Abbott Elementary star Tyler James Williams is opening up about his early years in Hollywood, along with the impact that the experience had on him.
He Reflects On His Early Breakout Role: ‘I Was Trying To Find Myself In Front Of Everybody’
During a recent interview with GQ, Williams looked back on his journey to what led him to star on one of TV’s hottest family sitcoms.
Back when he was merely 12 years old, after working on shows like Little Bill and Sesame Street, Tyler’s big break came when he secured the lead role in Everybody Hates Chris, playing a teenage Chris Rock.
While the role presented a steep learning curve, Williams noted that it left him with “the most useful information” he’s ever received.
“I learned how to carry a show in a matter of two or three months. It’s the most useful information I’ve ever gotten in my life.”
However, in spite of presenting him with this “useful information,” Tyler also noted that the his time on the show coincided with “the most awkward years of [his] life.”
“The time this was happening was the same time the internet was becoming more ingrained in the industry. So as I’m going through the most awkward years of my life, everyone sees it. I think my voice was cracking nonstop during seasons two and three.”
Williams summed up the situation by pointing out, “I was trying to find myself in front of everybody. And everybody had an opinion and was getting used to getting theirs out.”
He went as far as to call the experience “traumatic” and added that, on account of growing up in the public eye, he “still get[s] triggered by things that are part of everybody else’s childhood.”
“It was traumatic. 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.”
He added that, while working through this trauma in therapy, “hypervigilance” was a major issue that he had to address.
“Hypervigilance was one of the things that we had to tackle, because I would be listening to everyone’s conversation in a room. I could hear my name being brought up from two, three tables down. I could see how many people clocked me when I walked in the door. And that’s not healthy.”
Tyler James Williams Says He ‘Didn’t Like The Road’ He Was Pursuing
Aside from the personal ordeals that his on-camera adolescence put him through, the actor also addressed some of the work-based pressures, which he “figured that out pretty f**king quickly.”
In fact, Williams cited an interaction he had with an Everybody Hates Chris producer in which they proclaimed, “I’ll never see you as anything else and you’ll probably never work again.”
While the actor noted that the comment “was probably a joke,” it still deeply impacted him.
However, rather than being discouraged, Tyler acknowledged that he “decided to stop and pivot” in order to hone his craft.
“I realized at 17 that I didn’t like the road I was on, 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 eventually accepting roles in projects like Dear White People and The Walking Dead, he eventually formed a bond with Quinta Brunson after meeting on HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show. Of course, his eventually led up to Brunson casting Williams in Abbott Elementary.
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