At her woodsy Point Dume home, just outside L.A., she's often communing with nature something about her childhood in British Columbia. According to her Hollywood résumé, she's often played anultrasophisticate something about her upper-class bone structure. But in John Sayles' new drama, City of Hope, Barbara Williams is the essence of tough city woman something about her sinewy sexuality, her dead-on New Jersey accent. As Angela, a divorced young mom, Williams creates a character who is, she says, much closer to her roots. ''I was a waitress in Gibsons Landing, B.C.,'' she explains. ''Before that, I lived in small towns. I've had to go through many changes.''
Although many in the cast are part of the John Sayles Repertory Company Vincent Spano, Joe Morton, Jace Alexander, and David Strathairn the actress is new to the club. ''It was one of the easiest auditions. The thing about John is every character he writes has a whole life.'' In her own whole life, Williams (who lives alone with her cat) recently cut her wild auburn mane to what she calls ''Isabella Rossellini length.'' Why? ''I was getting too attached to my hair.'' Clearly the tough city woman's approach to coiffure.