Stepping in and stepping up. Michelle Williams spoke candidly about daughter Matilda Ledger’s sweet relationship with actor Jeremy Strong — and how the Succession star was there for the young girl in the wake of Heath Ledger’s death.
“[Matilda] didn’t grow up with her father but she grew up with her Jeremy,” the Dawson’s Creek alum, 41, told Variety in a cover story published on Tuesday, May 10. Williams added that she and Matilda — who was 2 years old when the Dark Knight star died at age 28 of an accidental overdose in January 2008 — “were changed by [Strong’s] ability to play as though his life depended on it, because hers did.”
The My Week With Marilyn actress explained, “Jeremy was serious enough to hold the weight of a child’s broken heart and sensitive enough to understand how to approach her through play and games and silliness.”
Williams further noted that Strong’s clothes were ruined due to how much he would play with Matilda, now 16. (Per Variety, Strong, 43, was one of several friends and family members who came to live with the mother and daughter in New York City after Heath’s untimely death.)
“He had only one sweater and two T-shirts and they were torn at the neck because he would play ponies with my daughter and let her ride on his back and use his clothing as reins,” she told the outlet, defending her friend from the criticism he received after a New Yorker profile mentioned his closet full of ripped designer clothing. (She also stood by his method acting choices.) “So he walked around with his beautiful things ruined and he never thought twice about it and he never told her to stop.”
The Halloween H20 actress is currently expecting her third child, her second with husband Thomas Kail, whom she wed in March 2020. The couple are also parents to 2-year-old son Hart, whose name was revealed for the first time on Tuesday.
“It’s totally joyous,” Williams gushed about her pregnancy news. “As the years go on, you sort of wonder what they might hold for you or not hold for you. It’s exciting to discover that something you want again and again is available one more time. That good fortune is not lost on me or my family.”
The actress knows the importance of those happy moments. She initially met Heath while filming 2005’s Brokeback Mountain, and the costars welcomed Matilda in October of that year, just one month before the romantic drama was released. The pair split in September 2007. Four months later, the 10 Things I Hate About You actor tragically died from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.
In 2016, the Manchester by the Sea actress opened up about raising Matilda as a single mom after her late partner’s death.
“In all honesty, for pretty much everything else, I feel like I’m a believer in not fighting circumstances, accepting where you are and where you’ve been. In pretty much all senses but one,” she told Porter magazine at the time. “I would be able to go totally down that line of thinking were it not for Matilda not having her dad. You know, that’s just something that doesn’t … I mean, it just won’t ever be right.”
While Heath’s parents and sisters were set to inherit his estate at the time of his death, they gave it all to his daughter.
“Our family has gifted everything to Matilda,” Heath’s father, Kim Ledger, told Australia’s The Sunday Times in January 2008.