Michael K. Williams
Michael K. Williams
Michael Kenneth Williams
November 22, 1966
|Died||September 6, 2021 (aged 54)|
Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
|Cause of death||Acute combined drug intoxication|
Michael Kenneth Williams (November 22, 1966 – September 6, 2021) was an American actor. He played Omar Little on the HBO drama series The Wire from 2002 to 2008 and Albert "Chalky" White on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire from 2010 to 2014.
He earned Primetime Emmy Award nominations for his performances in the HBO television biopic Bessie (2015), the Netflix drama series When They See Us (2019), and the HBO series The Night Of (2016) and Lovecraft Country (2020). He had a recurring role in the sitcom Community from 2011 to 2012. He also had supporting roles in a number of films including Gone Baby Gone (2006), The Road (2009), 12 Years a Slave (2013), Inherent Vice (2014), and Motherless Brooklyn (2019).
Early life and education
Williams was born in Brooklyn, New York City, the son of a Bahamian mother from Nassau and Booker T. Williams, an American, from Greeleyville, South Carolina, where his African-American family has deep roots. Williams was raised in the Vanderveer Projects in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, and attended George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School. According to a DNA analysis, he was descended partly from the Mende people of Sierra Leone.
Williams worked for Pfizer pharmaceuticals as a temp. However, 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 with singer Kym Sims, which led to more work appearing as a dancer in music videos and on tours with artists such as George Michael and Madonna, as well as some modeling work. He also choreographed Crystal Waters' 1994 single "100% Pure Love".
Williams had a large facial scar he received in a bar fight on Jamaica Avenue, New York City, on his 25th birthday, when he was slashed with a razor blade. The scar became his signature feature, and resulted in offers to perform as a thug in music videos, and modeling opportunities with noted photographers like David LaChapelle. One of his first acting roles was alongside Tupac Shakur as High Top, the brother and henchman to Shakur's drug kingpin Tank, in the 1996 film Bullet. Shakur reportedly decided on Williams for the role after spotting a polaroid photograph of him in a production studio.
Williams also served as the American Civil Liberties Union celebrity ambassador to the Campaign for Smart Justice. Williams' portrayals of openly gay characters was deemed to be revolutionary.
Williams gained recognition as an actor for his portrayal of Omar Little in The Wire, which began filming in 2002. The character was based on Donnie Andrews along with other crime figures in Baltimore. Williams received the part after a single audition, at the encouragement of writer Ed Burns. He was told that the character was slated to appear in just seven episodes and expected him to be killed by the end of the first season. 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 one 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. 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". In 2007, he was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series for his role as Omar.
Williams pursued the role because he was intrigued by Omar's contradictory nature. He felt Omar's popularity stemmed from his honesty, lack of materialism, individuality and his adherence to his strict code. He felt that the role has been a breakthrough in terms of bringing attention to him and getting further roles. Williams received both positive and negative reactions to Omar's homosexuality and felt that he was successful in challenging attitudes and provoking discussion with the role.
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."
During his portrayal of Omar Little, Williams went by his character's name and developed a habit of smoking cannabis and an addiction to cocaine in 2004. Williams lived part-time in Newark, New Jersey using drugs, but sought help from a ministry in neighboring Irvington, which he credited for helping him during the production.
Williams had a recurring role on J. J. Abrams' Alias. He also had a recurring role on the Abrams-produced Six Degrees. He 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 appears 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. 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.
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". Williams played the role of The Thief in the 2009 film The Road, an adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name. 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 by, produced by, and starred 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 five 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. He played the role of Biology Professor Marshall Kane at Greendale Community College.
In November 2011, it was announced that Williams would appear in Quentin Tarantino's feature film Django Unchained. Williams, who had previously confirmed that he was actually in talks with Tarantino to take on the titular role of Django, 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 was 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 19 release date for Snow on tha Bluff, describing the movie as "real graphic": "everything that is wrong with the 'hood is in this movie". Williams also shared on The Breakfast Club that he was 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 was starring in the lead role as rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard (ODB) 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 two years of his life. Williams mentioned the role was special to him because he grew up listening to Ol' Dirty Bastard and to Wu-Tang and he is also a Brooklyn native.
On March 9, 2015, it was announced that Williams would star in SundanceTV's Hap and Leonard. Also in 2015, Williams appeared in the music video for "The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles" by Marilyn Manson.
In 2016, Williams began working with Vice News, hosting a VICELAND program titled Black Market. In this series, he visits various clandestine markets to explore how they operate while investigating the circumstances that generate their clientele. In 2018, Williams again worked with the Vice team. In "Raised in the System," the extended premiere episode of the sixth season of HBO's Emmy-winning weekly news magazine series Vice, Williams embarked on a personal journey to expose the root of the American mass incarceration crisis: the juvenile justice system.
