*For four seasons, audiences have watched Tyler James Williams grow up before their very eyes as the awkward teen in “Everybody Hates Chris.”
Three years later, the actor – now 19 – is still playing an awkward teen, but this time with a deeper voice in the upcoming Disney Channel original movie “Let it Shine,” a modern day take on the classic Cyrano de Bergerac story set in the genre of hip hop.
Williams plays Cyrus DeBarge, a shy Atlanta teen who writes a heartfelt rap about his childhood crush Roxie (Coco Jones) as part of her record label contest. But he’s way too bashful to deliver it, so that job goes to his best friend Kris (Trevor Jackson), who ultimately performs Cyrus’ song in front of Roxie, woos her in the process and takes full credit for penning the lyrics. As Roxie and Trevor catch feelings, Cyrus is left to overcome his self-esteem issues and find the courage to pursue his own music dreams…and the girl.
Williams’ shy teen portrayal may be familiar to viewers of “Everybody Hates Chris,” but fans are likely to be as shocked as he was to discover his hidden talent on the mic. [Scroll down to watch his music video from the film.]
“Since this movie, it’s definitely opened up that vein of my life that I didn’t really know,” he told reporters at a press conference for the film. “I mean, music was always a part of my life. A lot of my family has done a lot of music. And my brothers and I, as we grew up, we were kind of forced to play all kinds of instruments. That’s what parents do. But now, after shooting the film, it’s definitely something that I’m exploring. I have no official word yet, but in the past few months it’s been very interesting.”
Below, Williams (with his grown man voice) reveals all of the rappers who inspired his flow in the film, and who he counts as influences in his own possible pursuit of music – beginning with Andre 3000.
Brandon Mychal Smith, Dawnn Lewis and Courtney B. Vance round out the cast of ”Let it Shine,” which premieres Friday, June 15 at 8 p.m. on Disney Channel. Below, watch the trailer and Tyler’s music video from the film, “Don’t Run Away.”