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Tyler James Williams is opening up about navigating Hollywood as a child following his breakout role in Everybody Hates Chris.
The Abbott Elementary star rose to fame as a teen playing Chris on the hit show that ran from 2005-09. But after the series ended, the actor faced the pressure of trying to escape being stuck playing only teenager roles — something that many child stars face. He even claimed in a GQ profile published Wednesday that an Everybody Hates Chris producer told him, “I’ll never see you as anything else and you’ll probably never work again.”
Williams recalled, “I was like, ‘Holy shit, you really just looked at me and said that.'” He noted that the producer may have been joking but that he took it seriously.
Once the series ended, Williams went on a mission to find his footing in Hollywood as a young adult, even taking a hiatus until the right projects came his way. “I realized at 17 that I didn’t like the road I was on,” the actor told the publication. “So I decided to stop and pivot. I got with a really good acting coach and I turned down every single thing I was offered.”
After some time, he got a starring role in Dear White People and later made some appearances on The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds. He also accepted parts in The Wedding Year and The United States vs. Billie Holiday.
But as he reflects on his time in the industry as a child, he said it “was traumatic.” He continued, “I still get triggered by things that are part of everybody else’s childhood. Every time someone comes up to me, regardless of what it is they recognize me for, what that says to me in the moment is that I’m seen. I have to be on, immediately, because someone’s watching.”
Since then, he said he goes to therapy to help work on building boundaries in his life.
As he continued to look for his next project, he likely didn’t expect what would be next for him, since he said he tried to avoid network TV, especially sitcoms. But when Quinta Brunson, the creator and actress in Abbott Elementary, called and said she had written the role of Gregory Eddie with him in mind, he had to consider it.
Now, one Golden Globe win and Emmy nomination later, Williams has found much success with the award-winning comedy series. He has also become somewhat of a heartthrob across social media for his role.
“A lot of the work that I do takes place in the past because I look like a Black man of any era,” the actor explained. “That is attractive and I will die on that hill. Abbott gave us an opportunity to make that attractive. So it wasn’t Quinta Brunson making me a heartthrob. It was giving people the opportunity to see the man they see every day as that.”
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