Williams was originally cast as Dryden Vos, a crime lord, in Solo: A Star Wars Story. However, he exited the role after being unable to return for re-shoots due to scheduling conflicts with The Red Sea Diving Resort. Paul Bettany was cast in his place, with the character being reworked from a motion-capture alien to a human. In 2020, he played Montrose Freeman on the HBO series Lovecraft Country.
Williams was found dead in his Williamsburg, Brooklyn apartment by his nephew on September 6, 2021. On September 24, 2021, the NYC Office of Chief Medical Examiner confirmed that Williams died of a combination of fentanyl, p-fluorofentanyl, heroin and cocaine, and ruled the death by overdose. His private funeral was held at St. Stephen's Episcopal Cathedral in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where his mother lives.
|1999||Bringing Out the Dead||Drug Dealer|
|2004||Doing Hard Time||Curtis Craig||Video|
|Trapped in the Closet Chapters 1–12||James||Video short|
|Mercenary for Justice||Samuel Kay||Video|
|2007||Trapped in the Closet Chapters 13–22||James||Video short|
|Trapped in the Closet: The BIG Package||James||Video short|
|I Think I Love My Wife||Teddy|
|Gone Baby Gone||Devin|
|2008||The Incredible Hulk||Harlem Bystander|
|KeAnthony: A Hutlaz Story||Shawn||Short|
|Belly 2: Millionaire Boyz Club||Tone||Video|
|Miracle at St. Anna||Tucker (Scared Soldier)|
|The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll||Sonnyboy|
|A Kiss of Chaos||Demetrius|
|A Day in the Life||Killer Mike|
|Life During Wartime||Allen|
|2011||Bayou Black||Willy Jones||Short|
|You're Nobody 'til Somebody Kills You||A.D.|
|Crispus Attucks: Today Was a Good Day||Himself||Short|
|W8 (Weight)||Derrick Jones / Dee||Short|
|The Wire: The Musical||Omar Little||Short|
|Trapped in the Closet: The Next Installment||James||Video short|
|12 Years a Slave||Robert|
|Plant Hunter||Plant Hunter||Short|
|They Die by Dawn||Nat Love|
|The Devil Goes Down||The Devil||Short|
|The Purge: Anarchy||Carmelo Johns|
|Time Out of Mind||Mike|
|Kill the Messenger||Ricky Ross|
|Inherent Vice||Tariq Khalil|
|The Gambler||Neville Baraka|
|Captive||Det. John Chestnut|
|Triple 9||Sweet Pea|
|When the Bough Breaks||Roland|
|Against the Wall||Man||Short|
|2017||Above the Noise||Short|
|2019||The Red Sea Diving Resort||Kabede Bimro|
|Motherless Brooklyn||Trumpet Man|
|About The People||The Senator||Short|
|Critical Thinking||Mr. Roundtree|
|Beastie Boys Story||Bob Dylan|||
|1997||Law & Order||Delmore Walton||Episode: "Shadow"|
|2001||Law & Order||Marcus Cole||Episode: "A Losing Season"|
|Deadline||Darin||Episode: "The Undesirables"|
|The Sopranos||Ray Ray||Episode: "Army of One"|
|2002||Third Watch||Cop #1||Episode: "Superheroes Part 2"|
|2002–08||The Wire||Omar Little||Recurring cast (season 1-2), main cast (season 3-5)|
|2003||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Double-D Gamble||Episode: "Escape"|
|2005||Lackawanna Blues||Jimmy||TV movie|
|Alias||Roberts||Recurring cast (season 4)|
|Boston Legal||Randall Kirk||Episode: "Gone"|
|CSI: Crime Scene Investigation||Ronnie||Episode: "Hollywood Brass"|
|2006||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Victor Bodine||Episode: "Underbelly"|
|2006–07||Six Degrees||Michael||Recurring cast|
|2007||The Kill Point||Quincy||Recurring cast|
|2008||Human Giant||Chris Barksdale||Episode: "Respect. Honor. Discipline."|
|CSI: NY||Reggie Dunham||Episode: "The Box"|
|2009||Law & Order||Charles Cole||Episode: "Great Satan"|
|The Philanthropist||Dax Vahagn||Main cast|
|2010||CSI: Crime Scene Investigation||Laurent||Episode: "World's End"|
|2010–14||Boardwalk Empire||Chalky White||Main cast|
|2011||Detroit 1-8-7||Clarence Warrenton||Episode: "Legacy/Drag City"|
|Aqua Teen Hunger Force||Unnamed Citizen (voice)||Episode: "Allen Part Two"|
|The Cookout 2||Cable Guy Mike||TV movie|
|2011–12||Community||Dr. Marshall Kane||Recurring cast (season 3)|
|2013||Walk This Way||Rev. Daniels||Main cast|
|High School USA!||Lucius (voice)||Episode: "Adderall"|
|2014||Lucas Bros. Moving Co.||Satan / Nigerian Dude (voice)||Episode: "A/C Tundra"|
|2015||Bessie||Jack Gee||TV movie|
|The Spoils Before Dying||Rock Banyon||Main cast|
