Did Michelle Williams Hate Working on ‘Dawson’s Creek’?

It’s almost redundant now to called Michelle Williams the most transformative actor of her era, in movies and TV. Television is where she recently conquered everything she’d done before with her role as Gwen Verdon in FX’s Fosse/Verdon. Her past TV work, though, was far more humble years two decades ago.

Acting on Dawson’s Creek then seems like a distant universe compared to what she accomplished afterward.

Since those days, she’s recently spoken about acting as a teen on Dawson’s Creek in the late ’90s/early 2000s. Her reaction to working on the show wasn’t exactly positive, which might unsettle some fans of the series.

The comments she made were also a bit telling about how becoming a teen acting star is arguably the most vulnerable time without complete self-awareness.

Williams considered acting on ‘Dawson’s Creek’ like working in a factory

Michelle Williams
Michelle Williams | Nicholas Hunt/WireImage

If many young actors considered getting a gig on Dawson’s Creek a privilege, imagine having the job and being stuck in a position of on-set issues you have no power to change. This is more or less what Williams had to contend with on a daily basis.

At least there was no physical or mental abuse, but she says reading scripts was a hassle because they’d always hand her material at the last minute without allowing personal input. In this case, it felt like teenagers being asked to show up to a factory job where they just did what they were told.

For a more serious-minded actor like Williams, this was obviously sheer hell. However, it sort of gives away what many teens of the era (and perhaps now) have to deal with when on similar shows.

No doubt some will twist this into branding Williams as too high-brow, even if reality proves she was. Because of this bad experience, we almost didn’t see her do Fosse/Verdon out of fear of what she’d be forced to do.

No doubt Williams set a precedent for A-list actresses on TV

Not only did Williams set a massive high-bar for acting on television, she probably set a precedent for how much creative control an actor can have in a TV project.

One of the benefits of acting on Fosse/Verdon was she became one of the executive producers of the miniseries. This might have put a new line in the sand for other A-list actors in movie-quality TV projects to gain enough power to forward their own creative ideas.

We don’t know if other stars like Nicole Kidman or Meryl Streep have done this when acting on stellar TV like Big Little Lies and similar programming. One telling thing we have discovered, though, is Williams blew the lid wide open during a recent interview in discussing Fosse/Verdon. She notably said: “I think we all suffer enough in life that I don’t think that you need any more suffering on set to make art.”

A statement like this might have changed things for all women acting on TV shows, whether a complex, dramatic miniseries or a teen drama on the CW Network.

Is working on a teen drama really a stigma to an adult acting career?

More tellingly, Williams says working on Dawson’s Creek was a bit of a “stain” for her in removing the stigma of being a teen actor. While many teen actors have moved on from their personas from working on teen shows, it’s true more than a few suffer from stereotyping for a long time.

Little did audiences know there was really a serious-minded, adult actor already inside of Williams while Dawson’s Creek was on the air. It’s a bit depressing to realize she had to be stuck in that stifling creative box until finally finding her place as one of today’s greatest actresses.

All current teen shows might want to take heed their young casts aren’t about to tolerate being led around like cattle, even if they’re still acquiescing.