Michael K. Williams

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Michael K. Williams
Omar Michael Williams 2012 Shankbone.JPG
Williams at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.
Born Michael Kenneth Williams
(1966-11-22) November 22, 1966 (age 48)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1995–present
Website www.michaelkennethwilliams.com

Michael Kenneth Williams (born November 22, 1966) is an American actor. He is best known for his portrayal of Omar Little on the HBO drama series The Wire[1][2][3] and Albert "Chalky" White on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire.

Life and career[edit]

Born in Brooklyn, to an African American father from South Carolina and a Bahamian mother from Nassau, Michael K. Williams was raised in the Flatbush Gardens housing projects in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York City[4][5] and attended George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School.[6] According to a DNA analysis, he is descended partly from the Mende people of Sierra Leone.[7]

After getting in some trouble as a youth, he enrolled at the National Black Theatre in New York City. He later got a job at a pharmaceutical company. Inspired by Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814, he left school and quit his job, against the wishes of his family, to pursue a career as a dancer. During a year in which he was intermittently homeless, Williams visited record labels and dance studios looking for work. He got a job as a background dancer on a music tour for Kym Sims' dance anthem Too Blind To See It, which led to more work appearing as a dancer in videos and on tours, such as with George Michael, Madonna, as well as some modeling work. He also choreographed Crystal Waters' 1994 single 100% Pure Love.[8][9]

He was given one of his first acting roles after being discovered by Tupac Shakur and was cast as High Top, the brother and henchman to Shakur's drug kingpin Tank, in the 1996 film Bullet.[10]

Williams is well known for his large facial scar, which he received during a bar fight on Jamaica Avenue on his 25th birthday in which he was slashed with a razor blade.[11] The scar led to his being offered roles as a thug in music videos.[11] He eventually embraced the scar, citing Seal's scarred face as an inspiration. His scar became his signature and earned him photo shoots with noted photographers like David LaChapelle.

Michael K. Williams also serves as the American Civil Liberties Union celebrity ambassador to the Campaign for Smart Justice.[12]

The Wire[edit]

Williams at Harvard University for a panel discussion on The Wire, November 8, 2010

Williams is known for his portrayal of Omar Little in The Wire, which began filming in 2002. The character was based on Donnie Andrews, as well as other crime figures in Baltimore.[13] Williams received the part after only a single audition.[14] He was initially told that the character was slated to appear in just seven episodes of the first season and feared that the character would be killed before the end of the season.[14] However, creator David Simon stated that they always planned to keep the character as part of the continuing ensemble should the show be renewed beyond the first season.

For his portrayal of Omar, Williams was named by USA Today as one of ten reasons they still love television. Omar was praised for his uniqueness in the stale landscape of TV crime dramas and for the wit and humor that Williams brings to the portrayal.[1] Omar has been named as one of the first season's richest characters, a Robin Hood of Baltimore's west side projects. The Baltimore City Paper named the character one of their top ten reasons not to cancel the show and called him "arguably the show’s single greatest achievement".[3] In 2007 he was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series for his role as Omar.[15]

Williams pursued the role because he was intrigued by Omar's contradictory nature.[14] He felt Omar's popularity stemmed from his honesty, lack of materialism, individuality and his adherence to his strict code.[14] He feels that the role has been a breakthrough in terms of bringing attention to him and getting further roles.[16] Williams has received both positive and negative reactions to Omar's homosexuality and feels that he is successful in challenging attitudes and provoking discussion with the role.[16] During the previous year, before the third season, he discovered Felicia Pearson (Snoop) in a Baltimore bar.

