‘Abbott Elementary’: Tyler James Williams’ Parents Were Backup Singers For Luther Vandross and Patti LaBelle

One of the biggest hit TV shows of the 2021-22 season is Abbott Elementary, ABC’s new mockumentary sitcom following teachers at an underfunded school in Philadelphia. Actor Tyler James Williams made his grand return to network comedy for the show, over a decade since he was introduced to the world on Everybody Hates Chris.

Actor Tyler James Williams attends the "Abbott Elementary" Premiere
Actor Tyler James Williams attends the “Abbott Elementary” Premiere | Ray Tamarra/Getty Images

Tyler James Williams’ journey from ‘Everybody Hates Chris’ to ‘Abbott Elementary’

When he was just 12 years old, Tyler James Williams became a star practically overnight. He played a young version of comedian Chris Rock in the series Everybody Hates Chris.

But after Everybody Hates Chris, Williams sought out other roles, including a recurring role in The Walking Dead and the 2021 movie The United States vs. Billie Holiday.

In an interview on The Tamron Hall Show, Williams admitted that he wanted to make a shift away from comedy after Everybody Hates Chris.

“I felt like at the time, network comedy specifically had gotten very broad,” he said. “It was a lot of people fighting really hard to get a joke out, and that’s not really how i like to do comedy. I like to keep it pretty grounded and play to the real of it all. So I was not interested in the time.”

“I went off [and] I did some great drama stuff and some interesting indie stuff, and then when [Abbott Elementary creator] Quinta [Brunson] came to me with this, I was like, ‘This feels like the perfect excuse to come back into people’s living rooms.”

Tyler James Williams comes from a famous family

While Williams has made a career for himself as an actor, he comes from a family of musicians. Hall asked him about his parents, who were backup singers for the likes of Luther Vandross, Patti LaBelle, and Nona Hendryx.

“We grew up in a house where music was so integral to our experience,” he said of he and his siblings’ childhoods.

“My entire family was very talented, especially on the music side,” he revealed. “I come from a line of really great singers — flat-footed, amazing singers who grew up in gospel and sang with all types of people: Nona, Luther, the list is ridiculous in our household.”

“It was really interesting,” he continued. “I think they thought we were all going to go to the music side and I was like, ‘I have another choice.'”

Tyler James Williams’ parents were supportive

When Williams wanted to pursue acting instead of music, his parents wanted to get behind him, regardless of whatever path he chose.

“They were down to support whatever it was,” he said gratefully. “Whatever we were going to do, whatever me and my brothers wanted to do, they were going to be down to support that.”

Williams even revealed that his parents sacrificed their dreams of being touring musicians to raise their family. “They did the road, and then they had to put that down and decide to raise their kids and do what they needed to do, because as everybody knows, that singing on the road lifestyle can only last but for so long with a family,” he said. “Whatever it was, they were down.”

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