Since departing The Daily Show last year, Jessica Williams has been busy. Earlier this year, she landed her first leading film role, earning rave reviews for her performance in Jim Strouse’s rom-com The Incredible Jessica James (out now on Netflix). She and Strouse are also developing a new TV series for Showtime, and she’s also got four upcoming HBO specials based on her podcast 2 Dope Queens, which she cohosts with Phoebe Robinson. Oh, and Williams will also be appearing in the upcoming sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
But when she’s not busy working on one of her many film and television projects, Williams has an intense devotion to The Sims. Like many simmers before her, the comedian got hooked on the classic PC simulator as a kid and has been playing ever since. Earlier this summer, Williams even revealed that she bonded with Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling over their shared love of the game.
So, it’s only fitting that with the new expansion pack The Sims 4 Cats & Dogs coming out today, we hopped on the phone with Williams to talk all things Sims. Read on for Williams’ thoughts on murder, mayhem, and Mortimer Goth.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you start playing The Sims?
JESSICA WILLIAMS: I started playing The Sims when I was like 10 or 11, around the original Sims’ time. I think we played it on my parents’ computer, on a PC. My brother and I just sort of rotated playing it with each other. It was dope because it was a game I felt like I was good at because it feels personal. You’re not playing against anybody, and you’re not required to have, like, a special skill set. You can kind of just sit down and enjoy it.
So what is it you still love about The Sims all these years later?
It’s just really comforting to play. It’s always nice to come back to no matter how busy I am. It’s nice to just sit down and find the comfort of having something that maybe feels a little bit like it’s in my control. [Laughs]
When you play, are you a rosebud or motherlode kind of player, or do you try to stay on the straight and narrow?
I’m a cheater. I’m not trying to say I’m on the straight and narrow. I’m a black woman. We’ve already had so much we’ve had to work towards and continue to have to work towards. I don’t need to do that in this video game. So I motherlode until the f—king cows come home. [Laughs]
What’s the most diabolical thing you’ve ever done to your Sims?
I’m not a diabolical. I hate to be like, “I’m not diabolical!” like a dweeb, but I do feel personally responsible for each and every Sim that I have in my game. Like in Westworld, I would be a good developer. I wouldn’t be a villain.
But accidentally, I was trying to get one of my Sims to turn into a vampire, and in order to do that, they have to befriend a vampire and then convince the vampire to turn them. There was this one vampire that I wanted my Sim to keep getting to know, and he was such a snob. He was such a pain in the ass to become friends with, and I had done all this work. So my Sim and him were hanging out at the park, and it was during the day, and I didn’t know that if he was smoking, there was a danger there. So the vampire ended up spontaneously bursting into flames, and he died right on the spot. He deserved it because he made it really difficult to get to know him, but also, that was a murder that I did feel really bad about.
So there’s a guilt there.
Oh, definitely. There’s definitely a little bit of guilt there.
Do you ever create people you know in real life?
I don’t really. That seems a little weird. [Laughs] I’m always afraid that when people look at my computer, embarrassing articles that I’ve looked up are going to pop up. Or like any porn that I had viewed previously, that’s gonna pop up in my search engine when I’m trying to show a friend something very important about, I don’t know, taxes or accounting. I’m always worried that someone’s going to look over my shoulder and see that I’ve made the weirdest Sims of friends and family in an odd situation. Like, “Sorry I have you with all of these s—tty character traits, but the real you doesn’t have s—tty character traits!”
So if you were a Sim, what would your character traits be?
Messy, friendly, and… I think introverted? That’s always such a pain in the ass when I make my Sims have the desire for popularity. I’m like, “Ugh, now I have to f—king invite people over and throw a party?”
What are your opinions on Mortimer and Bella Goth?
Oh, I love the Goths. I do really enjoy hanging out with them. There’s one that’s just a snob… Let me find out what their name is, but they’re always in the game, and they drive me f—king nuts. It’s like, who invited you?
[brief pause while Williams Googles “Sims pre-made families”]
There’s the Goth family. There’s the Caliente family, who everyone knows. And the Pancakes! I think it’s Eliza Pancakes who’s the snob. Neat, perfectionist, materialistic. Yeah, that’s what it is. She’s materialistic, so she’s really difficult to get to know. It’s like, seriously, who invited you?
You recently got invited to visit the headquarters of EA, the company that makes the game. How did that happen?
I think because I’ve been talking about it quite a bit. [Laughs] [The Sims] has been coming up in interviews I was doing for The Incredible Jessica James. I think EA got wind of it and was like, do you just want to come and visit the headquarters in Redwood City? And I was like, “Yes. Absolutely.” So my best friend, who’s also a Sims nut, we went down and just sort of geeked out over how they make The Sims.
What was that like, going to the headquarters?
It was surreal because I think foolishly, I didn’t realize that every single thing that is in the current game and has been in past games has to be designed. Everybody was awesome there, but it was also so amazing to see them working on the game while the game was already live, which was really cool. It’s cool to see them designing outfits, and I got to see concept boards for different building structures and characters. It was really special. It also just seemed like a really fun place to work. There were a lot of really fun Sims paraphernalia lying around. It was f—king awesome. It was like plumbobs abound.
Switching gears, you’re going to be in the Fantastic Beasts sequel, right?
Yes! I’m so excited. I’m pumped.
How did you get involved with that?
I hung out with J.K. [Rowling], and she had reached out to me a couple of days after we met. She sent me these emails about this really amazing character that she had been working on. That’s pretty much how it all got started. It’s really exciting. I leave next Friday for London, so I’m really excited about this. It’s like my wildest dream.
I know you’ve been a Harry Potter fan for a long time. What’s it like to join this universe with Fantastic Beasts?
I really have been a diehard fan since around the time I started playing The Sims. Those movies and books, especially the books, were so important to me. I could not have fathomed that when I was in the fourth grade reading these books, there would be a character I play that exists in this universe. It’s insane to me.