Tyler James Williams is opening up about his “traumatic” experience as a child star.
The 30-year-old recently spoke with GQ about his onscreen character as Gregory Eddie on the hit comedy, in addition to detailing what it’s been like navigating the downsides of being a child star and how it all affects his dating life.
Williams is well aware that he’s the subject of insatiable thirst online, but explained that Mr. Eddie isn’t a monolith or a unicorn. “Every time I see somebody feeling that way, I’m like, good—because there’s a ni**a down the block who looks just like me,” he stated to the outlet. “So go talk to him, because he’s a good dude with a good heart.”
The Dear White People star continued, “A lot of the work that I do takes place in the past because I look like a Black man of any era. That is attractive and I will die on that hill. ‘Abbott’ gave us an opportunity to make that attractive. So it wasn’t Quinta Brunson making me a heartthrob. It was giving people the opportunity to see the man they see every day as that.”
Despite the obvious attraction and infatuation, Williams confirmed he is single and revealed it has been difficult to date beyond superficial relationships. “[The fame] makes it hard to be seen,” he stated. “I’ve also never gotten a chance to introduce myself to anybody. There’s something that’s really cool about when I look at people and I’m like, ‘Damn, y’all met and she ain’t know nothing about you. You just were able to give her who you are right now.’”
Not only does the Golden Globe winner‘s fame damper his love life, it also affected his mental health so deeply that he required therapy.
“I still get triggered by things that are part of everybody else’s childhood. Every time someone comes up to me, regardless of what it is they recognize me for, what that says to me in the moment is that I’m seen. I have to be on, immediately, because someone’s watching,” Williams shared. “Hypervigilance was one of the things that we had to tackle, because I would be listening to everyone’s conversation in a room. I could hear my name being brought up from two, three tables down. I could see how many people clocked me when I walked in the door. And that’s not healthy.”
Because of these traumas, he intends to fall back from the spotlight following Abbott‘s conclusion. Fortunately for fans, he’ll be around a bit longer considering the Emmy-winning series was renewed for a third season—which means we get more of the Janine-Gregory romantic saga.
Funny enough, Williams was on the fence about his onscreen romance. “I’ve always been pro-Janine and Tariq because I love him,” he teased, “But I’m pro-Janine and Gregory, after growth. They need to grow into the people they’re becoming. Because I’ve yet to even see who they’re becoming as a performer, I can’t say that they should be together yet.” However, he doesn’t believe his love interest, series creator Quinta Brunson, has figured out their end goal just yet.
Abbott Elementary is currently on a two-week hiatus—Brunson confirmed on Twitter—and will return on April 5 on ABC.