It's undeniable that Tyler James Williams has made a successful transition from child star to adult actor. The 30-year-old was the lead of the sitcom Everybody Hates Chris from 2005 to 2009, when he was a young teen, and now he stars on the Emmy-winning series Abbott Elementary as public school teacher Gregory Eddie. (He was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series this year for his role.) But, in the time between his best-known gigs, Williams dealt with a health issue that he said in a new interview was exacerbated by his early fame. Read on to see what the actor had to say and how he's doing now.
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Williams has been acting for most of his life.
In an interview with Bustle published Nov. 2, Williams explained that he first expressed an interested in acting when he was only four years old. Not long after, he started going out to auditions and eventually landed a Dimetapp commercial. He then spent several years on Sesame Street.
Williams began starring on Everybody Hates Chris, playing a young version of Chris Rock, when he was 12. He went on to have a recurring role in The Walking Dead in 2014 and 2015 and appeared in a number of other TV shows and movies—including 2017's Detroit and 2021's The United States vs. Billie Holiday—before Abbott Elementary premiered last year.
He's been battling a chronic illness.
Williams has been diagnosed with Crohn's disease. According to Mayo Clinic, Crohn's disease "is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It causes swelling of the tissues (inflammation) in your digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition."
Stress can worsen make symptoms of the condition more severe. The Mayo Clinic explains that while "[it] doesn't cause Crohn's disease, it can make your signs and symptoms worse and may trigger flare-ups."
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The stress of being a young actor made his illness worse.
Williams' Bustle profile notes, when the actor was 23, his Crohn's disease flare-ups led to hospitalizations and surgery. His surgeon attributed the seriousness of his condition, in part, to stress.
Speaking of himself and his younger brothers, Tyrel and Tylen Williams, who are also actors, Williams said, "We're not as chaotic as I think most child actors get the [reputation for] being, but that doesn't necessarily mean we adjusted well. We had a lot to work through, and a lot of therapists got a lot of money from me."
He continued, "That was the uphill fight and what feels like the fight of my career and life. Because [acting] is the only thing that I love like this. I lost six inches of my intestines to that."
He knew transitioning out of child stardom would be difficult.
Williams explained that he knew what he was trying to avoid when it came to successfully exiting child stardom, and embarking on adult career. But, he went on, "it's kind of like telling somebody there's a bunch of land mines outside, and here's how you avoid them."
He continued, "As a child, it's really weird when your audience tells you that you did such a good job at something that they don't want you to do anything else. I knew I could fall into this trap of child actors and [be] known for one thing and never work again and just be a nostalgia artist, and I was hyperaware of that. I think I overcompensated. I was really calculated in everything I did."
"The more I talk about it, the better I feel," Williams added. "For a long time, I tried to outrun it, and it made things worse."
He underwent three surgeries and was "severely underweight."
In 2018, Williams spoke about his experience in a video for the Crohn's&Colitis Foundation, explaining in depth what he went through.
"From 19 until 23, I was flaring on a weekly basis. From 22 to 23, it was a daily basis, without keeping it in check in any way, and just kind of pushing through it and trying to hide it as best as I could," Williams said. He explained that he had seen multiple doctors before finally being diagnosed properly.
After undergoing surgery to have a portion of his intestine removed, he said, "They kept me in [the hospital] because I was severely underweight. At this point I was about 105 pounds." Then, due to a complication from that surgery, he had to have surgery again and stay in the hospital for a month. "Three surgeries in three months and dropped 40 pounds, and that's the reality of what Crohn's disease can be," said Williams.