‘9-1-1’ Showrunner Explains What Made Vanessa Estelle Williams the Right Choice for the Show

by Anna Dunn

9-1-1 and 9-1-1: Lone Star Showrunner Tim Minear recently discussed what made Vanessa Estelle Williams the right choice for 9-1-1. Williams is known for her work on Candy Man, New Jack City American Horror Story, and Soul Food. She plays Claudette Collins on the hit series.

Williams has just joined the show as a 9-1-1 operator and has been key to filling in Maddie’s place after she fled. They first got in touch because some of the casting people who worked on the show were huge fans of her work. And the feeling was mutual. Williams is a huge fan of 9-1-1.

“She’s a brilliant actor, for one thing. And interestingly enough, we’d gone down some other roads and they were all proving slightly fruitless. Even before [Casting Director] Shawn Dawson could suggest Vanessa, [Executive Producer] John J. Gray, who does 9-1-1: Lone Star and also American Horror Story, had worked with her on Horror Stories and was talking about how great she was and what a fan she was of the show,” Minnear recounted to Decider.

And by the time they decided they wanted her, it was very last minute. They asked her to join the show, and she essentially accepted immediately.

“She was getting ready to go off to promote Candyman or something and had 24 hours’ notice, and she said, “Yep, I’ll do it.” She came in, she got fitted. She walked on the set, like, the next day for that big introduction scene where she’s going through the call and then meeting May for the first time, all that stuff,” he said. And Williams stunned immediately.

“She just came in and nailed it. So what made her right was the universe! The tumblers clicked into place and she was the right artist for the right job, you know?”

Claudette Collins has Proven Herslef to Be Quite the Antagonist For Fellow ‘9-1-1’ Character May

On the show, May has had to grow a ton. And that’s in part because Collins has not been an easy co-worker for her. Minnear took the opportunity to add a bit of intrigue to the call center in Maddie’s absence. And really “shake things up.” This has really allowed May to grow as a character.

“I didn’t want it to feel like I was trying to replace Jennifer Love Hewitt, who is entirely irreplaceable. I wanted someone to come in and to make May a more interesting character by giving her something to run up against,” the showrunner explained to Decider.

Jennifer Love Hewitt recently gave birth and went on maternity leave. But when the show returns in the spring, we should see plenty more of her.

If you can’t get enough of 9-1-1 and can’t wait for more, you can hold yourself over with some 9-1-1: Lone Star which begins airing on FOX today.