An evening straight out of Capeside. Michelle Williams honored her Dawson’s Creek past as she paid tribute to former costar Mary Beth Peil in a heartfelt speech at the Gotham Awards on Monday, November 28.
“Whenever something good happens for me in my life, I can draw a straight line back to somebody who was meant to be here tonight, but being a New Yorker living being in a reality that you are definitely not in control of, so she’s not in the room, but she’s in my heart. Mary Beth Peil played my Grams on Dawson’s Creek,” the 42-year-old actress began while accepting a performer tribute at the 32nd annual Gotham Awards in New York City. “I was an emancipated minor when we met. I was 16 years old and I was totally alone. Mary Beth Peil was the first artist that I had ever met in my life. She didn’t call herself that, but there was something different about her. It was the way that she asked questions, the way that she leaned into conversations and how excited she seemed for every moment of every day on our TV set. And I didn’t know what this ineffable quality was, but I knew I wanted to pull my chair closer to hers. We started talking constantly. I learned that she was an opera singer. She was a Tony nominee. She was a mother. She crossed over from TV to film to theater like she was changing trains at rush hour. She could do anything.”
Williams and Peil costarred on The WB drama, which aired from 1998 to 2003, for six seasons. Dawson’s Creek also starred James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes and Joshua Jackson.
“She lived an artist’s life,” Williams continued on Monday. “She was gripping and bursting with energy. She showed me that creativity was more than a mere profession. And all of this vitality was miraculously turned in my direction. Her smiling face was looking at me, and she called me ‘her girl.’ She told me stories about this place — New York f—king City. She said it was somewhere that I could go and I could build a life. She said that I should try doing theater. I started reading plays and talking to her about them, and she urged me on, ‘Yes, yes. That’s wonderful, my girl. You should do that. You should try that.’ I wasn’t an artist or a mother. I wasn’t even a high school graduate. Honestly, I was barely even a Michelle — I had just gotten people to stop calling me Shelly.”
The Oscar winner noted that being “Mary Beth’s girl” made her “somebody.”
“So I’m grateful for this honor because it allows me to look backwards in time and realize that I couldn’t have played Wendy Carol or Randy Chandler or Marilyn or Gwen or Missy Fabelman without having first played Jen Lindley,” she concluded. “I wouldn’t have known how to handle being Steven Spielberg‘s mother without having been Mary Beth’s granddaughter. So thank you, Mary Beth, and thank you, Gotham Awards for this.”
Williams attended the ceremony with another castmate from the show — Busy Philipps. The longtime pals have been close since Philipps joined Dawson’s Creek as Audrey for seasons 5 and 6.
“My bff was honored at the Gotham Awards last night with the Artist Tribute and I was so honored, as always, to be her date. Paul Dano (now officially one of my favorite people) gave such a thoughtful and beautiful speech to Michelle about her work as an artist and a person and a mother and obviously I cried,” the former Busy Tonight host wrote on Tuesday, November 29, via Instagram. “And Michelle, in true Michelle form, took the opportunity of being honored to pay tribute and honor the great Mary Beth Peil (aka Gramz from Dawsons Creek) and to talk about how working with Mary Beth changed Michelle’s life and career. Anyway, it was really beautiful and I wish Mary Beth had been there with us (she was supposed to be but she didn’t feel well ).”
While Williams’ husband, Thomas Kail, wasn’t with her on Monday, she told Entertainment Tonight on the red carpet that their household was a “busy” but “happy one.” The couple, who share son Hart, 2, welcomed their second child together earlier this year. Williams is also the mother of 16-year-old daughter Matilda, whom she shared with the late Heath Ledger.