Tyler James Williams Talks ‘The Walking Dead’ and Joining ‘Criminal Minds’

Actor Tyler James Williams can tell which shows fans associate him with when they see him on the street.

“Me and a friend have a joke that we can tell what a person has seen of my work by the look on their faces as they start walking up,” Williams, 23, tells ESSENCE. “If it’s Chris from Everybody Hates Chris, there’s this huge smile as if I just told a joke. If it’s Noah from The Walking Dead, it’s as if I just told them that their puppy died. It’s either almost crying or laughing hysterically.

“But it’s a beautiful thing. As an artist, it’s always about diversity. To have both sides of that coin be memorable is a really big deal. Noah is just as iconic as Chris was.”

Before the Westchester County, New York native joined The Walking Dead in season five, Williams was a fan of the show and says he still watches a year after his character’s death. He also participates in Walker Stalker Con, a monthly fan convention inspired by the show.

“Now I watch it from a completely different perspective,” says Williams, who is now starring on CBS’ Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. “I was just a fan beforehand but now, those are my people. Now I have an understanding of how hard the work is. It’s possibly one of the most difficult shows to shoot. You’re in the middle of Georgia heat, running at top speed and getting beaten up. Every episode, somebody goes to the hospital. I took a gun butt to the head one time and I know Norm (Norman Reedus who plays Daryl) has been to the hospital several times.”

Williams says he still feels connected to the series. “Having a character tied to these other characters means something,” he says. “I’ll always be Noah’s biggest advocate because I understood everything he did and his relationships to everybody.”

Speaking of relationships, Williams says he’s thrilled that Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) are officially a couple. And Noah’s response? “He would’ve been surprised that Rick and Michonne were not together already,” Williams says. “He would’ve been more shocked by Rick and Jessie getting together. That was the thing. It was like, ‘Oh. This is just now happening?’” 

Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders airs Wednesdays at 10 pm ET on CBS.  The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 pm ET on AMC. 

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