Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams’ 2 Dope Queens HBO series is set to return for a new set of specials Feb. 8. Last year, meanwhile, the pair announced that their beloved 2 Dope Queens podcast was coming to an end.
It is, in other words, a time of great transition for the two comics, who since their joint breakout have expanded into different areas: Robinson as best-selling author, Williams as blockbuster actress. Ahead of 2 Dope Queens’ return to TV, EW caught up with them on the feeling behind this new chapter, the exciting guest stars they have lined up this time around, and why it feels like they’re entering a “full-circle” moment.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Season 1 was such a success. What did you want to build on going into season 2?
JESSICA WILLIAMS: We had so much fun doing the specials; doing the first round, we were so, so, so excited to be working with HBO. To be able to do a comedy special, let alone four, with HBO — they’re really known for their comedy specials. But we had a little bit of a learning curve: Even though we’d done the show many, many times, we hadn’t done the show on that scale before, with the celebrity guests and the cameras and our hair and makeup. So the first time around, the episodes are great and amazing, but we also have more wisdom and experience going into the second round of episodes. With season 2, we really learned a lot from the first season and tried to run a really tight show. We’ve had a year of new experiences that we get to talk about. It was really fun to do. It’s a lot less stress and pressure. We know that they were so supportive last season, and just kind of wanted us to do the same thing again.
PHOEBE ROBINSON: We saw the fan reaction and how excited HBO was about it, so we were sort of like, “We got this. We know what we’re doing. We’re really funny.” People respond to the show in such a positive way; let’s proceed to be bigger and bolder. I think in a lot of ways you can see that immediately, in terms of the set design. It feels like such a massive throwback variety show, but then also super-modern and representative of Jess and I. We felt, as we have more confidence this time around, like we could truly be ourselves and go for really silly jokes. I think the audience is also going to be excited to see Jess and I back together again. We haven’t been back on TV in like a year! It’ll just feel like a nice coming-home of two friends hanging out, talking a bunch of stuff, and being silly — and also ignorant — on HBO.
You have Lupita Nyong’o guest-starring in the season premiere.
ROBINSON: She is everything. She is so funny, and she’s also a pretty good trash-talker! You don’t think of that when you think of her. But we have a little game that we do at the end of our interview, and she’s pretty good at talking trash. I was like, “I could see her playing pickup basketball and making someone cry as she dunks on them.” [Laughs]
And you also have Daniel Radcliffe on one of the specials.
WILLIAMS: [Laughs] Oh my goodness.
Were you surprised by his presence or what he brought to the show?
WILLIAMS: The great thing about Daniel Radcliffe is I’d only heard wonderful things. I’d only heard really, really good things and that he was so nice and so sweet. I spoke to him backstage before — we had him walk out onstage for the show, obviously — and he was just really awesome and primed and cool. We spoke about reality TV. When he came out, he was willing to play and talk and be silly. That was really fun. Especially since I’ve spoken about Harry Potter so much on the podcast. To be able to have Daniel Radcliffe on — it’s a major highlight for me, as far as the whole history of 2 Dope Queens. It rocked my world.
You announced last year the decision to end the podcast. With the HBO show coming back, what’s the feeling now?
ROBINSON: When Jess and I started doing 2 Dope Queens, we obviously didn’t think we were going to end up on HBO — you do it because you like hanging out. The podcast gained momentum, and we really struck a chord with a lot of people. As a result, that made our careers take off in ways that we wouldn’t necessarily predict. It made us crazy-busy in a way neither of us saw coming. I’ve written two books, interviewed Michelle Obama on tour; Jess is in Fantastic Beasts. All these amazing opportunities that came from 2 Dope Queens. And ending the podcast with us interviewing Michelle Obama — you can’t really top that! Who are you going to interview after Michelle Obama?
WILLIAMS: It feels very full-circle. The podcast was, in a lot of ways, a labor of love: While we loved doing it, it was a lot to make sure we were always in New York every other week to record the podcast. Now Phoebe’s got a lot going on. I also have a lot going on. It’s nice to have the flexibility to be able to do the HBO episodes and seasons. We have about five days that we take to go and record these specials. The podcasts will always be super-special and I love those episodes, but I also think it’s nice to be able to see us talk and make sure that we still have really good comics — usually people of color and members of the LGBTQ community, and just in general really funny people. And also to have celebrity guests with every episode. You get the best of the podcast in HD. And we have great makeup and hair!
This is a new chapter. Thinking about it more broadly, what has 2 Dope Queens meant to you, for your careers and just for yourselves as people?
WILLIAMS: 2 Dope Queens was an opportunity for us to give a lot of comedians a platform just to be heard a little more. They’re all brilliant and funny. My favorite compliment that I get is when people go up to me and are like, “Oh my God, I love 2 Dope Queens, I’ve listened to every episode, I’ve listened to you on a road trip, it just feels like I’m hanging out with my girlfriends.” I’ve grown up feeling very other and different. The fact that I can spend time talking about things that make me laugh or feel weird and odd, and have so many people relate to it and respond to it so beautifully and openly and consistently, is a dream come true. I feel really fulfilled with what 2 Dope Queens has been able to do.
ROBINSON: On a personal level, it was really cool to see a show hosted by two black women. It’s about friendship, being really funny, being really dorky — her love of Harry Potter, my love of U2. It was really cool to see something like that so widely embraced. Especially in comedy, you’re told everyone wants what they’ve already seen before. Our show, the way that we’ve done it hasn’t quite been done this way. Career-wise, one of the things Jess and I were really adamant about was that we didn’t want it to be a show that was just about us. Yes, people are showing up for us and our banter, but the audience really appreciates that… we want to showcase other comedians. We want it to feel like it’s celebratory of the human experience. It wasn’t just us. It was everyone.
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2 Dope Queens