Things You Might Not Know About Grey’s Anatomy Star Jesse WilliamsPublished on April 13, 2016. Updated August 6, 2020
For quite a few seasons now, Jesse Williams has graced our televisions as Dr. Jackson Avery on Grey’s Anatomy. With his stunning good-looks and easy-going charm, it isn’t too hard to see how he became a star on the show so quickly, and after all these years, Williams has become mostly known as Jackson. Williams has a large and loyal fanbase and even though he is one of the biggest stars on one of TV’s biggest shows, he is particularly good at staying out of the spotlight and keeping his life 0ff-screen very private. There is just so much to know about the attractive star, so check out 10 things you didn’t know about Jesse Williams.
Jesse Wesley Williams was born in Chicgao, Illinois, to his mother Johanna Chase, a professional potter, and Reginald Williams, a teacher. His mother is of a Swedish American background while his father is African American and some Seminole. He also has two younger brothers.
9. Various Jobs
Before settling into acting, Williams, modeled, taught, worked at a law firm and was also a bartender at the Soho Grand Hotel in New York.
8. Music Video Star
In 2009, Williams starred as the love interest in Rihanna’s music video for “Russian Roulette” off of her album Rated R. He also appeared in Estelle’s “Fall in Love” music video in 2010 from her album All of Me.
After graduating from high school, Williams went to Temple University where he graduated with a double major in African American Studies and Film and Media Arts.
6. First Career
Before pursuing modeling, acting or anything in the entertainment industry, Williams became a high school teacher and taught for six years in the Philadelphia public school system. He used his Temple degree to teach American Studies, African Studies, and English.
5. Big Break
In 2005, Williams decided to start studying acting and had success almost immediately as he was chosen to participate in the New York Actors Showcase hosted by ABC Television. He was chosen to be one of 14 out of over 800 people who had auditioned. He then landed a spot in Law & Order and in 2008 really hit it big with a starring role in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, and in 2009, he landed the role of Jackson Avery in Grey’s Anatomy.
Thanks to his background in African Studies, Williams is active in raising awareness surrounding racism and is the youngest member on the board of directors at The Advancement Project which is a civil rights think tank and advocacy group. He has written articles for CNN and The Huffington Post and is also the executive producer of Question Bridge: Black Males, a media project which focuses on the black male identity and diversity within the demographic.
3. Love Life
Williams married real estate broker Aryn Drake-Lee on December 11, 2001 and together they have a daughter Sadie, 2 and a half, and a son Maceo, 8 months. The pair were together long before Williams’ fame and met when he was still a teacher in Philadelphia. “She’s been with me through all different facets of my career. She’s stuck with me through thick and thick and thick and thin,” Williams said in an interview. The couple split up in April 2017 and divorced.
It is pretty obvious Williams stays in shape and is always happy to partake in any celebrity all-star event. “I’m an athletic junkie — I play in all the celebrity all-star games, and I’ve become buddies with a bunch of athletes.”
1. Being Jackson
Due to his work in African Studies, and especially his media project Question Bridge, Williams has a lot of strong feelings about scripts written for black men, stating, “There’s so much material out there that’s unnecessarily racist. It takes a shot at what is ‘urban’ or demonstrates blackness with some sassy, neck-jiving character that’s not even relevant to the plot. I see it time and time again, and it doesn’t move the story forward. It just kind of cryogenically freezes us in this old racial paradigm.” Due to this issue in roles, Williams has said that this is why he cares so much about his role on Grey’s as Jackson Avery. “That’s why the role that I have on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ is important to me, because it’s a human being. He doesn’t have to wear race on his sleeve; he doesn’t even have to talk about it. We just lead by our actions.”