Zelda Williams Talks 'Dead of Summer' Transgender Role, Memories of Her Late Father Robin
By Desiree Murphy
Zelda Williams is proud of her latest TV role, and knows that her late father, Robin Williams, would be too.
The 26-year-old actress stars in Freeform's Dead of Summer, a drama series set in the late '80s about a group of camp counselors at a camp that is haunted by supernatural forces. In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, she gets candid about her portrayal of a transgender male named Drew, what's to come in the chilling series and special memories of her dad two summers after his tragic death.
"The thing I'm most terrified about is the transgender community being insulted by [Drew]," she admits, following the show's June 28 premiere. "It's great that [the public] will get to learn about a male-identifying transgender character as a lead in an ensemble show, but really, more than anything, he is for the transgender community, because they don't ever get to see him. I hope that they're happy with him, because I'm proud of him. I'm really excited for people to see who he is."
"The transgender community deserves an honest portrayal," Williams adds. "I can't choose if they like his plot because I didn't write it, but I can choose if they think that he's not a stereotype, at least in how I hold myself, and that's all I can do."
Although she was a bit nervous to take on her first-ever leading role, Williams reveals that in a lot of ways, she felt like she could connect with Drew.
"Drew isn't necessarily a far stretch from who I am," she explains. "I'm not a girly girl. I never have been. I had a shaved head for six years."
When show producers originally asked her to chop off her tresses to play the character, Williams suggested another idea -- keeping Drew's hair long. Turns out, they loved it!
"Give me something to hide behind, because that's part of why [Drew] dresses the way he does -- long sleeves, multiple layers, and the hair," she remembers saying. "It’s a fine line between 'I don't give a f**k' and 'I give a lot of f**ks.'"
The past few years have been a tumultuous time for the brunette beauty, following the death of her father in August of 2014. But through the heartache, she's continued to strive for success, appearing on MTV's Teen Wolf and voicing Mona Lisa in the new animated TV version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
"I was really appreciative of the fact that everyone loved Dad so much, but [I] did get looked at like a butterfly that you were going to damage, and that's in its own way sweet, but also alienating and difficult," she confesses. "I had an enormous amount of time to myself."
She admits that although her dad, who was a famed comedian and actor, could have given her loads of advice, she wanted to discover the world of acting on her own.
"Maybe out of stubbornness, but also out of independence, I never asked him for a road map -- I didn't want the curiosity to be dampened for me," she reveals. "I had to figure this out before he was gone, and now I definitely have to figure it out on my own. But I'm enjoying that process."
"It's interesting," she continues. "He missed out on me being proud of myself by about a year and a half, and that’s the one thing that’s really sad for me, because I know he was always proud of me. I think he would've loved that I was happy."
Last month, ET caught up with Williams at the premiere of her new show, where she couldn't stop smiling while gushing about her recent, well-deserved accomplishments.
"I'm grateful that it took such a long time for me to have someone decide to choose me [as the lead] for something like this," she explained. "I got to grow up, and I got to find myself before having to find a character that's so different from myself, and that's really helpful. It helps keep me certainly grounded more into reality. I think you can lose it otherwise."
Dead of Summer airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Freeform. Hear more from Williams in the video below.