Tyler James Williams is not a YouTuber, Viner or any other type of social media celebrity you typically see starring in a digital-first production these days. He’s got a long list of traditional TV credits that range from the lead in the sitcom “Everybody Hates Chris” (2005–2009) to more recent roles in season five of “The Walking Dead” and the new spin-off “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.”
So when he took the role of Nate in the New Form Digital series “RePlay,” which premiered yesterday on Verizon’s mobile first platform Go90, he didn’t know quite what to expect. But turns out that it was just like working on traditional TV and films, with a few minor differences, the biggest being turnaround time.
“I did not expect that at all, to start shooting in January and be done mid-February, and then it comes out in April,” Williams, 23, told VideoInk. “I did a movie that I shot when turned 18 and it didn’t come out until I was 21.”
Another difference from a typical TV show was that, to save time and money, the producers of “RePlay” “block shot” the party scenes for each of its 12 episodes back to back — a task made easier by the fact that they were each different versions of the same party.
“RePlay” focuses on the misadventures of Allison (Lyndsy Fonseca), an aspiring deejay who botches her big showcase for Vegas club promoters at her warehouse birthday bash. As she blows out the candles on her cake at the end of the night, she wishes for a second chance, and her wish comes true, over and over again, “Groundhog Day”-style.
“I love the ‘Groundhog Day’ concept, because I think it’s one of those situations where you can really see how characters really are from a comedy point of view,” Williams said. “This is an extraordinary circumstance. That’s what comedy is all about — putting regular people in extraordinary circumstances and seeing how they react.”
Williams’ show business circumstances are a bit extraordinary. Unlike so many former child stars, who end up in rehab or the morgue, he made the successful transition to adult actor following the 2009 cancellation of “Everybody Hates Chris,” in which he played a fictionalized version of young Chris Rock. Realizing that what casting agents value in a child — cuteness, precociousness, overacting — is generally not what they look for in an adult, Williams set out to retrain himself.
“I got in with a really good acting coach and broke all that stuff down, then started from scratch with, okay, how do I actually contend as an adult actor?” said Williams, whose first TV credit was an appearance on “Sesame Street” at the age of 7.
Williams went on to land a spot as a regular on the Matthew Perry series “Go On” (2012–2013) and star in the independent feature “Dear White People,” a satire about being a black student at an Ivy League college, which earned a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014.
Currently, he’s waiting to hear whether CBS renews “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders,” on which he plays FBI computer whiz Monty.
“I’d love for ‘Criminal Minds’ to come back, but, if it doesn’t, then I can roll into something else,” Williams said. “You have to learn that there’s always going to be another job and if you do your work and you’re easy to work with, then you build good relationships and put out good product. It’s part of the game.”