'Abbott Elementary' Star Tyler James Williams Says He's in a 'F--- It' Phase of His Career

The former child actor has reached a "fun" place in his career after overcoming doubters and spending months getting "high at home [and] eating chips" before his award-winning turn as Gregory Eddie

Rich Polk/NBC via Getty
Rich Polk/NBC via Getty

Tyler James Williams is ready to embrace his fun side.

During The Hollywood Reporter’s Comedy Actor Roundtable, the Abbott Elementary star — who plays substitute teacher Gregory Eddie — opened up about feeling like he’s finally reached a “f--- it” phase of his career.

“I think for a while I was doing things just to survive,” he shared. “I think one of the hard parts of finding success young is then you’re thrown into the ‘do you have staying power’ argument. I was just trying to keep the train moving, which eventually everyone figures out is not sustainable.”

“But after taking those periods of silence, I was able to figure out what I actually wanted to do,” he continued. “If you don’t get to ‘f--- it, I do what I want’ [phase], eventually you burn out.”

Kevork Djansezian/NBC via Getty Tyler James Williams
Kevork Djansezian/NBC via Getty Tyler James Williams

Related: Tyler James Williams on His Starry Childhood, from Patti LaBelle-Backing Parents to Trashing Studios

The actor revealed that Steven Yeun was actually his source of inspiration for the philosophy. “Every time I’m like, ‘I feel like I should do this,’ or I have people on my team saying, ‘You should go this way,' I think about Steven and I’m like, ‘Steven would just be like, ‘Nah, I’m going to wait,'" he shared.

“I’ve admired that about [Yeun’s] career since leaving The Walking Dead,” he added.

Prior to Abbott, Williams and Yeun co-starred on AMC’s The Walking Dead, playing Noah and Glenn, respectively. “I feel as if when you choose something or I see you do something, it’s because you’re truly inspired by it and want to," he said.

Williams also shared that he’s at a “fun” place in his career right now with the success of Abbott.

“All my favorite things I’ve ever done came about because I wasn’t thinking about that thing. That’s what happened with Abbott,” he explained. “In the middle of the pandemic, I think I was at home, just high, eating chips, and it popped up.”

“I’m just really having fun right now with what comes,” he added.

Gilles Mingasson/ABC Quinta Brunson, Tyler James Williams
Gilles Mingasson/ABC Quinta Brunson, Tyler James Williams

Related: Tyler James Williams Claims 'Everybody Hates Chris' Producer Said He Would 'Probably Never Work Again'

Williams has been open about his career trajectory, beginning as a child actor on the sitcom Everybody Hates Chris, which was based on Chris Rock’s teenage years.

In an interview with GQ in March, he claimed that a producer on the show once told him, "I'll never see you as anything else and you'll probably never work again."

"I was like, 'Holy s---, you really just looked at me and said that,’” Williams said.

That producer couldn't have been further from the truth as Williams went on to star as  Gregory Eddie on Abbott — a role given to him by the show's writer and creator Quinta Brunson, whom he first worked with on HBO's A Black Lady Sketch Show . He later won a 2023 Golden Globe for his role.

Gilles Mingasson/ABC Quinta Brunson and Tyler James Williams on Abbott Elementary
Gilles Mingasson/ABC Quinta Brunson and Tyler James Williams on Abbott Elementary

Related: Tyler James Williams Remains Tight-Lipped About Janine and Gregory's Kiss on 'Abbott Elementary'

Upon accepting his first Golden Globe, the actor began his speech by thanking his Abbott costars and crew, saying, "I love y'all. It's an honor to work with you everyday," before shouting out Brunson, 33.

Discussing his character in the show, Williams continued, "I pray that this is a win for Gregory Eddie and for his story and for stories like this that we may understand but his story just as important as all of the other stories that have to be told out here. Thank you so much for this."

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Abbott Elementary was renewed by ABC for a third season in January 2023. The first two seasons are now available to stream on Hulu.

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