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Everybody Hates Chris Star Tyler James Williams: Seeing My Face on Buses Was 'Traumatic'

Williams is opening up about the difficulties of child stardom.
  • A young Tyler James Williams in Everybody Hates Chris (Photo: Everett Collection)
    A young Tyler James Williams in Everybody Hates Chris (Photo: Everett Collection)

    Abbott Elementary star Tyler James Williams opened up about being a child actor on Everybody Hates Chris in an interview with Yahoo News published Friday.

    Williams got his start on Sesame Street at age seven, and within a few years, he was cast as the lead of Everybody Hates Chris, the sitcom inspired by Chris Rock's childhood.

    "They put my face on literally every bus in New York City," said Williams. "Like, literally every single one. I was just one of the faces in this crowd, beating the block like everybody else was, and now, yeah, they know exactly who I am, whether they want to or not… It was kind of traumatic in the sense of, like, I just wasn't used to that many eyeballs. And at 12 you just feel that as you're walking through a crowd."

    However, Williams revealed he almost didn't get the role on Everybody Hates Chris, in the first place

    "I was on my way into the city to go read for it," said Williams, a native of Westchester County outside New York City, "And then they called me to tell me that the audition was canceled."

    Apparently, casting directors thought Williams was too good looking for the role of young Chris Rock.

    "And then a year later, they came back," Williams explained. "I read six times. And that was the first time I, like, really understood what it took to, like, go get it. Like, if you want this, you have to be able to deliver take after take. You know, I think to this day, it's still how I work."

    Even after the audition, though, Williams didn't think he'd landed the role.

    "I was on the plane and, before my mother can turn her phone off, my manager calls. 'He got it, he got it. Get off the plane!'" he said. "So they were like, 'No! You're not getting off the plane.' So I still had to fly back home just to turn around and come back."

    Everybody Hates Chris aired for four seasons, from 2005 to 2009. Now, Williams stars alongside Quinta Brunson in Abbott Elementary, earning an Emmy nomination for his performance.

    Everybody Hates Chris is available to stream on Hulu.

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    Deena ElGenaidi's writing has been featured in Nylon, MTV News, Insider, The AV Club, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @deenaelg.

    TOPICS: Tyler James Williams, Abbott Elementary, Everybody Hates Chris