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Tyler James Williams Talks 'Abbott Elementary,' Black Male Teachers and Supporting Black Women

Tyler James Williams has once again graced the TV screen in one of this season's hottest and freshest new comedies around. He plays the role of Gregory Eddie, a substitute teacher assigned to Abbott Elementary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Abbott Elementary was created by Quinta Brunson, who also stars in the show as second grade teacher, Janine Teagues. Through the conversation with Tyler, we learned that Quinta and Tyler are friends in real life. Because of their relationship, when Quinta was creating Gregory, she used qualities from Tyler that he didn't even know he possessed until he developed the character.

In this role, you notice Eddie getting adjusted to a role he has to take when the principal position he really wants was given to a less qualified candidate played by comedian Janelle James.

When we talked about how the roles he's taken from Everybody Hates Chris to Abbott Elementary connect with our community, he said:

"That's my purpose. That's why I'm here. I think a lot of people, particularly in intimate conversations, have asked, 'why have I not been doing more?' And it's because there's not enough purpose work for me. For me, I'm not here to be the prettiest thing. I'm not here to be the funniest thing. I'm here to represent you. I'm that dude from down the block. I'm that dude, you met at church, I'm your brother, I'm your cousin or that boyfriend, eventually, your husband and somebody you fall in love with. I need to represent real Black people. We need to show them that their lives are romantic, pretty and worth living."

When given the stat, according to the Stanford Graduate School of Education, that only 2% of America's teachers are Black Men, James shares why it's important to have more Black men teachers.

"As young Black kids, we need to see Black men be a part of the nurturing, and rearing of the next generation actively. I think there's been this narrative that we have not been able to control that Black men are indebted to that or are not a part of that process. There are Black men every day struggling to provide and be in the lives of their kids. I think another way we can do that is to show them in the educational system. I think that two percent is tragic. It's not that we don't have anything to contribute. It's not like we're not needed. We absolutely are."

When we talked about him working with some of the industry's most notable actresses, he shared:

"I think for the longest it was 'behind every strong Black man is a strong Black woman.' But my career has been 'behind every strong Black woman is a strong Black man.' I can bring a lot of strength to a project because of the work that I've done previously. If I can use that strength and muscle to help amplify the voices of Black women and just support them in that process, then it's ideal for me. I learned that all Black women needed somebody to stand behind them and say, 'I got you.' I found more fulfillment in being a supporting actor in that way. I'll be a supporting actor any day if I'm supporting a Black woman who knows what she's doing."

Check out the full interview.

Catch Abbott Elementary on Tuesday nights at 9 pm ET.

Photo Credit: ABC

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