|2016||The Night Of||Freddy Knight||Main cast|
|Black Market with Michael K. Williams||Himself||8 episodes|
|2016–18||Hap and Leonard||Leonard Pine||Main cast|
|2017||When We Rise||Ken Jones||Main cast|
|2017–21||F Is for Family||Smokey Greenwood (voice)||Recurring cast (season 2-5)|
|2018||The Guest Book||Gabe||Episode: "Someplace Other Than Here"|
|Vice||Himself||Episode: "Raised in the System"|
|2019||Last Week Tonight with John Oliver||Richard Sackler||Episode: "Opioids II"|
|When They See Us||Bobby McCray||Main cast|
|2020||Lovecraft Country||Montrose Freeman||Main cast|
|2013||Battlefield 4||Sgt. Kimble "Irish" Graves||Voice and motion capture|
|2020||NBA 2K21||Archie Baldwin|
|2021||Battlefield 2042||Cpt. Kimble "Irish" Graves||Posthumous; Voice and motion capture|
Awards and nominations
- Robert Bianco (May 26, 2004). "10 Reasons we still love TV". USA Today. Retrieved July 21, 2006.
- Chris Barsanti (2004). "The Wire—The Complete First Season". Slant Magazine. Retrieved July 20, 2006.
- Brent McCabe and Van Smith (2005). "Down to the wire: Top 10 reasons not to cancel The Wire". Baltimore City Paper. Archived from the original on April 16, 2005. Retrieved July 21, 2006.
- Williams, Michael K. Finding Your Roots, January 15, 2019.
- Tucker, Reed (October 20, 2013). "Michael K. Williams: My Brooklyn". New York Post. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
- "Michael K. Williams Talks "Snitch," Life After "The Wire" & Acting Advice From 2 Pac". Vibe.com. February 22, 2013. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
- "Michael Kenneth Williams's High-Wire Act". NYMag.com. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
- Stebner, Beth. "National Black Theatre, a Harlem mainstay, works tirelessly to keep legacy alive". nydailynews.com.
- Gross, Terry (August 28, 2019). "No Longer Omar: Actor Michael K. Williams On Lucky Breaks And Letting Go". National Public Radio. Retrieved August 14, 2021.
Yeah, so I went and got a job at Pfizer pharmaceuticals. Like, I was a temp job, and I worked there for a year.
- "Michael K. Williams: He's Only Playing Tough". NPR.org. Retrieved September 13, 2018.
Williams began to work (in these videos) with some of the biggest names in the business such as Madonna and Crystal Waters
- Justin Kaufmann (September 23, 2011). "Wikipedia Files: Michael K. Williams (Omar from 'The Wire')". WBEZ. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
- Altman, Alex (November 25, 2009). "Actor Michael Kenneth Williams". Time. Archived from the original on November 28, 2009. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
- Smart, Jack (July 20, 2016). "Michael K. Williams Returns to TV".
- "Michael K. Williams discusses being discovered by Tupac". Page 31. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
- Jacobs, Julia; Correal, Annie; Haag, Matthew; Egner, Jeremy (September 6, 2021). "Michael K. Williams, Omar From 'The Wire,' Is Dead at 54". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 7, 2021.
- "ACLU Ambassadors - Michael K. Williams". aclu.olrg (American Civil Liberties Union). Retrieved January 5, 2015.
- Ernest Owens (September 7, 2021). "Michael K. William's legacy of playing queer characters was powerfully underrated". Yahoo.com. Retrieved September 25, 2021.
- Fenton, Justin (December 14, 2012). "Donnie Andrews, inspiration for Omar character on "The Wire," dies". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
- Murphy, Joel (2005). "One on one with... Michael K. Williams". Hobo Trashcan. Retrieved July 21, 2006.
- Simon, David (September 12, 2021). "Opinion | The Question Michael K. Williams Asked Me Before Every Season of 'The Wire'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 13, 2021.
- "2007 Image Award nominees and winners". Hollywood Reporter. 2007. Archived from the original on March 15, 2007. Retrieved November 5, 2007.
- Michael Ricci. "The Wire's Michael K. Williams on Playing Gay". After Elton. Archived from the original on July 18, 2012. Retrieved September 20, 2007.
- "Chicago Tribune: Barack Obama on his favorite TV show". Featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com. January 14, 2008. Retrieved August 7, 2012.
