Actress Zelda Williams

There are some women that we meet and instantly jive with; you know the kind, impossibly cool but down to earth and into all the same foods we are. We like to call them honorary potatoheads, and we’re adding one more to the club: Actress/producer/writer Zelda Williams. When it coms to Williams – daughter of the late, truly great Robin Williams – a special humor, realness and infectious personality becomes evident quite quickly upon meeting her, proving the apple does not fall far from the tree.

The actress talked to us about her latest project – Freeform’s The Letter – a relationship-redefiner that begs the question: If you could write an anonymous letter to your best friend telling them what they need most to hear, what would you write? Williams’ also took us through her favorite LA spots, a complete Korean skincare routine, and her ideal food day (of course). Continue reading for her advice to young girls everywhere; you’re about to feel seriously inspired. Consider Williams your #WomanCrushWednesday…

From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?

I’ve lived my ideal food day before, and it’s pretty effing spectacular (though you will wind up ‘digestion napping’ at least once). I’d start by waking up at a reasonable hour to make a turkey bacon and avocado english muffin sandwich with lots of sriracha mayo. Then I’d take my dogs to the park with takeout for lunch, either a carnitas burrito from Gordo’s in SF, or mee goreng noodles from Banana Leaf in LA. Pico De Gallo and Tapatio with chips for an afternoon snack, and then I’d finish the day off with either the Beef Tendon Curry from Night Market Song, or Chicken Tikka Masala for dinner, with a glass of Hibiki japanese whisky and a Donut Friend PB&J donut for dessert. It’s like doing a triathlon at the digestive Olympics, but my god is it worth it!

How do you practice beauty from the inside out?

First and foremost, for me, I always try to keep myself interested, present, and entertained. The exterior stuff still takes work, sure, but if you’re miserable and disconnected, who cares how many abs you have or if your skin is flawless? I try to go to museums, watch interesting movies and documentaries, and try new, exciting things outside my comfort zone. I love visiting a different city, looking up a list of the oddest things to do there, and trying to hit them all! That said though, my all-time favorite ‘brain gyms’ are puzzle escape rooms, and I’ve done almost fifty now. I’m hopelessly addicted! But I always leave feeling excited, energized and challenged, three things I strive to feel in everything I do. Other than that, I guess the only other ‘beauty’ hack I have is to drink water often, but that’s also just an every day ’stay alive’ hack, so I don’t know how groundbreaking it really is…

What are your morning and nightly beauty routines?

I used to be a ‘splash your face and go’ girl, but as I started to get older and play the sorts of roles that required full makeup transformations, I realized how important skincare actually was. I’m also part filipino, so now I’m a full convert to a Korean skincare regimen, as most European products were too rich and heavy for me and made me break out.

Makeup-wise, I use Koh Gen Do foundation, RMS concealer (for undereyes) and illuminator, and Beauty Counter cream blusher in Hibiscus, as all three companies are well known for a more natural approach to makeup. I double cleanse every night and morning starting with Banila Co. Clean It cleanser and then NEOGEN Cranberry water-based cleanser to really get all the film set makeup off my face. Once or twice a week I’ll exfoliate with Tracie Martyn’s Enzyme Exfoliant, but I tone every day with a gentle, non-stripping cleanser, followed by moisturizer, Colorescience powdered SPF and some of Missha’s Cell renew snail cream. Yep. Snails. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it because it saved my skin!

How do you always start your day?

The first thing I do when I wake up, even before brushing my teeth or washing my face, is take my dogs out to pee. Then, it’s the morning skincare and tooth brushing. Then I’ll usually make an egg, pour myself some juice and write for a minute or two while eating. Whatever comes to mind. Some days it’s my dreams from the night before, other days it’s pure nonsense. But it’s a good mental purge before starting my day.

What’s your go-to breakfast?

On a perfect day? An everything bagel with avocado, tons of cilantro, fresh chopped onions and sea salt with either sriracha mayo or a bit of cream cheese on top. No, you will not be able to Listerine away the smell. Yes, it’s worth it. But on a busy day I usually just settle for a bagel and shmear on-the-go to my first meeting.

