Renika Williams is an actress to watch, and it comes down to more than talent. A passionate actor that found her love for creating characters at a young age, Renika is as at home on stage (shoutout to theater kids!) as she is on screen. Best known on screen for playing Willow in HBO’s The Sex Lives of College Girls executive produced and created by Mindy Kaling.
A show about navigating college—with all its ups and downs—while finding your people TSLOCG has become a comedy-drama loved for its authenticity and diversity as it aims to capture that transition from teenage years to adulthood. The show is Renika’s breakout role and another step in achieving her goal of increasing the representation of Black girls and their stories on screen. We caught up with Renika to find out what it was like to play Willow and find out what makes her excited about the show’s second season which is only a couple of weeks away.
Showstopper Magazine Online: How did you get into acting?
Renika Williams: Well, I actually was a writer first! I used to write skits for my friends and I used to perform at recess or at church when I was in elementary school. Although, somehow, I was always cast as the lead because of course I was also the director. I don’t think my friends liked that very much. (Laughs) But I fell in love with storytelling when I was super young, and it basically took off from there. I started auditioning for school plays, attending theater camps, and taking college prep programs for acting!
SMO: What made you decide to transition from the stage to on-screen roles?
Renika: I wouldn’t call it a transition, per se, I’d rather call it an addition. I don’t really see a world where I’m not doing both theater and on-screen work. Television was something that has been a goal of mine since I was a kid, so I’m very excited it’s finally happening!
SMO: You play Willow in HBO Max’s The Sex Lives of College Girls. What has it been like to bring Willow to life, and what was it like to bring her back for a second season of the show?
Renika: Bringing Willow to life Season 1 was a whirlwind. Half the time, I was simply trying not to freak out over the fact that I was going to be on TV! Season 2 was nice because I felt more like myself, more grounded and prepared. I knew what to expect and felt more comfortable in front of the camera. So, I ultimately had a lot more fun Season 2 because I was WAY more relaxed.
SMO: How do you connect to Willow and her experiences?
Renika: I connect to Willow because, like her, I try my best to be authentic, bold, and unapologetically myself no matter where I am or who I’m around. It’s definitely something I’ve had to work at in my personal life, though. I’m pretty sure Willow came out the womb giving orders and taking names! (Laughs)
SMO: You attended Wright State University for a BFA in acting. Do any of your own college experiences play a role in how you portray Willow?
Renika: Absolutely not. (Laughs) One of the things I actually regret most about my college experience is that I didn’t have enough fun. I took my classes very seriously and didn’t leave room for much of a social life. I think I can count on one hand how many parties I went to in college, which is the exact opposite of Willow. In a way, I’ve gotten a do-over because now I’m going to all the parties on the show.
SMO: What are you most excited for people to see in Willow’s story this season?
Renika: I’m excited for people to see Willow outside of soccer season! We get a taste of Willow outside of practice and games and into what else she’s involved with on campus.
SMO: The show has received a lot of praise for its great girl friendships. How does this continue in Season 2?
Renika: That’s one of my favorite things about the show as well. We get to see the relationship between all the girls deepen and develop as they continue to navigate college and ultimately who they want to be in the world.
SMO: What are your favorite memories from filming Season 2?
Renika: Ahh so many! But some of my favorite moments tend to include my sis, Alyah Chantelle Scott, and singing some of our favorite sitcom theme songs in between takes. The That’s So Raven theme song is definitely one of our favs.
SMO: Is there anything else you want people to know about you or your work?
Renika: It’s my mission to represent Black girls everywhere. I want Black girls to see themselves on television; in all the different hues and shades that make us, us. The shy ones, the bold ones, the outcasts, the queer ones, the class clowns. All of our voices need to be heard because none are the same.
The Sex Lives of College Girls Season 2 premieres on HBO November 17.