Michael Kenneth Williams’ portrayal of Omar Little, a shotgun-toting, dealer-robbing, openly gay thug on HBO’s The Wire, gained 2007’s NAACP Image Award and an esteemed following — Barack Obama named the series his favorite on television and Little “the toughest, baddest guy on the show.” Before earning recognition for his stereotype-shattering role, Williams received the facial scar integral to Little’s image, a wound that helped Williams wind up an actor.
Michael Kenneth Williams is making history … by letting a personal attack re-track the course of his career for the better. On his 25th birthday, Williams took home more than birthday presents when a bar fight turned brutal — “Dudes had razors in their mouths and I got cut… I almost died that night,” the actor recalled in a 2005 interview with pop culture e-zine HoboTrashcan. In his early 20s, Williams had been working as a dancer and choreographer in New York City for the likes of Mya, Ginuwine and Missy Elliott, catching gigs on tours and music videos.
Williams’ new facial scar caught the attention of casting directors, who started giving the choreographer character roles in major musician’s videos, including Madonna, George Michael and Taylor Dane.
WATCH MICHAEL KENNETH WILLIAMS ON NBC’S ‘TALK STOOP’
His look also left a mark on another musician. “Tupac saw a Polaroid of me in a production office and asked, ‘Who’s this dude?’” said Williams. Shortly thereafter, the dancer-turned-actor was riding shotgun as Tupac’s younger brother in 1996 film Bullet, and Williams’ career has been moving forward ever since.
What’s next for Michael?
After five seasons on critically-acclaimed HBO series The Wire, which ended its tenure on television in 2008, Williams is back on HBO as Chalky White, de-facto mayor of the African-American community on lauded Martin Scorsese project Boardwalk Empire. The series was picked up for a second season only two days after its 80-minute, $20 million pilot premiered in September.
In his own words …
“I’m a character actor. I always look for challenges. I look for things that are going to make me stand out,” Williams told HoboTrashcan in reference to taking the role of Omar Little on The Wire. “I’m a black dude from the projects of Brooklyn with some talent. It’s like, ‘Get in line.’ I knew I needed to stand out from all of this motherf***in’ talent out here.”
A favorite quote …
“My favorite quote is one of the few jewels my pops gave me. He said, ‘If you on time, you late. If you early, you on time,’” Williams told theGrio.
A little-known fact …
The pilot episode of Boardwalk Empire was the most expensive ever made according to British newspaper The Telegraph. Estimations for the cost of the entire season run upwards of $65 million.
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