You recently made the jump from acting to producing – why did you decide to do that and what’s been your favorite part of the job?

I’m still mostly acting, but this year marks the beginning of a lot of new things for me, things I’ve been working at doing for a long time, and that’s really exciting. I’m directing a short I wrote next month, and I hope to direct the feature version of it after that. JoJo and I have plans to collaborate more, and I couldn’t be more excited to work with her again. I’ve written about a dozen finished scripts in the last couple years, and I’m really looking forward to going out with them, even as I try to write more. And I’m about 100 pages into my first novel. It’s weird, wonderful, uncomfortable and uncharted territory for me, but I love all of it, and I’m looking forward to learning with everything I do.

Your show, The Letter, is all about anonymously telling a friend the things they most need to hear. If you were to write a letter to yourself doing just that, is there anything you know you would put in that letter?

I sortof write that letter to myself every day these days, but in my real life, I’ll leave the dramatic television anonymity at the door, both with myself and with my friends. I have a wonderful group of friends, and I like to think we’re really open and honest with each other, but it could also just be that I am (haha!). These days, I say exactly what’s on my mind without tiptoeing around it anymore because I know firsthand now that no one is a mindreader, and that you can’t expect people to know how you feel or what you need if you don’t vocalize it. But I also tell them to take it at face value, because a lot of times when I tell people I’m happy these days, they think I’m pretending. I can assure you, I’m not. When I’m sad, I’m broken, but then I take stock, look inwards, remind myself of everything I have to be grateful for and pick myself right back up again. And yes, sometimes you will lose friends by being completely honest and open, but I much prefer to be an open book that people can choose to like or dislike based on the actual content of its pages, than a closed one they’re pretending they read because it’s trendy but they just chose by the dust cover and ‘writer recommendations’ alone. 

What do you think most young women in general need to hear right now?

Though this goes for everyone, I truly do wish more young women knew that they are enough. Whether that’s beautiful enough, smart enough, capable enough, loved enough…it doesn’t matter. You’re enough, and you deserve to be happy. I don’t care what the makeup companies’ ads say! So often these days we quantify our worth based on things like likes on instragram, successfulness in our business, number of dates lined up, etc…but those are all based on what’s seen as an ideal, usually gleaned from someone else’s supposedly more successfully lived life. And while I’m all for having goals, most of the time I see people making themselves miserable trying to emulate or surpass others because they’ve made themselves believe that that seemingly better life means their life isn’t enough. They want their life to be enviable too.

Well, I hate to resurrect a tired cliché (who am I kidding, I love it!), but the grass truly is always greener on the other side. However, that said, not a soul in the world will notice the color of the freaking grass if you’re having the most amazing time in your goddamn garden, so put fairy lights on that fence, blast some music and tune out the nosy neighbors with their annoying green lawns!

Is there an issue you feel most strongly about? What is it and why?

There are so many issues I support and speak out for, it’d be hard for me to pick just one. I’ve marched on Washington for LGBTQ rights and women’s reproductive rights. I’ve helped support documentaries and charities that fight deforestation, human trafficking, fracking and poaching. I’ve brought attention and funding to organizations who aid those suffering from mental or physical disabilities and provide them with the tools they need to live full lives. And I help people find dogs to adopt, because finding my rescues changed my life and theirs. We’re a complex species, who have more than enough problems that need addressing. I have the utmost respect for people who dedicate their lives to one issue in particular in the hopes of defeating it in their lifetime, but as for me, I couldn’t imagine limiting myself to only helping one issue at any one time.

Do you have a ‘funniest memory ever’ you could share with us?

The funniest ever is a tall order, especially in my life. I’ve been really blessed to lead a hilariously odd and wonderful existence these past twenty-seven years, and for a lot of that I have the amazing, alien people in my life to thank. I’m surrounded by weirdos, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You swear you were X in a past life…and why?

