Jesse Williams on How He Plans to Approach 2017 and His BET Speech

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2016 BET Awards - Arrivals
Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Last year was chock-full of memorable speeches, including actor and activist Jesse Williams’s remarks at the BET Awards in June. In accepting the Humanitarian Award, Williams gave a stirring speech about black lives. In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered on December 31, he talked about that speech and his plans for the new year. Here are some highlights.

Williams says his BET speech was an opportunity to address the issues at hand.

“You know, I wasn’t winning an acting or music award, I was being awarded — or being acknowledged, I prefer to say — for work being done in the space of human rights and civil rights and general public consciousness … I felt the energy in the room and kind of surfed it.”

He explained that he didn’t anticipate or care about the reaction.

“I don’t want to be on the cover of your magazine. I don’t want to turn into a celebrity for that reason. I wanted to let the words simmer. I wanted people to spend some time trying to figure — like a novel or something — what does it mean to you? What do those words mean to you?

Later, he talked about turning a wider eye to his creative endeavors this year.

“One of the real reasons I got into storytelling to begin with is that for so many people, narrative storytelling, also documentary, is news. It is the lens to the outside world; outside world meaning any world that you don’t otherwise touch or feel physically.

So really kind of looking back into the archives of terrific storytelling and collaborating with great people to make things that can also supplement us having real-deal political discourse on its face. You can be really subversive and impactful. So I’m going to be really focusing and spending a little bit more attention on that as well as [being] politically active.”

Jesse Williams on 2017 and His BET Speech