- "'The Wire' Alum Admits Past Cocaine Addiction". The Huffington Post. September 4, 2012. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
- Press, The Associated; NJ.com, Matthew Stanmyre | NJ Advance Media for (September 6, 2021). "Actor Michael K. Williams, who led double life in N.J. during height of his fame, found dead". nj.
- NJ.com, Kevin Manahan | NJ Advance Media for (August 22, 2012). "The Redemption of Michael K. Williams". nj.
- Remnick, Noah (June 30, 2017). "Michael K. Williams Is More Than Omar From 'The Wire'" – via NYTimes.com.
- "Omar Comes to MTV: Aziz Ansari Reports on the â€˜Wireâ€™â€"â€˜Human Giantâ€™ Crossover". Vulture.com. January 16, 2008. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
- Berman, Marc. "'The Wire' Star Michael K. Williams Dies At 54". Forbes. Retrieved September 14, 2021.
- Alan Sepinwall (2007). "'The Kill Point' proves formulas can pay off". New Jersey Star Ledger. Retrieved September 5, 2007.
- Minsker, Evan (November 13, 2013). "Watch A$AP Rocky's "Phoenix" Video Featuring Michael K. Williams From "The Wire"". Pitchfork.com. Pitchfork. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
- Charles McGrath (May 27, 2008). "'At the End of the World, Honing the Father-Son Dynamic". The New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2008.
- Writer, Guest (October 7, 2014). "Exclusive: Michael K. Williams Talks 'Kill The Messenger'". blackfilm.com. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
- Gross, Terry (August 28, 2019). "No Longer Omar: Actor Michael K. Williams On Lucky Breaks And Letting Go". NPR. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
- Josef Adalian (July 23, 2011). "Breaking: The Wire's Michael K. "Omar" Williams Is Headed to Community". Retrieved July 23, 2011.
- Hua Hsu (September 1, 2012). "Magic Mike: Michael K. Williamsâ€™s Disappearing Act - Slideshow". Vulture. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
- Fleming, Mike Jr. (November 16, 2011). "Michael Kenneth Williams In Talks For 'Django Unchained' and 'Snitch'". Deadline.com. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
- Eisenberg, Eric (November 16, 2011). "Michael K. Williams Can't Do Django Unchained, Has A Role In Snitch With The Rock". CinemaBlend.com. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
- "Michael K Williams Interview". YouTube. Retrieved August 7, 2012.
- "MGMT's "Cool Song No. 2" Is The Music Video of the Year". Vice.com. September 23, 2013. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
- "Michael K. Williams + Luke Grimes for GAP 'Dress Normal' Fall 2014 Campaign". The Fashionisto. August 19, 2014. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
- "Michael K. Williams Set to Star In SundanceTV's 'HAP & LEONARD'". www.sundance.tv. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
- Brittany Spanos (May 11, 2015). "Watch Marilyn Manson Become 'Mephistopheles of Los Angeles'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
- Zurawik, David. "Viceland trades on Michael K. Williams' Omar persona in sensationalistic 'Black Market'". baltimoresun.com.
- "Raised in the System". Retrieved September 13, 2020.
- "Michael Kenneth Williams joins young Han Solo film". StarWars.com. March 6, 2017. Retrieved March 6, 2017.
- Blyth, Antonia (August 22, 2017). "Michael K. Williams' Rome Cut from 'Star Wars' Han Solo Film Amid Reshoots". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
- Hall, Jacob (September 1, 2017). "The Han Solo Spin-Off Adds Paul Bettany to Replace Michael K. Williams". /Film. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
- "Michael K. Williams Channeled His Own 'Trauma' to Play Montrose in Lovecraft Country: 'It Was Painful'". PEOPLE. October 18, 2020. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
- White, Abbey (September 6, 2021). "Michael K. Williams, 'The Wire' actor, has died at 54". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on September 6, 2021. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
- Fleming, Mike Jr. (September 6, 2021). "Michael K. Williams, Star Of 'The Wire' And 'Lovecraft Country,' Dies At Age 54". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on September 6, 2021. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
- Morales, Mark (September 6, 2021). "Michael K. Williams, 'Wire' actor, found dead". CNN. Archived from the original on September 6, 2021. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
- Michael K. Williams died of an accidental overdose, medical examiner determines Artemis Moshtaghian, CNN, September 24, 2021
- Cordero, Rosy; Hipes, Patrick (September 24, 2021). "Michael K. Williams' Died From Accidental Overdose, New York Medical Examiner Says". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
- "'The Wire' actor's private funeral service will be held in Harrisburg, his adopted city". pennlive. September 14, 2021. Retrieved September 14, 2021.
- "The Ending of 'Beastie Boys Story' Explained". FilmSchoolRejects.com. April 24, 2020. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
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