A cat, or maybe a sloth, because I can sleep at the drop of a hat in the strangest, most uncomfortable positions.

What’s the item in your closet you cannot live without?

Eh, ‘can’t live without’ is a strong word for it, but I guess my favorite things are my pairs of Zelda pants. I didn’t know until recently that Zelda was a brand in the 70’s and 80’s that pretty much solely made high waisted crepe silk suit pants, a closet staple which, now squarely in the middle of my late twenties, is all I want to wear every day! I found a pair in a thrift store purely by chance a year or two back and fell so in love with them on the hanger that I brought them to the front without trying them on. Lo and behold, I get them home and my own name is on the tag. Now I collect them, and wear them constantly. They’re my lucky pants! They always make me feel somewhere between Charlie Chaplin and Lauren Bacall.

What publications/accounts do you read and follow religiously?

I’ll catch up on the news daily via news outlets online, but truthfully, other than books, there are very few things I read religiously. I like Design Sponge a lot because I get great ideas from their recipes and DIY home transformation before and afters. And I love popping in to Geekologie for a good random laugh. Most of the time I’ll stick a small book in my purse for those stolen minutes here and there where I’d rather be reading than texting. Right now my mini purse library consists of a handily small copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and a collection of Richard Matheson’s horror shorts, for when that gets too dense.

Where do you go to eat and drink in LA?

Everywhere!! I love exploring, and growing up in a foodie town like San Francisco, I’m always game to try anything. My current favorite food spot is Tacos Tu Madre on Vermont. Just a little counter you order at from the corner by the movie theater, and then you sit out at their tiny metal tables on the sidewalk and enjoy delicious tacos on a balmy Los Angeles night. I also love Pine and Crane, The Kitchen for brunch, or an afternoon of trying a little of everything at the Grand Central Market downtown. For a night out, I’ll usually go to whatever neighborhood dive has good whisky, or if my boyfriend and I are feeling the need to people watch, a couple cocktails at Tenants of the Trees in Silverlake. 

What favorite things do you get at each spot?

At Tacos Tu Madre I’m a huge fan of the bean and cheese taco. It’s seared halloumi and pureed beans with fresh slices of avocado and spicy aioli on top. I also love their asada bowl. At Pine and Crane I always order the Dan Dan noodles, spicy peanut salad and their shrimp dumplings. At The Kitchen for brunch I get their Cypress to drink (sparkling wine and fresh grapefruit juice), and their crab cakes benedict. And as for the Grand Central Market, you can’t beat a Bel Campo fastburger or something breakfasty from Eggslut, a juice from Press Brothers and a cone of McConnell’s chocolate covered strawberry ice cream.

What would your last meal be?

Probably my mom’s english muffin, steak sandwiches or grandpa’s pot-roast stew, chased with a bowl of potato leek soup and some ginger snap cookies. It makes me think of home just typing it!

Who would it be with?

My whole family, all my friends, and my dogs on my lap. And maybe Tracy Chapman singing ’Never Yours’ and ‘Fast Car’ if we’re allowed to request a theoretical last serenade to accompany our theoretical last meal.

What is the best advice you have ever received? What is the worst?

The best advice I ever received was that thinking you understand something completely is doing yourself a disservice, and it’s the surest guarantee against you learning anything new. You lose nothing by listening to a lesson you may have already learned, but you’ll miss out on new aspects or entirely new trains of thought if you don’t listen at all. 

The worst advice I ever received was ‘I think the red socks go in with the brights, not the darks’. Laundry lesson very much learned.

In the same vein as the new black in fashion, what is the new potato right now?

As someone who wears it almost daily, there will NEVER be a new black, but at least for me, cilantro is the new potato. Screw those other herbs, I’m putting cilantro on everything!

Love cilantro as much as Williams? Read how to put it on everything. Then consult our roundup for the best bagels in NYC. 

Zelda Williams, photographed at Night Market + Song in Los Angeles, CA by Danielle Kosann