N|H|W: Okay that's actually two questions so let me answer the first one first. I actually went to law school to be a producer. I know that sounds random, I was… I had every intention of being a doctor. I was going to be a neurosurgeon, I was a bio-medical engineering major when I first went to school. And then I realized, I looked around and was like one of these kids is doing his own thing and I was like its me. And I secretly changed my major and my mom said I'm not saying you can't major in dance because I changed it to dance. But she said you shouldn't major in dance at the University of Illinois- like if you're going to be a dancer then you should go to a school for dance. Because you're going to be a dance teacher if you go study dance at the university of Illinois. In any event I ended up changing my major to communications with a minor focus on theater. We called it at University of Illinois- Oral Interpretation so I had intended on becoming a performer and going to Broadway and being on Broadway and all of that. But then I came out to LA my junior/senior year of college and it was the hardest summer I've ever had to endure my car got stolen (in 1996- I mentioned the LA riots and Rodney King era. Nathan laughs in agreement of the craziness.) I read this article by Debra Martin Chase, and in the article she talked about her job as a producer and I was like that's what I want to do. I want to create, I want to be in charge, I want to be the boss; because, I like steak better than I like pork n’ beans. She talked about in the article how much law school helped- she went to Harvard law school. And I came back after my car got stolen back to the University of Illinois & I told my mom “I'm gonna go to law school” and she was like where did that come from? I don't think I told her at that time that I was going to law school to become a producer or that I had read this article about Debra. Anyways I didn't study for the LSAT, I just took it, and I was like if it's meant to be then its meant to be, and if it's not then its not. I got accepted to some great schools and I chose George Washington University because it was the school that I felt was the closest to my personality. Even though I got into some schools that are considered quote un-quote better than that. And I loved it. I loved law school but I had no intention of practicing law but of becoming a producer. (A degree to practice law and never use it- I inquire) I use it everyday.
R|A: After 15 years in New York, what made you move to L.A. and how do you like it in comparison?
N|H|W: So you know I love New York, New York is my favorite city in the world and it always will be. New York helped make me who I am today as a professional, Chicago helped make me who I am as a person and New York cut my teeth as a professional. It taught me how to hustle, it taught me how to never give up. But I'm in entertainment and the well of entertainment is only so deep. Like I had reached that level, I've done everything that I could do in New York and I really wanted to take my career to the next level and I knew that I had to do something drastic to shake it up. I actually decided to move to LA when I was here, I was having lunch with Jussie Smollet when he'd just gotten Empire it was April 28th, 2014 and him and my friend Jennia Fredrique (Noah’s Arc) who's an actress and filmmaker as well, was like you need to just move here. And it was the tail end of a really good trip and I said okay- I'm moving to LA. That's kind of how I am, and then I went back to New York and broke my leg, and God was like okay slow down little boy because I would have just picked up and moved here without a plan and you know trying to fly. I'm here for work… I'm here to work… I'm here because my job is here and the weather helps as well, that was following two brutal winters in New York City. I had a break down, I had a missing New York and family breakdown two weeks ago, but now I'm passed it. And I know that I am here for a reason. So I can't say that I'm loving it yet, but I'm definitely focused.
R|A: Tell readers about your new book “Ladies Who Lunch & Love”, what inspired you to write about these women and their gay best friend?
N|H|W: So Ladies Who Lunch & Love is a novelization of the Essence Magazine column that I wrote for four years where I gave love and relationship advice. But I didn't want to write a preachy you need to do this, you need to do that advice book. I wanted it to be fun and digestible. When people read it they don't even realize they're about to read a book about spirit and about relationships. But it's embedded in a fun you know kinda light story. And there are some really deep messages within the story embedded in it. What I love about the characters the most is that people can really read this book and even if you don't see yourself you know these people. I mean you know Krissy- you know that's your girl from around the way and she's smart as shit, you know what I mean. You know Vicky... you know these characters, and so yeah I wanted to write a relationship and spirit and advice book but not in the traditional sense.
R|A: You’ve conquered TV, film, and commercial. As far as producing are you working on any new media projects?
N|H|W: Yeah I have... (laughs) where do we begin? So I'm writing a movie with Jennifer Lewis called The Second Act I love her too, (she's everyone's aunt I exclaim) yes I met her on the set of Dirty Laundry now almost 10 years ago. And we just fell in love and connected ever since. We’re writing the movie together. She plays a character named Lydia Monroe. I have another short film that I am producing, directing, and writing called 90 days. We shoot in March and then I have a book coming out in February called The Girls Best Friend, which is a collection of my Essence Column with notes from my favorite women in the world- my mom, my aunt, and my best friends.
R|A: I remember seeing a reality show you starred in featured on Netflix: Boys Who Like Girls Who Like Boys. I was wondering if there are any more TV projects you will star in, or are you set on being behind the lens?
N|H|W: (Laughing) You know I forget that I do all this shit. Wow (as far as being behind the lens or in front of the camera?) I like both That was my second reality show. The first one was American Candidate and I was on with my then partner at the time Keith Boykin and that was a ball of fun because we were in a competition together. We won everything and my mom had knew we’d gotten kicked off the show- not kicked off but we lost we didn't win the whole thing because I called her when we didn't, and so she was watching because people would have parties to watch the show. “And she was like Nathan you lied to me, y'all won.” Because we literally won every challenge, every episode until we lost which was like the second to last episode. (What was the challenge??) We were in Philadelphia and we had to get people to sign up and do something or whatever and we lost by like two votes. Something stupid, but anyways- Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys was my second (reality) show Keith and I happen to be the first black gay couple on reality television. That was such a great experience but it was a competition it wasn't about our lives. Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys was a great experience too but it was not a great experience for my relationship with Crystal. It's why I tell people don't put a relationship on reality TV because one thing about reality television is it does not lie. It tells the truth, you know what I mean. The good thing about that show is that it was a positive show. And the take away for me, was aside from the personal side- I have people that still come up to me till this day saying "seeing you on television as a black gay man who is proud who defied stereotypes, who was successful, encouraged me- inspired me, saved my life." All of those different things. So it was worth it, there's nothing about it that I regret. It was who I am. That wasn't a fake reality it was a representation- I cried, now they got me crying on there like fifty million times and I'm not even a cryer, I have my moments but it was like damn he's crying every episode. My dad is such a sensitive subject for me and it was the first time that I was really outside of my family talking about that. So doing that show was great for me. It wasn't great for my relationship with Crystal who was my then business partner. But I wouldn't take any of it back because of the feedback I get from young people telling me that I inspired them.
