Michelle Williams was 25 when she became a mother, welcoming daughter Matilda in 2005 along with her then boyfriend and Brokeback Mountain co-star Heath Ledger. A little over two years later, Ledger – with whom she was no longer romantically involved – died of an accidental overdose, the aftermath of which saw Williams and their baby daughter swarmed by paparazzi.
In a new interview with KeeperThe Oscar-nominated actress — now married to director Thomas Kail, with whom she shares 2-year-old son Hart and a newborn — opens up about trying to pick up the pieces as she’s being followed by cameras in the Brooklyn neighborhood she and Ledger once he called home.
“That feeling of being watched is very, very profound,” says Williams, now 42, “because it prevents you from living your life. And for a while, it felt like such an impediment to being natural and helpless that my daughter and I moved out of town.”
The Fabelmans the star moved her daughter — who she calls “the person I’ve spent my adult life with” and, therefore, her best audience — to a farm in upstate New York.
“We lived in the country because I felt more capable of living an unnoticed life there,” says the Montana native. “Particles move under observation. I definitely felt it when we lived in Brooklyn.”
Williams and her family have relocated to Brooklyn in recent years, though, though the actress acknowledges she still feels in the public eye given her past experience with the paparazzi there.
“I feel empowered and more capable, but I definitely have an awareness that I wish I could lose, because it changes how you move through the world,” she says.
Matilda is now 17, and Williams marvels at seeing the teenager navigate a post-#MeToo world.
“I grew up in the 80s,” says the Blue Valentine star, who pushed for equal pay in Hollywood. “Individuality was not put into young women. And now it is. I can see it in my daughter and I can’t take my eyes off her. It’s a glorious miracle to see that I never thought I’d witness in my life .”
She continues: “I thought I should teach my daughter how to subvert herself and crawl under the system to keep herself safe. Instead, the system has exploded and these young people are acting with compassion, integrity and righteousness.
“I get chills talking about it,” he adds. “These girls are not prey. These girls are already victorious. I love sitting and watching them out in the world and knowing that he is more confident and more leaning in their direction than he was for me.
Williams revealed last year that actor Jeremy Strong was among the loved ones who moved into her Brooklyn home following Ledger’s shocking death. She attributes the Succession playing with his daughter and helping the little girl to heal.
“Jeremy was serious enough to bear the brunt of a child’s heartbreak and sensitive enough to figure out how to approach her through play and games and silliness,” Williams said. Variety.
“[Matilda] She didn’t grow up with her dad, but she grew up with her Jeremy and we were changed by her ability to play as if her life depended on it, because hers did,” she added.