And not only is she a Golden Globe and Independent Spirit Award nominee for best supporting actress for her acclaimed performance in "Brokeback," the 25-year-old Williams is also engaged to its star and fellow Globe contender Heath Ledger and gave birth to their daughter, Matilda, in late October.
The Golden Globe nomination Tuesday morning took the actress by surprise. "Gosh, I really don't know what to say," she said over the phone from her home in New York after taking her daughter in for a pediatrician's checkup. "The best part of it is that it will be a film that will withstand time."
Though she has little dialogue in "Brokeback," her open face speaks volumes of sadness as Alma, the harried wife of a cowboy (Ledger), who is too afraid to leave their loveless marriage even after she discovers that her husband is having an affair with a man.
Williams credited "Brokeback" director Ang Lee.
"I remember him holding my hand a lot," she said. "That sort of meant the world to me. The intellectual stuff and the theory doesn't really help you when you are in a pinch in a scene. The only thing that really helps is trust. It is that simple."
Williams said it has been an easy choice to eschew big Hollywood films for less commercial and more challenging fare.
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"It's just my heart's desire to do these things," Williams said. "It was a really natural path for me to take. There was no struggle for me to choose the things I have chosen and not to do the things I have turned down.
"Being on a show like 'Dawson's Creek' for so long makes that so clear because you spend so much of the year doing something you are not entirely invested in. So when you devote yourself to nine months of the year to that kind of work, you have to make awfully certain that you spend the three precious months off in a way that's true and not time-wasting."
As she and Ledger prepare to take their newborn to visit their respective families in Montana and Australia for the holidays, Williams reflected on the balancing acts she now faces. "I have two great loves in my life — my family and my work," she said.
"I haven't stopped loving my work. It's a challenge facing so many women today because we now get to have these careers, we can be passionate about and have the family thing too. I am actually doing a small part in a film in February to tide me over for a while. Until I got pregnant, a month was the most I had taken off since I was 15. It is a little disorientating."