‘9-1-1’ Star Vanessa Estelle Williams Talks Joining the Show

by Maria Hartfield
Credit: Paul Archuleta / Contributor/Getty Images

American Actress and producer Vanessa Estelle Williams’ joins the cast of Fox drama series 9-1-1.

The 58-year-old New York native plays the part of Claudette Collins. Collins is an expert dispatcher who transfers back to Los Angeles to show new recruits the ropes. Her character is fair, but extremely tough and not afraid to voice her opinion.

Williams is best known for her role as Maxine Joseph-Chadway in the hit series Soul Food. She got her big break in the 1991 film New Jack City. The actress also plays Anne-Marie McCoy in both the 1992 and 2021 Candyman films. Her long list of credits includes Melrose Place, Murder One, Mother, Chicago Hope, The Flash, Famous in Love, The Bay, and The L Word: Generation Q.

Vanessa Estelle Williams Talks 9-1-1 and More

Williams’ opens up about joining the 9-1-1 cast in an exclusive phone interview with Assignment X.

When asked about the recurring role she replied, “Yeah. That was so amazing to book. Again, it was an offer [as opposed to an audition], thank you very much. I had done another horror genre for [9-1-1 executive producer/co-creator] Ryan Murphy’s company earlier, a few months before that, American Horror Stories, which was a one-off, each week during the summer, those [short] horror films that they created. I played a therapist for Ba’al [in the episode “Ba’al”]. So, that was wonderful. When they reached back out to me, to say, “Oh, there’s a character that we want you to do,” I don’t think I had gone in for it. But they knew my work from the times where I had auditioned before. My agent called me to say, “Well, there’s a possibility – they’ve got a hold on you to replace an actor whose schedule isn’t working out.” And I was like, “I need to know today, because I’m on a plane tomorrow,” and they were able to get back to me. “Please stay, we want you to fill in.”

She continued, “And so, I was literally working that week. It was all of this dispatch police jargon that got thrown at me. And I was just crazy with anxiety, trying to figure out, “Okay, how am I going to get all of this out of my mouth?” And somehow I was able to. They were really supportive about helping me win, in the way we shot and set it all up, because this character was not only a 9-1-1 dispatcher, but she was such a pro that everybody was looking to her, and crowding around [to watch] how she handles a call. She was a star dispatcher. So, I couldn’t go in there flubbing [laughs]. It was important that I be excellent. That was pretty daunting, because I had very little time to prepare for all of that.”

Tune in to 9-1-1 Mondays at 8/7c on Fox.