‘Abbott Elementary’: Tyler James Williams Admits Janelle James Has Caused Him to Break Character ‘Several Times’

Everybody Hates Chris star Tyler James Williams has joined the cast of ABC’s TV sitcom, Abbott Elementary, as a substitute teacher, Gregory Eddie, who has a more militant approach with his students. In a recent interview, Williams admitted Janelle James, who portrays Principal Ava Coleman, has caused him to break character “several times.”

Tyler James Williams sitting on a desk with his arms folded and Janelle James standing up talking to the class
Tyler James Williams and Janelle James during an episode of ‘Abbott Elementary’ | Liliane Lathan/ABC/Getty Images

Tyler James Williams on portraying Gregory Eddie in ‘Abbott Elementary’

In a Dec. 2021 interview with The GATE, actor Tyler James Williams talked about his experience depicting Gregory. The 29-year-old noted that the part is “a little different” from other characters he portrayed as the substitute teacher “takes himself very seriously.”

According to the actor, he believes Gregory understands the job but tries to bring a “military approach” when educating six-year-olds.

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Therefore, Williams pointed out his character is learning that teaching is more than meeting quotas and testing as he should focus on making it engaging for the kids. He also spoke about working with his co-stars, namely Janelle James, who portrays the principal, Ava Coleman. On-screen, her character frequently flirts with him.

Williams explained the interactions are more “difficult” than one would think because he has to remain in his stoic role while James is “very funny.”

He admits Janelle James, who portrays Ava in ‘Abbott Elementary,’ has caused him to break character

He continued, noting he typically takes “pride” in rarely breaking character on set but admitted his co-star has “broken him several times.”

While he pointed out that some of Ava’s comments border the line of “flirting and harassment,” he still finds it funny and hopes the audience enjoys the banter as well. Another co-star of his creator, writer, and executive producer Quinta Brunson who also portrays his crush, Janine Teagues, previously acted alongside Williams in a 2019 episode of A Black Lady Sketch Show.

Therefore, the two have known each other for a couple of years. Although he acknowledged the popular saying that warns against working with your friends, Williams believes it has actually strengthened their friendship.

He also praised Brunson, noting how difficult running a set with people she admires is without “crossing the line and ruining relationships.” Additionally, Williams believes viewers are “only seeing the beginning of what Quinta is capable of.”

Tyler James Williams is most known for playing Chris in ‘Everybody Hates Chris’

The New York native began acting around the age of 4 and eventually landed his first role as actor Jack Black’s adopted son during a 1999 Saturday Night Live skit.

He then starred in Little Bill (2000) for two years as a recurring character named Bobby before eventually landing the lead role as Chris in Everybody Hates Chris (2005). His critically acclaimed performance earned him five NAACP Image Award nominations, winning one in 2007.

Following the show’s conclusion in 2009, Williams continued to act, landing a lead role in Disney Channel original movie, Let It Shine (2012), sitcom Go On (2012), and award-nominated Dear White People (2014).

After reprising Monty in Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders (2016) and a few other appearances, the 29-year-old landed the role of Gregory. Abbott Elementary airs on ABC.

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