“A man gotta have a code.” While the quote is from Omar Little, the character from HBO’s The Wire that many associate most closely with Michael K. Williams, it also says a lot about the actor who portrayed him and the influence on those around him.
After the shocking news of Williams’ death hit the news on Monday afternoon, many of his colleagues and and former co-workers have not only praised the depth, complexity and humanity that he brought to his characters on screen but have put special emphasis on the man he was off screen.
Williams emphasized that he brought his personal experiences, including his own struggles, to his roles to try to give the characters more nuance. “I use my job to engage empathy and compassion for people society might stereotype or ostracize,” he said in an interview with the Guardian in 2015.
“No one wakes up and says, ‘I’m going to become a drug dealer’ or ‘I’m going to become a stickup kid.’ No. There is a series of events that makes them feel this is the only way out. As a black man growing up in the ’hood, I bear witness to some of those events.”
Williams managed to compile an impressive acting résumé that included five Emmy nominations and a SAG Award for best ensemble with the cast of “Boardwalk Empire.”
Michael utilized this art form for something so much greater than his own benefit. [Omar Little (The Wire) and Chalky White (Boardwalk Empire)] are two very iconic characters. We really do believe that there are very few actors — if any — who could have brought the level of humanity that he did to those characters.The Wire co-star Sonja Sohn via CNN
Adored by his fans and his peers alike, Michael Kenneth Williams passed away way too soon on September 6th at age 54. May he rest in peace!