Allison Williams, Christopher Walken Spill Secrets on Peter Pan

Allison Williams was born to play Peter Pan. More than 20 years ago, she donned the little green outfit and hat and fell in love with the character. On December 4 at 8/7c, the Girls actress will put the suit back on, this time for the live action version of Peter Pan, which debuts on NBC as a followup to last year’s “Sound of Music.”

Williams’ father, anchor Brian Williams, announced her casting on air with the photo of her dressed as Peter when she was three.

“I kind of loved that because that’s the person that I’m tapping into to play him,” Williams told us during an exclusive Peter Pan breakfast. “Those are the people that I’m doing this for. It’s to reach those kids and to make Peter Pan burrow into their subconscious. The idea of not wanting to grow up too quickly; in today’s landscape, I think is a very poignant thing.”

As a kid, Williams took solace in the character, which reveled in the power of innocence.

“I think today is a very scary world. And if I had a little kid, or if I were a little kid, I’d feel very small and very little and powerless compared to these big and scary things I didn’t understand,” she said. “In this world, being little is the only way to win; innocence trumps experience and innocence trumps evil. So I think that’s a really good thing to remind little kids of right now, which is that it’s okay to be little and to forget about all the scary things that are happening for a second.”

Williams certainly rallied for the role. She was in the middle of auditioning for a film the producers were doing the music for and before she knew it, the film was out and she was being offered the role.

“The minute it came in the only hesitation I had was to get too excited before it was all tied up with a bow and fully official, and I could talk about it out loud on the street without feeling like I was going to get tackled by some outside forces if people were like, “No, no, no, it’s a secret!” she reveals. “I have found in my very short life thus far that the most important decisions are the ones that are not decisions at all. They are completely gut based. They happen without your knowledge or input. They just sort of occur to you. And this was absolutely one of them. I didn’t think about it for a second.”

For years, the role of Peter Pan has always been played by a woman, most notably Broadway actress Cathy Rigby who was played the part for 30 years. No one quite knows why a woman has always been cast as an immortal boy. But nonetheless, that’s always been the case. For Williams, it came naturally.

“I wanted to let the words, the songs, the attitude, and the costume just do their thing, and just trust that if I stayed focused emotionally on being an adventurer, and the excitement of the journey and what Peter goes through, it would carry me through,” she says.

It’s just about being Peter Pan, Williams says. “Not being a woman, a man, a boy, a girl, young, old, just Peter Pan. Whatever that is for each artist. So that’s what I’m endeavoring here.”

For Williams, one of the biggest things that attracted her to the role was a chance to work with Hollywood great Christopher Walken.

“I can’t even begin to express what it feels like to walk down a hallway and see Chris and be like, “Hey, Chris.” Or to be in a scene with him and we’re like hook to knife, just staring into each other’s eyes. It’s unbelievable,” she says. “He’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever worked with. He cracks me up.”

But she also says she loves watching his process. “I love watching him rehearse. I love watching him, seeing the questions he asks,” she says. “The things he tries, the different takes on everything. I think his Hook is perfect.”

For Walken, he’s always liked the character of Captain Hook.

“There’s good crazy, and I think Hook is complicated but he’s troubled. He’s got a lot of issues,” Walken says. “He’s got all this money and success, and his pirates are telling him, ‘Look, why don’t you just take it easy?’ That’s part of the show. His pirates are saying to him, ‘Why don’t you just retire? You got all this stuff, go take it and use it.’ And he’s like, ‘I can’t, I’ve got to settle a score.’ You know, poor guy. He could move and live by the beach.”

It was a role Walken couldn’t turn down. A live action theater production was something he’d never done before, although he’s been both on and off Broadway.

“I’ve always liked to watch sports on TV, and I don’t think there’s anything on TV except sports that has that element of everybody going out there after getting ready. Then you play the game and you find out what’s going on. It’s like the Superbowl,” Walken tells us. “And to me, this is more like sports because when you rehearse a Broadway show — I’ve done that many times — you do a preview for two weeks, then you open and after that you go out. So you’re going to do it in front of people a certain number of times.”

When the show premiers on NBC, the actors will be performing without an audience so it will be a completely different experience from a Broadway show. For Walken, that’s what clinched it.

“The audience teaches you things. They tell you about the timing, the jokes, they laugh and you take a break. It’s very much a thing between you and the audience,” he says. “But in this situation, you just do it and that’s it.”

Allison Williams

-Alexandra Finkel