In 2008, then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama cited The Wire as his favorite television show, and called Omar his favorite character. About Omar, Obama said, "That’s not an endorsement. He's not my favorite person, but he's a fascinating character... he's the toughest, baddest guy on the show."[17]

Williams suffered from an identity crisis during his portrayal of Omar Little, going by his character's name, and developed a habit of smoking cannabis and an addiction to cocaine in 2004.[18][19]

Other work[edit]

Williams had a recurring role on J. J. Abrams' Alias. He also had a recurring role on Abrams' produced Six Degrees.[16] He has also made brief appearances on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (playing two different characters on two different seasons), Boston Legal, The Sopranos, Law & Order (playing three different characters on three different seasons), Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (also playing two different characters on two different seasons), Human Giant and Third Watch.

Williams makes a brief appearance as the shooter at the beginning of the music video for Young Jeezy's "Bury Me a G".

He appeared in The Kill Point as recurring guest star Q, a police sniper alongside The Wire co-stars J.D. Williams, Michael Hyatt and Leo Fitzpatrick. He auditioned for the starring role of Mr. Cat but was forced to take a smaller role due to scheduling conflicts; the part of Mr. Cat went to J.D. Williams instead.[20] Williams played a Boston area detective named Devin Amronklin in the 2007 film Gone, Baby, Gone. The film is based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, who has written for The Wire, and was adapted and directed by Ben Affleck. Amronklin is a recurring character in Lehane's Kenzie-Genarro series of books. Williams says that he enjoyed working with Affleck and characterized him as a passionate and hands-on director.[16] The film also featured his co-star from The Wire, Amy Ryan.

He played Teddy, the former boyfriend of Nikki Tru (Kerry Washington) in the Chris Rock film I Think I Love My Wife. He played James, a policeman, in singer R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet". He also appeared in The Game's "Dreams" and "How We Do" music videos, Tony Yayo's "It's a Stick Up" music video and Cam'ron's film Killa Season, as well as Trick Daddy's video "Tuck Your Ice In", Sheek Louch's "Good Love", and Young Jeezy's "Bury me a G" alongside his The Wire co-star Hassan Johnson. In 2013, Williams appeared in ASAP Rocky's video for "Phoenix".[21] Williams played the role of The Thief in the 2009 film The Road, an adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name.[22] In 2010, Williams appeared in the film Life During Wartime. The character he played, Allen, was portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman in the film's predecessor, Happiness.

Williams also starred in the film A Day in the Life, which was directed, produced and stars rapper Sticky Fingaz. The entire film is a musical with every line being delivered in rap verse. Williams starred in HBO's Boardwalk Empire for its 5 seasons (2010-2014). He appeared as Albert "Chalky" White, the leader of 1920s Atlantic City's black community.

On July 23, 2011, Community creator Dan Harmon revealed that Williams would star in "at least three episodes" of the sitcom's third season.[23] He plays the role of Biology Professor Marshall Kane at Greendale Community College. In November 2011, it was announced that Quentin Tarantino has written a new character into the script of his new film Django Unchained.[24] Williams, who had previously confirmed that he was actually in talks with Tarantino to take on the titular role of Django,[25] was to portray a minor character in the film, but scheduling conflicts with Boardwalk Empire prevented him from doing so.

On May 16, 2012, Williams announced that he is an executive producer of the independent film Snow On Tha Bluff, Williams' first film under his company, Freedome Productions. On Power 105.1fm's The Breakfast Club, Williams revealed the June 19th release date for Snow on tha Bluff, describing the movie as "real graphic": "everything that is wrong with the 'hood is in this movie".[26] Williams also shared onThe Breakfast Club that he is starring in an African American western They Die By Dawn with his co-star Snoop from the HBO series The Wire. Williams also revealed that he is starring in the lead role as Ol'Dirty Bastard from the Wu-Tang Clan in the movie Dirty Whiteboy in 2014, which is based on the relationship ODB had with his manager during the last 2 years of his life. Williams mentioned the piece was special to Ol'Dirty Bastard (ODB) because he grew up listening to him and to Wu-Tang and he is also a Brooklyn native.[27]

In 2013, he starred in MGMT's music video for Cool Song No. 2.[28]

Williams has recently been featured modelling for GAP's 2014 fall collection.

