Nafessa Williams is an American actor, best known for her role as ‘Nicole Gordon’ in the film titled 'Streets.’ She is also known for her performance as ‘Deanna Forbes’ in the soap opera titled 'One Life to Live.’ Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Nafessa studied criminal justice at the ‘West Chester University.’ She also interned with a district attorney for a brief while. She had been interested in acting through her high-school years and began auditioning for roles in films and TV while pursuing her college education. She made her acting debut in 2011, starring in Meek Mill's film 'Streets.' The same year, she appeared in a recurring role in the soap opera 'One Life to Live.’ She appeared in another recurring role, in the soap opera titled 'Bold and the Beautiful.' She was also seen in films such as 'Brotherly Love' and 'Burning Sands.’ In 2017, she played a small role in 'Twin Peaks: The Return' and then appeared in one of the main roles in the superhero series titled 'Black Lightning.’
Childhood & Early Life
Nafessa Williams was born on December 4, 1989, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to African–American parents. Growing up in West Philadelphia, she was addicted to watching TV. She would have an entire TV guide written in her notebooks.
She idolized Will Smith while growing up. Both were from West Philadelphia, and that connection somehow led Nafessa to become interested in the prospect of becoming an actor while growing up. She was 6 or 7 years old when she decided that she wanted to see herself on TV someday.
She enrolled at ‘Robert E. Lamberton High School.’ She was academically good. However, the dream of becoming an actor was also growing inside her. She earned small modeling assignments and tried looking for jobs as an actor, too. However, she also decided to mix things up a little in college and studied completely unrelated subjects.
Following her high-school graduation, she studied criminal justice at the ‘University of West Chester,’ which became a turning point in her life. Following her graduation, she began working as an intern at a local district attorney's office.
She described that experience as traumatic. She would cry on her way to her office every day. Soon, she realized that the job was not meant for her. She quit her job and pursued acting full-time.
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In 2011, she made her acting debut with a regular role in the long-running soap opera titled 'One Life to Live.’ It ran for more than 4 decades, before it was canceled in 2011, the year Nafessa joined the cast. Her character, ‘Deanna Forbes,’ joined the show during its last few months.
The same year, she received her first major film break when she was cast in a key role in the film titled 'Streets.’ Her character was that of a struggling young musician named ‘Nicole Gordon.’ The film was a critical and commercial failure.
In 2012, she bagged yet another major opportunity when she was cast as ‘Margo Ivey’ in the long-running soap opera titled 'The Bold and the Beautiful.’ Despite Nafessa being noticed positively for her initial roles, her career did not benefit much.
Nafessa believed she did not get proper roles because the entertainment industry still found it difficult to write good roles for black actors. She had raised her voice about inequality on many occasions.
In 2013, she played a small role in the TV film titled 'Dumb Girls.’ The following year, she appeared in the guest role of ‘Adina Parker’ in an episode of 'Survivor's Remorse,’ titled 'Six.' She then appeared in the guest role of ‘Eboni’ in an episode of the series 'Real Husbands of Hollywood,’ titled 'Hart Medication.'
In 2014, she was seen in the supporting role of Simone in the film titled 'The Dirty 30.’ The following year, she appeared in a supporting role in the film titled 'Brotherly Love.’ The film was produced by Queen Latifah and featured an all-black cast. The film, however, did not receive a wide release and hence, mostly remained anonymous, in spite of being loved by critics.
She got a huge breakthrough in 2015, when she appeared as one of the main characters in the crime thriller 'The Man in 3B.’ The film was based on a bestselling novel of the same name and was a critical success. It was released on a small scale theatrically and earned decent profits.
In 2016, she appeared as ‘Dr. Charlotte Piel’ in the medical drama series 'Code Black' and then played ‘Jade’ in three episodes of the David Lynch-directed series 'Twin Peaks: The Return.’ It was the sequel of the cult classic series 'Twin Peaks' of the early 1990s.
In 2017, she appeared in the supporting role of ‘Toya’ in the drama film 'Burning Sands.’ She then appeared in another supporting role, in the drama film titled 'True to the Game.’
The same year, she appeared in a guest role in an episode of 'Tales,’ titled 'Fuck the Police.'
Since 2018, she has been playing ‘Anissa Pierce’ in the superhero series titled 'Black Lightning.’ Her character in the series is the eldest daughter of the superhero ‘Black Lightning.’ The series has been a critical and commercial success.
Family & Personal Life
Nafessa Williams has kept her private life under the wraps and has not revealed much about her relationships.
She has been outspoken about her liberal thoughts and her involvement in anti-racism movements.
She also became the voice of homosexuals by playing a lesbian superhero named ‘Thunder’ in 'Black Lightning.’
She is a huge fan of Will Smith and once stated that she wished to be the female version of Will Smith.