R|A: What piece of advice do you wish someone would have given you starting out in the industry?
N|H|W: (Pause) I have a lot of advice, I have a lot of great advice. Um… Don't rush it. You know what I mean? Like don't be so anxious and don't think that it all has to happen at once. Because that's not how you really cultivate a longstanding career. I was really really hard on myself when I was younger because I wanted it all now… I wanted to be a billionaire tomorrow. You have to cultivate this art, you have to cultivate that. You have to be ready for the opportunities so that when they come you can maximize them. All the opportunities I got maximized them but I really wanted them all at once. So take your time, learn your craft, perfect it, hone it… you know.
R|A: When dealing with actors/performers what do you find to be the biggest challenge? (Please inform the actors so we know what we can do to be of better service.)
N|H|W: Actors & Performers (both laughing). Creative people are creative, we’re creative for a reason and we’re emotional, we are sometimes not practical in the way we think. I think one of the good things about me being an attorney and a creator is that I kinda have both sides of the brain I have a lot of balance, so I'm able to understand that someone is having a moment. So that would be my biggest stretch with actors and performers, they are highly emotional people and they need that emotion. They need to be able to tap into that emotion to call it the craft.
R|A: Have you met all of your career goals? I feel as though you have a million titles. How do you ignore the negativity of others.
N|H|W: Well I've simplified the commas to just saying I'm a storyteller, and I tell stories across various mediums so in terms of titles I'm probably not going to have anymore titles. Maybe talk show host… not maybe- talk show host definitely. In my brain I'm just getting started.
R|A: (I feel as though sometimes we get so caught up in chasing our dreams that we forget to enjoy the ride). When you’re not working what do you do to relax and let go?
N|H|W: Well I have a morning ritual. I start my day the same everyday. I say thank you God, and please use me in showing light, and using the power that you give me for good. Then I read a publication called The Daily Word and from The Daily Word I set my intentions, I have all of my affirmations for everyday of the year. Today my intention was “joy” and I was going to get joy from everything that I do. Then I read a publication called Our Daily Bread which is a little bit more scripture based. This year I just started doing the bible in a year thing. And I take time to set my intention for the day and remember that God has given me the power. To relax I watch TV. (What do you watch?) Oh my God, I watch scripted stuff, I watch trash TV. I've always loved TV as an art form. My joke is that I'm a couch potato without the couch potato body. TV for me is a release and an outlet. It's where I can escape and then I get ideas, I love the ballet, I love to go see dance, but that shits expensive so I don't get to go to that all of the time. But if I could I would go see someone dance every week. I spend a lot of time with my family and friends, I really love being around the people that I love. I'm a people person. I'm really actually shy you may not believe that. But around my family and my closest friends I get to be Nate. I don't have to be Nathan Hale Williams. We go out to eat, we drink, we laugh a lot. I like to laugh a lot. My editor says I have a nice snarky sense of humor. When you get to know me you realize there is no malice in it. I'm just talking shit because I come from a family where we just talk shit. But you do it from a place of love. When I go home for thanksgiving my Auntie Gale and I are Bid Wiz partners and no one plays with us now because we talk so much crap at the table. We slam the cards down “take that” and no one will play with us now because we are very sore winners.
R|A: Question for the mother: As a parent how do you parent an artist, how do you support an artistic child being that we are so all over the place, we can be a headache?
Mother N|H|W: He wasn't a headache with me because I know that God gives us a gift and he has a plan for each one of us and we have to follow it. As a parent I know that it is my job to guide the child through reaching the gift in a very positive way. And what Nathan said about his being shy and not accepting rejection well, when he was starting out as a youngster trying to act- I paid for acting/drama lessons, my father paid for modeling lessons. I took him to auditions, and I sat with him when he got the auditions but then he started to grow and he's larger than the other guys his age and he stopped getting the auditions based on that. Because he was so tall they thought he was an older kid. I told him I can't do this… I can't watch your heart break because then my heart breaks and he was upset with me. But I was not a stage mother and I wasn't going to drive him crazy, and I pretty much told him if this is God's plan for you it'll happen, but it's not going to happen right now. I want you to grow up and have a good childhood, and if it happens at the right time you'll have my 100% support and I think that that's what's happened because I was getting ready to retire when I got a call and he said “I'm going to quit practicing law, and I'm going into entertainment.” I was like okay, and he'll tell you that I've been very supportive with that. (Nathan- my grandfather was like “you gone quit that good job, how much money do you make again?”- he had me laughing with the voice impression he did) So it just depends on whether or not you feel your child is yours to make them do what you want them to do, or you realize that they are a gift to you from God which is what Nathan's name mean. It means “A Gift From God.” So I knew he was mine, but he was my gift to kind of guide but not to keep. And so my job was to help him fulfill God's dream for him. Not my dreams.
(Really made me emotional, to have the love and support from family, especially your parents because it's difficult for young artist. So readers hopefully you can get your parents to remember you are a gift and in order to share your gift the people surrounding you should also see you as such.)