A Conversation With
You aren’t seeing double—that’s Melissa Williams acting in two television shows simultaneously. The BET+ network star and powerhouse Tyler Perry’s “new muse” can be seen on The Oval, as well as its fan-favorite spinoff series Ruthless, both projects of Perry’s own creation. Starring Melissa, Ruthless (now in its first season) is the riveting story of a woman named Ruth who kidnaps her young daughter to join her in the dark underworld of a fanatical religious cult. The Rakudushis cult and Melissa’s lead character were first introduced in The Oval (whose second season just premiered) in which the actress plays both Ruth and her twin sister Denise—their personalities are polar opposite, perfectly exemplifying the broad scope of Melissa’s skill and look. Her diverse passions extend beyond the camera—when she’s not shooting both shows concurrently in Atlanta, Melissa is often found volunteering with Young Storytellers (YS), an arts education non-profit that targets Title I schools in Los Angeles, where she fosters the same traits and values that make her such a force to be reckoned with.
ER You’ve been called Tyler Perry’s “new muse,” playing in two of his shows simultaneously. Tell us about how you’ve grown in your career while working with one of the most respected producers in the entertainment industry.
MW You know, I am very fortunate to be called that. But I’m even more fortunate to be able to say that I was offered a role by the first Black man to own the largest production studio in the nation! Tyler Perry is a leader, and I have grown not only as an actress but also as a person since working with him.
ER On The Oval, twins Ruth and Denise Truesdale are polar opposites. What initially drew you to the twins’ individual characters?
MW This is kinda corny, but I loved the movie The Parent Trap growing up. I was initially drawn to the fact you mentioned—that these twins lived two completely different lives—and I also wanted to take on the challenge of playing two characters on one show.
ER How does Ruth’s character evolve between The Oval and Ruthless, and what were you eager to bring to that evolution?
MW Because The Oval takes place after Ruthless, I would say you would have to watch the entire first season of Ruthless to understand the full evolution that takes place—from Ruth being misled to her enlightenment, if you will. That season births the resilience I was eager to bring to Ruth in The Oval.
ER The Oval and Ruthless deal with some heavy social topics. How has being involved in these storylines impacted your perspective on the shows’ subject-matter?
MW My storylines on these shows—one about corruption and drama in the White House and the other about a violent religious cult—are generated from ideas that stem from some of the ugly realities that are often kept swept under the rug. Art imitating life.
ER Shooting two hit shows at the same time is no small feat. Share with us how you manage to navigate your dual work schedules alongside your personal life.
MW If you haven’t heard, let me be the first to share that we shoot at a very rapid pace, and being that Tyler Perry can shoot a season in under two weeks, I’d say my dual schedules are easily manageable. My personal life is great. I really get to enjoy my time off.