcony seat. Like, I wrote a whole article praising it, it was so good. I’m still starving for more Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed content. To. This. Day.
Advice for new creators?
Keep going. Fear is normal, failure is normal, doubt is normal, but just keep going. Also, learn to filter out the noise. Everybody isn’t going to like your stuff and that’s okay. Don’t let criticism completely collapse your sense of self-worth.
What are your current/future projects you’d like to plug?
I’m shopping around a YA historical fantasy novel about a Black girl in Shakespeare’s London. I’ll let y’all know when I have more info on that so keep an eye out.
Issa Flop happens every Wednesday at 7PM ET over on the Black Nerd Problems Twitch channel (twitch.tv/blacknerdproblems) and I’ll be talking about Dragonball Evolution on our January 6th episode–should be fun.
My theatre company, The NOLA Project, is producing an audio drama that I wrote and star in called Spare Mission 1: Swipe, Swipe, Snipe that drops on January 13th (https://www.nolaproject.com/sparemissionone).
And the last thing, I recorded the audiobook for Daniel José Older’s middle-grade sci-fi novel Flood City. That comes out on February 2nd.