“[Dawson’s Creek] taught me how to be responsible, it taught me how to get to work on time, it taught me how to prepare at night for the next day,” Williams said during a March 2023 appearance on Sunday Today With Willie Geist. “It taught me sort of, like, the basics of how to take care of myself.”
Williams starred on The WB hit from 1998 to 2003 as Jen Lindley, the New York City girl who moves to the small town of Capeside, Massachusetts. Williams shared that it was costar Mary Beth Peil, who portrayed Jen’s Grams, that gave her the most inspiration while filming in Wilmington, North Carolina.
“She told me stories about New York City and plays and playwrights. She invited me to come stay with her, she took me places, and she told me about this place where I could go and make a life and have a career and do really fun and exciting work, and she told me that that was possible for me,” Williams explained. “Even though I was on, like, a teen soap opera, she would talk to me about, like, the future and what that could look like for me.”
Williams would go on to become a critically acclaimed actress, scoring multiple Golden Globes, Emmys, Critics Choice and SAG Awards throughout her career. She has also nabbed five Academy Award nominations since her first nod for Brokeback Mountain in 2006.
That’s not to say her life hasn’t seen tragedy. Two years after she and then-boyfriend Heath Ledger welcomed daughter Matilda in 2005, Ledger died of an accidental overdose.
“Every time I really miss him and wonder where he’s gone, I just look at her,” Williams told Vogue in September 2009. “I can talk about grief, because that’s mine, about single parenting, about trying to balance work and kids. But what I don’t have to talk about is what happened between Heath and me in our relationship. Brokeback Mountain was an unrepeatable moment in time, a very charmed time in my life. I was in love. I was in a movie I was proud to be a part of and with a beautiful, brand new baby. Everything was good in that moment.”
Keep scrolling for a look back at Williams’ life through the years: