Sitting opposite Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson for an interview is like having an abbreviated version of their 2 Dope Queens podcast delivered directly to your face. I found out as much on a recent Friday at the Sundance Film Festival—where Williams and Robinson bounced around from topics ranging from loving U2, to "Felicity wannabe" dudes, to the pronunciation of the name of this very publication. (Williams likes to say "Mariah Clairey" instead of "Marie Claire," while Robinson emulates Nina Garcia on Project Runway.) In other words, the rapport between the friends is as seamless in person as it is when delivered into your headphones.
"One of the best compliments that I think we get is when women and people stop us on the street, and they're like, 'You remind me of me and my friends,'" Williams explains. "And it's like, 'Thank you so much, because we really do try to make sure we have that spontaneity and that banter, so it feels like you're just hanging out with your homies.'"
Starting February 2, that banter will arrive on HBO in the form of four hour-long episodes—each of which takes the exact form of the podcast. Here, the duo talk to MarieClaire.com (AKA Mariah Clairey dot com) about, well, literally everything.
On how their friendship differs on and off stage:
Williams: "Our text message thread is pretty amazing. If she sends me a text I will literally be at the bank or, I don't know, like talking to my parents at the house, and I'll just be like screaming, just out loud, genuine screaming. There's a really fun banter there. We really try to capture that in every 2 Dope Queens podcast episode, and especially in these specials."
Robinson: "I just will send her a lot of, like, Bono. This is like a deep cut, but in the early aughts Bono, Diddy, Gwen Stefani, and Alicia Keys, all did this charity single for (RED), his charity…."
Williams: "I'm leaving. I can't do this. This is too much exposition. This is too much backstory. This isn't Lord of the Rings."
Robinson: "It was a remake of Marvin Gaye's 'What's Going On.' And I sent her a screenshot of him, like, blindfolded in the video."
Robinson: "I was like, 'This is a pretty unanimously hot picture of him.' She's like, 'It's midnight, why are you sending me this?'"
Williams: "Sometimes she sends me stuff about Bono or U2 that's unexpected, and I'll send her back a diagram of a test dummy experiencing whiplash. And I'll be like, 'How dare you do this unsolicited? I'm like settling in for the evening. I'm watching Last Man on Earth before bed. How dare you? Don't send this to me.'"
On the pop culture moment that made them bond:
Robinson: "Not U2. Maybe, like, Brandy. No. It was something probably '90s. I think maybe Spice Girls or something. I can't remember."
Williams: "Maybe, like, Trudeau."
Robinson: "Yeah, Justin Trudeau. Maybe it was a hot celebrity. That's probably what it was."
Robinson: "Maybe, like, Michael B. Jordan. Might have been something like that. But yeah I don't know. She's a little bit younger than me so there are certain things that are references that—"
Williams: "Saved By The Bell. I was like, wait what?"
Robinson: "But outside of that we have a lot of the same pop culture references."
On having Sarah Jessica Parker ask a question about black hair on their special:
Williams: "She was amazing. That was the 'Hair' episode. She was just a dream. She was just really nice and was willing to just ask questions about black hair that she didn't know."
Robinson: "For me, it just felt like, this is how people should always communicate. There's tons of stuff about different cultures that I don't know...One of the things that's been so great with Jessica and I (and 2 Dope Queens) is we just get celebs to talk in a way they've never done on any other show. And I think it's because we don't center the interview on, 'Tell us the next project you did,' or, 'Let me tee you up for a semi-interesting story about a gardener you had at your house that's, like, unrelatable.'"
Robinson: "But to get SJP to ask questions about black hair is just super fun. I bet she's wondered tons of times before and never felt comfortable enough to ask, and so it was great for her to do it in such a public space. She was so great with it, and the audience..."
Williams: "Everybody was tense, and it was cool because we were like, 'Let's just all go on this journey together.' The best way to find out about something is to genuinely ask questions, especially if you're coming from such a honest, authentic, earnest place. I think as black women, too, that's what's great about our show—at least that's what I love about what we do with the show—we just really try to make like we're just talking and discovering things about each other on stage. Sometimes, Phoebe will be like, 'The craziest thing happened to me this week.' And I'll be like, 'Let's wait. Tell me on stage.' Because there's room to just sort of learn about each other."
On how they met:
Robinson: "I was in the background for a piece Jessica was doing about black hair in the military.... Any time you do a piece like that, or any sort of TV thing, there's a lot of just sitting while they set up lights—so you just really have that time to hang out. We chatted and then I asked her to do this podcast of mine. I used to have such a rinky dink podcast."
Williams: "It was great."
Robinson: "It was Blaria. It was like my one bedroom apartment where I had moldy ceiling in my bathroom. She came by, and she did it, and we had a great time. She told me her birthday was coming up, so I asked her what she wanted to do. She said, 'I always wanted to do stand-up.' I was like, 'Do you want to co-host a stand-up show, Blaria—Black Daria—as a goof?' She said yes, and then we just had such a great time doing it together. We were like, 'Oh, okay we'll do this again,' but it was never like, 'Let's do this again and get a podcast and go to HBO.'"
On "raging" together:
Williams: "Even if she's working on something else and I'm working on something, we get to look at each other at a party where we get free sushi, and we get to be like, 'This is crazy.' I don't have that with a lot of my other friends, like my friends from high school or my friends from home. But it's nice to be able to rage at a party or something that's very industry and still be like, 'This is crazy.'
Robinson: "But also we, like, don't rage. I eat, like, three pigs in a blanket."
Williams: "Oh yeah I meant rage just casually just because I've been in California for the last three and a half weeks, so I've been reverting back."
Robinson: "Okay, great. I don't want people to think we're out partying."
Williams: "It is not rage, but we gently hang out, not rage."
On taking a bizarre pedicab trip:
Williams: "We had fun in Austin when we took a pedicab together once. I don't think you wanted to take it."
Robinson: "I did not want to take it because I was like, this is like abuse of humans."
Williams: "We're paying him. It's not abuse of humans."
Robinson: "It is abusive to be like, 'Let me sit while you exert f*cking physics.'"
Williams: "It would be abusive if we weren't paying him and I was, like, banging on his booty or something—"
Robinson: "Anyway I did not want to do this but I was like, 'I'm a team player, she's tipsy, let's go.' We ended up having a lot of fun. He invited us out to karaoke and we were like, 'This is where this ends.'"
Williams: "We're like, 'No, we're just going to pay you. Thank you, but we were really tired because we do not rage.'"