Having already made waves on BET's The Oval with dual roles, breakout star Melissa L. Williams, who has quickly become Tyler Perry's new muse, is now staring in Perry's spin-off series Ruthless, currently streaming on BET Plus. We spoke to the actress on the phone about her new show and what she is doing to help the community during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Where are you hiding out at this time?
I am in my home in Los Angeles. I like being here, so it’s not a far stretch for me having to stay home. Today, I have to go out to get groceries because I ran out of food. But my first ration lasted for a while, so I didn’t have to go anywhere.
You are lucky. The Coronavirus has put millions of people out of work.
I know. While I am ok staying at home because I can financially afford it, I am not ok with other people having to because I know their struggle. It’s so unfortunate. Most struggling actors work in the restaurant industry or in customer service. That’s my background as well. Last year at this time, I was working in a restaurant and I would have not been able to live off the little tips that I was making if I had lost my job and not been able to go to work all these weeks.
You are doing something amazing to help some of these people. How did you come up with the idea of giving out 100 USD to people in need?
I experienced random acts of kindness in my condo building. For example, someone had left a package of toilet paper with a note that said, if you need one, take one, much love from 301. It was so thoughtful and selfless in this time when you literally can’t buy toilet paper anywhere. I was really inspired by that kindness and began interacting with some people on Instagram, who all expressed a need for money due to the financial hardships they were experiencing during this time. So I asked them for their Cash App username and send them the money for whatever they need it for. I am grateful to be able to do that.
You are starring in Tyler Perry’s series Ruthless, which is streaming on BET Plus. Has the show been affected by the pandemic?
Only in a good way because people are forced to stay home and are now tuning in to the show. It’s a great time for streaming and discovering new shows.
What are you doing at home now?
I am auditioning. I tape myself at home and send it off. Hopefully, some of these projects come through. I am excited. And then I am hoping for The Oval to come back.
Ruthless is a spinoff of The Oval, another show by Tyler Perry, which you are also a part of. How do you feel about being Tyler Perry’s muse?
It’s such a wonderful blessing because it’s an opportunity for me to expand my range. I had never played a character like Ruth and when Perry offered it to me, I knew this would be challenging. I only act with my face because my wardrobe is just a purple cloth robe. You can barely see my hands. How do you keep that interesting for 24 episodes? But I really love the character. Ruth is like everybody; she is on her quest to become her best self. Sometimes things are not always as they seem but we’ve all been misled in our lives.
It’s the story of a woman who is forced to play nice with a scandalous religious cult of powerful sex-crazed fanatics in the hopes of freeing herself and her daughter. How much did you know about the subject of religious cults?
I wasn’t very familiar, I heard of a few but I really had to delve into the subject. I watched a lot of documentaries and I went on YouTube to listen to women, who had similar experiences and escaped these cults.
Tyler Perry Studios established Perry as the first African American to outright own a major film production studio. What is it like working there?
It’s incredible. There is a lot of encouragement but also a lot of hard work. We start the day off with a prayer and then everyone is dedicating to the task and completing whatever needs to be done. We shoot triple as fast as other productions. Tyler is a legend and there is a lot of respect for what he has created. The goal is to get the job done and come out with a wonderful product at the end.
How is the catering?
Oh boy, let me tell you…we have different cuisines, which are available every day. Italian, Mexican, soul food, there is something for everyone. It’s really cool. Tyler takes care of everyone.