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‘It Was Kind of Traumatic’: ‘Everybody Hates Chris’ Star Tyler James Williams Recalls Adjusting to Stardom Being a Challenging Process as a Teen

Actor Tyler James Williams is riding the wave of success on ABC’s sitcom “Abbott Elementary,” where he plays the unenthusiastic teacher Gregory Eddie. But before growing up and testing out his serious comedy chops, Williams was known as an ’80s Brooklyn-bred teen version of Chris Rock.

Williams was thrust into stardom as the lead on the hit series “Everybody Hates Chris,” where he played the titular role. The show was loosely based on the real teen years of Rock. Williams starred alongside veteran actress Tichina Arnold, actor Terry Crews, and a host of younger talent such as Imani Hakim and Tequan Richmond, who played Chris’ siblings. 

“Abbott Elementary” cast (from last): Janelle James, Quinta Brunson, William Stanford Davis, Tyler James Williams, Lisa Ann Walter and Sheryl Lee Ralph. (Photo: @willtylerjames/Instagram)

Prior to playing an ambitious teacher in Philadelphia, Williams’ biggest role was that of playing Chris. When the show debuted in 2005, Williams was only 12 years old. Now, at 29, Williams can find fondness in his rise to fame, but he also recalls a time when adjusting to his loss of anonymity took a toll on him as well. “They put my face on literally every bus in New York City. 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,” Williams told Yahoo!Entertainment.

He added that the experience “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.” “Everybody Hates Chris” stayed on air until May 2009, when the final episode of season 4 was released. 

The actor has tried his hand at a variety of roles that remind audiences he’s more than “little dude from across the street.”

“When people have a big hit, a lot of times they try to stay doing the same thing, and I think it burns people out and audiences can eventually get tired of you,” Williams told Vanity Fair about his decision to depart from sitcoms for a bit following his stint as Chris. He continued, “I knew in order for my career to maintain I had to earn a grander respect of a greater audience, not just those that watched ‘Everybody Hates Chris’. And it felt like it had gotten stale.”

While Williams may have moved on from the syndicated sitcom, Rock has found success in his attempts to revamp the show as an animated comedy titled “Everybody Still Hates Chris.” The comedian is slated to return as the show’s narrator. Other castings have not been revealed.

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