Melissa L. Williams From Tyler Perry’s ‘The Oval’ Reveals Her Character’s Surprising Evolution

Being able to peer into the mind of actor, producer, and writer Tyler Perry is a pretty powerful experience not many artists get to have. However, Perry’s newest muse, actress Melissa L. Williams may be one of the few people who has direct insight into Perry’s creative genius.

Ashley Monique Harper, Taja V. Simpson, Daniel Croix Henderson, Teesha Renee, Melissa L. Williams, and Brad Benedict
Ashley Monique Harper, Taja V. Simpson, Daniel Croix Henderson, Teesha Renee, Melissa L. Williams, and Brad Benedict| Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Perry recently shared that his writer’s room consists of a fireplace, a comfortable chair, and a laptop. The sole writer in the room is Perry who pens his own creations.

“My writers room!!!” Perry tweeted in January. “To the millions of you who are loving what I do and watch my shows every week, don’t worry, I ain’t stopping!! Don’t forget. The Haves and the Have Nots returns tonight on @OWNTV and The Oval and Sistas return tomorrow on @BET!!”

Since he works alone, Perry is also afforded the ability to develop and broaden characters and storylines as his vision of the story evolves. Williams shared with Showbiz Cheat Sheet how that process played out after landing the juicy roles of Denise Truesdale and Ruth Hartman in Perry’s wildly popular new series, The Oval.

She never was supposed to be Ruth

The Oval offers a dystopian view of what it’s like to work at The White House where everyone, especially the President, has a deep dark secret. Each character has multiple layers, which have yet to be revealed during the first season.

The twins Ruth, a lost cult member, and Denise, the other woman, appear to be well-planned pieces of The Oval puzzle. But Williams shares that Perry brought Ruth to life after he’d written several episodes.

Melissa L. Williams
Melissa L. Williams | Tommy Flanagan

“It’s actually kind of a unique story because I was first offered the role of Denise and then I got a phone call from Tyler Perry and he’s like, ‘Hey, Melissa, I’ve been wanting to work with you for a while now.'” she shared. “I remember you from If Loving You is Wrong and my other show and I have a better role I want you to do because I want to do a spinoff with this role. So the character Ruth is going to be appearing in The Oval for like three episodes.”

“But she’ll have her own spinoff. And then he’s like, but then you won’t obviously be Denise anymore,” she added. “That’s fine. I mean, hello Tyler Perry! I just don’t get these phone calls on a regular basis. So first of all hello and second of all, yes.”

Ruth gains a twin

Williams was giddy about the opportunity to play Ruth and Perry helped her prepare by suggesting she view the Netflix documentary, Wild Wild Country about cults. “So I had to go back and re-audition for Ruth because I had never auditioned for that part,” she recalls. “And then they called me like two weeks later and I got it. And then after filming and wrapping Ruth, we filmed her, and I was heading home, it was a Sunday.”

“I get another call from my ‘saved [contact]’ Tyler Perry,” Williams says giggling. Perry wondered if Williams was at the wrap party and shared what he had in a mind. “He’s like, ‘What do you think about making Ruth a twin and you play Denise?’ And I was like, ‘What? I love it!'”

Williams embraced the concept, which drew from the classic soap opera genre. But then Williams realized that meant re-writing and re-configuring the script and scenes they already shot.

“We never mentioned this sisterhood from jump. So how are people going to get it with the episodes that have already wrapped for Ruth?” Williams wondered. “And he was like, ‘Well, with Denise, I’ll basically re-write it on the spot, so I’ll just throw it in there.'”

Ruth will be ‘Ruthless’

Perry’s strategy worked. Fans were astonished when they finally realized that Ruth and Denise were twins after the reveal was shared on Instagram.

“Soooooo the plot thickens…What happened to Ruth? Why was the First Lady all up on Denise’s Instagram? Where is Callie?”

Fans responded, “HOW DID I NOT NOTICE” and “So we now know Ruth has a twin. Wow! Does not appear she’s dead according to next week episode.”

Melissa L. Williams
Melissa L. Williams | Tommy Flanagan

At one point it appeared that Ruth was killed. However, clearly she did not die as Perry’s spinoff Ruthless is set to launch on BET+ on March 19. The story follows Ruth Truesdale who kidnaps her daughter but is tied to a cult to which she tries to free herself.

New episodes of Tyler Perry’s The Oval will return in the spring on BET. You can stream previous episodes on BET+.