On March 9, 2015, it was announced that Williams would appear in SundanceTV's Hap & Leonard.[29]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1995 Mugshot Rumor
1996 Bullet High Top
1999 Bringing Out the Dead Drug Dealer
2000 Broke even Kenny
2004 Doing Hard Time Curtis Craig
2005 Guile Ken Short film
2005 Lackawanna Blues Jimmy Television movie
2005 Trapped in the Closet Chapters 1-12 James
2005 The Orphan King N/A
2006 Belly 2: Millionaire Boyz Club Tone
2006 The Bondage Willie
2006 Mercenary for Justice Samuel Kay
2007 5up 2down Terance
2007 Trapped in the Closet Chapters 13-22 James
2007 Trapped in the Closet: The BIG Package James
2007 I Think I Love My Wife Teddy
2007 Gone Baby Gone Devin
2008 The Incredible Hulk Harlem Bystander
2008 KeAnthony: A Hutlaz Story Shawn Short film
2008 Miracle at St. Anna Tucker
2009 Tell-Tale Acherton
2009 Addicts Lil J
2009 The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll Sonnyboy
2009 A Day in the Life Killer Mike
2009 Life During Wartime Allen Nominated—Gotham Award for Best Ensemble Cast
2009 A Kiss of Chaos Demetrius
2009 You're Nobody 'til Somebody Kills You Ad
2009 The Road Thief
2009 Wonderful World Ibu
2010 Brooklyn's Finest Red
2011 The Cookout 2 Cable Guy Mike Television movie
2011 Bayou Black Willy Jones Short film
2012 LUV Detective Holloway
2012 Crispus Attucks: Today Was a Good Day N/A Short film
2012 W8 (Weight) Derrick Jones Short film
2012 The Wire: The Musical Omar Little Short film
2012 Nobody's Nobody's Emeka Short film
2012 Trapped in the Closet: The Next Installment James
2013 12 Years a Slave Robert Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
2013 Snitch Malik
2013 They Die by Dawn N/A Short film
2013 The Devil Goes Down The Devil Short film
2014 RoboCop Jack Lewis
2014 The Purge: Anarchy Carmelo Johns
2014 Kill the Messenger Ricky Ross
2014 Inherent Vice Tariq Khalil
2014 The Gambler Neville Baraka Nominated—Black Reel Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
2015 Bessie Jack Gee Television movie
Pending—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
2015 Anesthesia Jeffrey
2015 Captive Detective John Chestnut
2016 Ghostbusters Hawkins Filming

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1997 Law & Order Delmore Walton Episode: "Shadow"
2001 Law & Order Marcus Cole Episode: "A Losing Season"
2001 Deadline Darin Episode: "The Undesirables"
2001 The Sopranos Ray Ray Episode: "Army of One"
2002–2008 The Wire Omar Little 41 episodes
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
2002 Third Watch Cop #1 Episode: "Superheroes Part 2"
2003 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Double-D Gamble Episode: "Escape"
2005 Alias Roberts 3 episodes
2005 Boston Legal Randall Kirk Episode: "Gone"
2005 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Ronnie Episode: "Hollywood Brass"
2006–2007 Six Degrees Michael 3 episodes
2006 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Victor Bodine Episode: "Underbelly"
2007 The Kill Point Quincy 8 episodes
2008 Human Giant Chris Barksdale Episode: "Respect. Honor. Discipline."
2008 CSI: NY Reggie Dunham Episode: "The Box"
2009 Law & Order Charles Cole Episode: "Great Satan"
2009 The Philanthropist Dax Vahagn 8 episodes
2010 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Laurent Episode: "World's End"
2010–2014 Boardwalk Empire Chalky White 35 episodes
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
2011 Detroit 1-8-7 Clarence Warrenton Episode: "Legacy/Drag City"
2011 Aqua Teen Hunger Force N/A Episode: "Alien Part 2"
2011–2012 Community Professor Marshall Kane 3 episodes
2013 Walk This Way Rev. Daniels 7 episodes
2013 High School USA! Lucius Episode: "Adderall"
2015 The Spoils Before Dying Rock Banyon Upcoming series
2015 Hap Leonard Leonard Pine Upcoming series

