Michelle Williams Had No Idea That She’s Become A Meme

The tear swipe that broke the internet.

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Back in April, Michelle Williams went viral with a scene from FX’s Fosse/Verdon, in which her character, the long-suffering theater vet Gwen Verdon, dramatically wipes a tear from her cheek. It is unlike any wiping of any tear the world has ever known–Williams swipes her left cheek, then her right, and then swirls her hand around her entire head to wipe the left cheek once more. It is astonishing, and a rightful meme.

In a new profile for Vulture, Williams told writer Jackson McHenry that she didn’t realize the clip had gone viral–and that she had never even seen it, as she doesn’t watch her own performances. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been a meme before,” she said, laughing. Williams allowed McHenry to play her a video of someone impersonating her, but made him cover the portion of the screen showing her face with his hand.

“It’s so much to play,” Williams said of the scene. “She would accentuate a sentence where a normal human being wouldn’t. How is she going to sit on that chair? How is she going to collapse? How is she going to wipe away a tear? She had a sense of who people wanted her to be, and she wanted to deliver.”

The interview also touched on last year’s major equal pay scandal, when Williams was paid scale for reshoots on Getty biopic All the Money in the World while costar Mark Walhberg pocketed $1.5 million for the same amount of work (Wahlberg donated his paycheck to Time’s Up after receiving an avalanche of criticism). FX promised Williams and fellow Fosse/Verdon lead Sam Rockwell equal salaries–which is actually sort of ridiculous if you think about it, considering Williams’s higher profile. But I guess it’s nice?

“They gave me the support I needed, and for them that took the form of putting their money where their mouth is,” she said. FX also paid for Williams’s dance lessons and allotted her and Rockwell extra rehearsal time when they needed it. “People were treating me like I had value, and so then I felt valued, and I displayed my value,” she added. A lesson for us all.