Michael K. Williams

Last updated
Michael K. Williams
Omar Michael Williams 2012 Shankbone.JPG
Williams at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2012
Born
Michael Kenneth Williams

(1966-11-22) November 22, 1966 (age 53)
OccupationActor
Years active1995–present
Children3
Website michaelkennethwilliams.com

Michael Kenneth Williams (born November 22, 1966) is an American actor. He played Omar Little on the HBO drama series The Wire [1] [2] [3] and Albert "Chalky" White on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire . He was also acclaimed for his role as Jack Gee, husband of Bessie Smith, in the HBO telefilm biopic Bessie . He has acted in supporting roles in a number of films and television series, including The Road , Inherent Vice , The Night Of , Gone Baby Gone , 12 Years a Slave , When We Rise and When They See Us .

Contents

Williams received three Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie nominations for his roles in Bessie (2015), The Night Of (2016) and When They See Us (2019).

Early life and education

Williams was born in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, 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. [4] Williams was raised in the Vanderveer Projects in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, [5] [6] and attended George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School. [7] According to a DNA analysis, he is descended partly from the Mende people of Sierra Leone. [8]

After getting in some trouble as a youth, he enrolled at the National Black Theatre in New York City.[ citation needed ]

Career

Williams worked for Pfizer pharmaceuticals as a temp.[ citation needed ] 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 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". [9] [10]

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 . [11]

Williams has a large facial scar he received in a bar fight on Jamaica Avenue, New York City, on his 25th birthday, in which 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. [12] and modeling opportunities with noted photographers like David LaChapelle.

Williams also serves as the American Civil Liberties Union celebrity ambassador to the Campaign for Smart Justice. [13]

The Wire

Williams at Harvard University for a panel discussion on The Wire, November 8, 2010 Michael K Williams Harvard 2010.jpg
Williams at Harvard University for a panel discussion on The Wire, November 8, 2010

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, as well as other crime figures in Baltimore. [14] Williams received the part after only a single audition. [15] 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. [15] 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. [16]

Williams pursued the role because he was intrigued by Omar's contradictory nature. [15] He felt Omar's popularity stemmed from his honesty, lack of materialism, individuality and his adherence to his strict code. [15] He feels that the role has been a breakthrough in terms of bringing attention to him and getting further roles. [17] 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. [17]

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." [18]

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. [19] [20]

Other work

Williams had a recurring role on J. J. Abrams' Alias . He also had a recurring role on the Abrams-produced Six Degrees . [17] 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 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. [21] 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. [17] 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". [22] Williams played the role of The Thief in the 2009 film The Road , an adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name. [23] 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 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. [24] 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 . [25] Williams, who had previously confirmed that he was actually in talks with Tarantino to take on the titular role of Django, [26] 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". [27] 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. [27]

In 2013, he starred in MGMT's music video for "Cool Song No. 2" [28] and was featured modeling for The Gap's 2014 fall collection.

On March 9, 2015, it was announced that Williams would star in SundanceTV's Hap and Leonard , [29] based on a series of novels by Joe R. Lansdale. The first season got positive reviews and a six-episode season 2 was aired in 2017.

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," [30] the extended premiere episode of the sixth season of HBO’s Emmy-winning weekly news magazine series, 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 . [31] However, he was removed from the final film after being unable to return to set during the film's re-shoots. [32] Paul Bettany was cast in his place, with the character being reworked from a motion-capture alien to a human. [33]

As of 2020, he is playing Montrose Freeman in Lovecraft Country.