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2013 Battlefield 4 SSgt. Kimble "Irish" Graves Voice

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Robert Bianco (2004-05-26). "10 Reasons we still love TV". USA Today. Retrieved 2006-07-21. 
  2. ^ Chris Barsanti (2004). "The Wire - The Complete First Season". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2006-07-20. 
  3. ^ a b Brent McCabe and Van Smith (2005). "Down to the wire: Top 10 reasons not to cancel the wire.". Baltimore city paper. Retrieved 2006-07-21. 
  4. ^ Michael K. Williams: My Brooklyn
  5. ^ Michael K. Williams Talks "Snitch," Life After "The Wire" & Acting Advice From 2 Pac
  6. ^ Michael Kenneth Williams’s High-Wire Act
  7. ^ Okayafrica TV: Michael K. Williams Traces His African Ancestry
  8. ^ Interview on Fresh Air, January 22, 2008. Williams began to work (in these videos) with some of the biggest names in the business such as Madonna and Crystal Waters.[1]
  9. ^ Justin Kaufmann (September 23, 2011). "Wikipedia Files: Michael K. Williams (Omar from 'The Wire')". WBEZ. Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  10. ^ Michael K. Williams discusses being discovered by Tupac
  11. ^ a b TIME Online Q&A Nov. 25, 2009. http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1942833,00.html
  12. ^ "ACLU Ambassadors - Michael K. Williams". aclu.olrg (American Civil Liberties Union). Retrieved 2015-01-05. 
  13. ^ Fenton, Justin (2012-12-14). "Donnie Andrews, inspiration for Omar character on "The Wire," dies". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2012-12-20. 
  14. ^ a b c d Murphy, Joel (2005). "One on one with... Michael K. Williams". Hobo Trashcan. Retrieved 2006-07-21. 
  15. ^ "2007 Image Award nominees and winners". Hollywood Reporter. 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-05. [dead link]
  16. ^ a b c d Michael Ricci. "The Wire's Michael K. Williams on Playing Gay". After Elton. Retrieved 2007-09-20. 
  17. ^ "Chicago Tribune: Barack Obama on his favorite TV show". Featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com. 2008-01-14. Retrieved 2012-08-07. 
  18. ^ Michael K. Williams Was Addicted To Cocaine When He Was Playing Omar On 'The Wire'
  19. ^ The Redemption of Michael K. Williams
  20. ^ Alan Sepinwall (2007). "'The Kill Point' proves formulas can pay off". New Jersey Star Ledger. Retrieved 2007-09-05. 
  21. ^ Minsker, Evan. "Watch A$AP Rocky's "Phoenix" Video Featuring Michael K. Williams From "The Wire"". Pitchfork.com. Pitchfork. Retrieved 2014-08-03. 
  22. ^ Charles McGrath (2008-05-27). "'At the End of the World, Honing the Father-Son Dynamic". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-26. 
  23. ^ Josef Adalian (2011-07-23). "Breaking: The Wire's Michael K. "Omar" Williams Is Headed to Community". Retrieved 2011-07-23. 
  24. ^ http://reservoirwatchdogs.com/2011/11/16/michael-k-williams-in-talks-for-django-unchained-again/
  25. ^ http://reservoirwatchdogs.com/2011/09/21/michael-k-williams-confirms-he-was-in-talks-to-play-lead-in-django-unchained/
  26. ^ "Michael K Williams Interview". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-08-07. 
  27. ^ "Michael K Williams Interview". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-08-16. 
  28. ^ "MGMT - Cool Song No. 2". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-12-28. 
  29. ^ http://www.sundance.tv/blog/2015/03/michael-k-williams-set-to-star-in-sundancetvs-hap-leonard

External links[edit]