NEW YORK — Nearly every TV season brings a newly designated “It Girl.”
Last fall, Jennifer Garner of “Alias” was clearly “It.”
In years before that she was Keri Russell of “Felicity.” Jenna Elfman of “Dharma & Greg.” Sarah Michelle Gellar of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
A title first bestowed on silent-screen siren Clara Bow, “It Girl” had racier overtones 75 years ago.
Now, in the television age, “It” anoints an emerging starlet who — by some alchemy of hype, buzz and happenstance — seems to lead the pack in fresh-faced appeal ... a gal the whole nation can have a crush on.
This fall, Ashley Williams is a shoo-in with her new romantic comedy, “Good Morning Miami,” which airs on NBC Thursday at 9:30 p.m. EDT.
She plays Dylan Messinger, the pixieish hairstylist for a local morning TV show whose snarky host (played by Matt Letscher) she is dating — much to the consternation of the show’s just-hired producer (Mark Feuerstein), who is not only Dylan’s new boss but also her tormented secret admirer.
And can any viewer blame him? With her larky presence and dazzling smile, Dylan (that is, Williams) is the essence of It-itude.
“They needed a new Fall face,” says Williams, flashing that smile gratefully, “and I was right there, with bells on.”
In town during a production break from the Los Angeles-based series, she has joined a reporter for lunch at a mid-Manhattan restaurant, making her entrance clad in jeans, peasant blouse and suede jacket, grinning hello, plopping in her seat and demurely parking her gum in a tissue. All much like Dylan might.
Williams, who turns 24 next month, has come a long way since March, when she won the role.
On the other hand, she is no beginner. As a youngster growing up just outside of New York, she staged living-room productions with her brother and older sister, Kimberly (who now co-stars on the ABC sitcom “According to Jim”). “Our parents’ poor dinner guests would be forced to sit through our performances,” she recalls.
By her early teens, she was appearing in commercials.
Then she managed to juggle her high school studies with a regular role on the CBS soap “As the World Turns.”
She played Dani Andropoulos, whom she describes as initially “this really smart girl next door.
“But after six months of doing that, I marched into the executive producer’s office and said, ’I think that my character should go through a giant rebellion.’ He said, ’Really?’ And I said, ‘I will do anything! Let’s spice ’er up.’