Filmography

Film

YearTitleRoleNotes
1995MugshotRumor
1996 Bullet High Top
1999 Bringing Out the Dead Drug Dealer
2000Broke EvenKenny
2004 Doing Hard Time Curtis Craig
2005GuileKenShort film
Trapped in the Closet Chapters 1–12 James
The Orphan KingN/A
2006 Belly 2: Millionaire Boyz Club Tone
Bondage Willie
Mercenary for Justice Samuel Kay
20075up 2downTerance
Trapped in the Closet Chapters 13–22 James
Trapped in the Closet: The BIG Package James
I Think I Love My Wife Teddy
Gone Baby Gone Devin
2008 The Incredible Hulk Harlem Bystander
KeAnthony: A Hutlaz StoryShawnShort film
Miracle at St. Anna Tucker
2009 Tell-Tale Acherton
Addicts Lil J
The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll Sonnyboy
A Day in the Life Killer Mike
Life During Wartime AllenNominated—Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Ensemble Cast
A Kiss of ChaosDemetrius
You're Nobody 'til Somebody Kills You Ad
The Road Thief
Wonderful World Ibu
2010 Brooklyn's Finest Red
2011Bayou BlackWilly JonesShort film
2012 LUV Det. Holloway
Crispus Attucks: Today Was a Good DayN/AShort film
W8 (Weight)Derrick JonesShort film
The Wire: The MusicalOmar LittleShort film
Nobody's Nobody'sEmekaShort film
Trapped in the Closet: The Next Installment James
2013 12 Years a Slave RobertNominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Snitch Malik
They Die by Dawn Nat Love Short film
The Devil Goes DownThe DevilShort film
2014 RoboCop Jack Lewis
The Purge: Anarchy Carmelo Johns
Kill the Messenger Ricky Ross
Inherent Vice Tariq Khalil
The Gambler Neville BarakaNominated—Black Reel Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
2015 Anesthesia Jeffrey
Captive Det. John Chestnut
2016 The Land Pops
Triple 9 Sweet Pea
Ghostbusters Hawkins
When the Bough Breaks Roland
Assassin's Creed Moussa
2018 The Public Jackson
Superfly Scatter
2019 The Red Sea Diving Resort Kebede Bimro
Motherless Brooklyn Trumpet Man
2020 Arkansas Almond
Critical Thinking Mr. RoundtreePost-production
TBA Body Brokers WoodPost-production
Surrounded Filming

Television

YearTitleRoleNotes
1997 Law & Order Delmore WaltonEpisode: "Shadow"
2001 Law & Order Marcus ColeEpisode: "A Losing Season"
Deadline DarinEpisode: "The Undesirables"
The Sopranos Ray RayEpisode: "Army of One"
2002–08 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 #1Episode: "Superheroes Part 2"
2003 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Double-D GambleEpisode: "Escape"
2005 Alias Roberts3 episodes
Boston Legal Randall KirkEpisode: "Gone"
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation RonnieEpisode: "Hollywood Brass"
Lackawanna Blues JimmyTelevision movie
2006–07 Six Degrees Michael3 episodes
2006 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Victor BodineEpisode: "Underbelly"
2007 The Kill Point Quincy8 episodes
2008 Human Giant Chris BarksdaleEpisode: "Respect. Honor. Discipline."
CSI: NY Reggie DunhamEpisode: "The Box"
2009 Law & Order Charles ColeEpisode: "Great Satan"
The Philanthropist Dax Vahagn8 episodes
2010 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation LaurentEpisode: "World's End"
2010–14 Boardwalk Empire Chalky White35 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 WarrentonEpisode: "Legacy/Drag City"
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Unnamed citizenVoice
Episode: "Allen Part Two"
The Cookout 2Cable Guy MikeTelevision movie
2011–12 Community Prof. Marshall Kane 3 episodes
2013 Walk This Way Rev. Daniels7 episodes
High School USA! LuciusVoice
Episode: "Adderall"
2015 Bessie Jack GeeTelevision movie
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
The Spoils Before Dying Rock Banyon6 episodes
2016–18 Hap and Leonard Leonard Pine 18 episodes
2016 The Night Of Freddy Knight6 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
2016–present Black Market with Michael K. Williams Himself8 episodes
2017 When We Rise Ken Jones 7 episodes
F Is for Family Smokey GreenwoodVoice
5 episodes
2018 The Guest Book GuideEpisode: "Someplace Other Than Here"
Vice HimselfSeason 6, Episode 1: "Raised in the System"
2019 Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Richard Sackler Episode: "Opioids II"
When They See Us Bobby McCray4 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
2020–present Lovecraft Country Montrose Freeman

Video games

YearTitleRoleNotes
2013 Battlefield 4 SSgt. Kimble "Irish" GravesVoice and motion capture
2020 NBA 2K21 Archie Baldwin

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