Tyler James Williams credits one person for getting him back on a sitcom: Quinta Brunson.
In an exclusive chat with E! News, the Abbott Elementary star shared that he wasn't seeking another network comedy gig after his tenure on Everybody Hates Chris, in which he played the sitcom's titular role between 2005 and 2009. Per Williams, he had "veered away" from that style of TV in recent years, instead exploring more serious roles on The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.
"A lot of times with network comedies, it can get very broad," he shared, "and, like, you'd have to pull a joke out of your ass every now and then. And that's what I attempt to avoid."
But, after clicking with Brunson following an appearance on HBO's A Black Lady Sketch Show, Williams was ready to return to his sitcom roots with Abbott Elementary. "What brought me back to this was being able to trust somebody like Quinta," he continued, "when she said, 'We're gonna make this as authentic and grounded as possible, where you can shine and do the work that you do well.'"
The mockumentary-style comedy, which also stars Janelle James, Lisa Ann Walter, Chris Perfetti and Sheryl Lee Ralph, follows a group of teachers trying to do their best in an underfunded Philadelphia-based public school.
And it's a good thing that Williams agreed to the project, as Brunson, who is both the creator and star of Abbott Elementary, went on to tell E! News that she always had the 29-year-old actor in mind for Gregory, a serious substitute teacher with the career goal of becoming a principal.
"We had been communicating about the part for a while," she explained. "So it felt collaborative, too. I was like, 'Hey, what do you think about this?' And Tyler would tell me things about Gregory."
This collaboration has proven to be a successful one, as Abbott Elementary has gone on to be one of winter's top comedies. In fact, back in January, Mindy Kaling took to Twitter to give the series her stamp of approval, writing to Brunson, "Congrats on this hilarious and heartwarming show!"
Abbott Elementary airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.