From Wilhelmina to Wisteria Lane, actress Vanessa Williams didn’t waste anytime finding herself a plum gig following ABC’s UGLY cancellation of BETTY last spring. But just what is Williams doing on the Lane and more importantly, whom? We caught up with the talented actress earlier in the week to find out just that.
Aside from your character’s seemingly endless string of deliciously wicked one-liners, what do you hope UGLY BETTY is remembered for?
Vanessa Williams: Being unique. It was like nothing else in terms of dialogue, camera shots, wardrobe, characters, ensemble. We got a chance to really do a show on our own terms which was really is an opportunity that doesn’t come along often. It was a delight.
Do you as an actor mourn the loss of a television series as much as us viewers, or do you see it as more of a job where you welcome the change to do something else?
Oh no, in terms of BETTY it was a tough thing to let go of just because we had such a stellar last season where it just seemed like everything was firing on all cylinders. Between the pilot in New York, moving to Los Angeles, the Writer’s Strike and then moving back to New York, we had finally just kind of relaxed into where things should have been. Yet just as we found our groove, the plug was pulled! We definitely mourned the show and I actually just saw Becki [Newton] at her baby shower on Sunday with Anna [Ortiz] and Marc Indelicato. You know, if we got a phone call that said “Guess what, it’s back on!” I’m sure we’d all jump at the opportunity.
How did the opportunity to appear on DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES come about, where you actively looking for another series?
I was completely open. I was on Broadway doing an eight show week with Sondheim On Sondheim and I didn’t really know what was going to happen during the summer because it was wide open, Sondheim was a limited run. So when I got the call from [DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES creator] Marc Cherry about joining the show I really had nothing planned. The show is such a well-oiled machine and it would give me an opportunity to create a new character within the safety of having a show that is successful worldwide. Marc is a big fan of musical theatre, saw me on Broadway, and I knew he had a sensibility of what I could bring to the show. It’s nice to be wanted, that’s the bottom line. And when people say we value you, we know you’re available and we’ll make it worth your while, you can’t really say no.
How different is the character you’re playing on DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES from Wilhelmina Slater?
Renee, who comes to Wisteria Lane to visit Lynette who happens to be her old college roommate is a bit passive aggressive and definitely ruffles the feathers of a lot of the woman on the Lane. She’s certainly not as fierce as Wilhelmina Slater by any means, but she’s a personality to be reckoned with within a suburban environment.
Traditionally, new arrivals to the Lane bring with them a terrible secret or dark past. Just how much do you know about your character?
If there is a dark past to Renee, they haven’t told me yet! I don’t think there’s anyone I’ve killed so far in, which I guess bodes well because that means maybe I’m seen more as a regular than a temporary phenomenon. But it all depends on the writers, Marc Cherry and the Network. So we’ll see. What I can tell you is that there’s a little fling with Brian Austin Green’s character, that’s all I know so far and that’s only been up to episode six. Who knows who’s coming later on!
You can catch the seventh season premiere of DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES this Sunday September 26 at 9PM on ABC (7PM on CTV in Canada)