By all accounts, Jesse Williams is a cool dad — but his two children aren’t letting his fame go to his head.
“My daughter likes to pretend I’m a huge embarrassment,” Williams, 42, exclusively told Us Weekly while promoting his partnership with Crest and Oral-B for the latest #ClosingAmericaSmileGap campaign. “But that’s her job, I think, to make daddy a dork. But I play into that. It’s pretty fun to try to embarrass them.”
The Grey’s Anatomy alum explained that as his daughter, Sadie, 9, and son, Maceo, 7 — whom he shares with ex-wife Aryn Drake-Lee — continue to grow, he is trying to make more shows and films that they can enjoy.
“I remember they thought it was very cool that I was on Sesame Street, years and years ago, when they were kind of that age,” Williams said, noting that both kids “play it very cool” when it comes to his roles.
He joked: “They’re not a source of a lot of praise for me. It’s more like, ‘What have you done for me lately?’”
Williams told Us that parenting multiple little ones is his biggest challenge. “I think you always wanna make sure you’re giving each child some individual time and attention. They are not collectively one child,” he said. “They are individuals and trying to make sure you are attentive to that.”
Williams noted that “it doesn’t stop when they’re active,” telling Us that it’s hard to balance his kids’ sports.
“They have games at the same time [in] different places all weekend … and having to make a choice [about which one to go to] is brutal,” he confessed. “Just making sure you’re present in the right ways and prioritizing quality over quantity [is my focus].”
Williams made headlines in April 2017 after he split from Drake-Lee following more than four years of marriage. In October 2020, Us confirmed that Williams was dubbed legally single after the exes reached an initial agreement settlement in September 2019. Their custody battle, however, continued through the end of 2022.
The Broadway star has since focused on parenting solo. Williams is also working with Crest and Oral-B to help children succeed in school — and take pride in their smile.
Williams teamed up with the brands for their latest #ClosingAmericaSmileGap campaign. For every Crest or Oral-B product purchased from August 1 to September 30, the brands will donate oral care supplies to a child in need.
“I brush my teeth every morning [and] I try to do it every night. We think that everybody can do that and that’s easy and affordable and not a big deal,” Williams told Us. “But the reality is, and I’ve seen this firsthand, is that being able to see a dentist regularly and when you need to is a luxury that a lot of people don’t enjoy. Having health insurance that covers it.”
Williams explained that children who don’t have access to oral care can become more reserved at school. “[If kids] aren’t able to maintain [good teeth] that is embarrassing. It’s stressful,” he said. “You don’t wanna draw attention to yourself in school by asking questions or challenging ideas and being in social scenarios, putting yourself out there.”
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He pointed out that “growth is entirely about putting yourself out there and being challenged and learning,” which is why Crest and Oral-B’s efforts to give kids oral health products before the new school year is so important. “I’m really proud of the work that they’re doing and happy to join them,” Williams added.
With reporting by Christina Garibaldi