The Wire
The Wire

Michael K. Williams, born November 22, 1966 in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York, USA, died September 6, 2021, was an American actor. He stars as Omar Little in the third, fourth, & fifth seasons. He initially appeared as a guest star in the first & second seasons. He has received critical acclaim for the role.[1][2][3] He has gone onto star in the HBO drama Boardwalk Empire as Chalky White. He has also appeared in the films Gone Baby Gone (2007), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Brooklyn's Finest (2009), and The Road (2009).


Childhood and early career

Williams was born in Brooklyn, New York. After getting in some trouble as a youth he enrolled in school and 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 "pounded the pavement," visiting record labels and dance studios looking for work. He eventually got a job as a background dancer on a music tour, which led to more work appearing as a dancer in videos and on tours, as well as some modeling work.[4]

Early acting career

On his 25th birthday, just days after appearing in an ad campaign, Williams got into a barroom brawl in which an adversary cut his face and neck with a razor. One cut came close to his jugular vein and nearly killed him.[4]

According to Williams, the scar helped to launch his acting career. Within months of the incident, photographers were stopping him on the street, asking him to pose.[5] He began getting more calls to do music videos, which led to some minor work playing a thug in TV shows. In 1996 he appeared in Tupac Shakur's crime drama Bullet and in 1999 he appeared in the music video for Madonna's song "Secret".[5]

In 1997 he made an appearance on Law & Order (he appeared again in 2001), and in 2001 on The Sopranos.[6]

The Wire

Williams is best known for his portrayal of Omar Little in The Wire, which began airing in 2002. Williams received the part after only a single audition, although the character was initially slated to appear in just seven episodes of the first season before dying.[7] Williams has stated that he pursued the role because he felt it would make him stand out from other African Americans from Brooklyn with acting talent because of its contradictory nature.[7] For his portrayal of Omar, Williams was named by USA Today as one of ten reasons they still love television. The character 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, not unlike the Robin Hood of Baltimore's west side projects, although his contradictory nature was questioned as a little too strange.[2] 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]

Williams has stated that he feels that the character is well liked because of his honesty, lack of materialism, individuality and his adherence to his strict code.[7] He feels that the role has been a breakthrough in terms of bringing attention to him and getting further roles.[8] Williams has had both positive and negative reactions to the character's homosexuality and feels that he is successful in challenging attitudes and provoking discussion with the role.[8] In 2007 he was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series for his role as Omar.[9]


Williams had a recurring role on J. J. Abrams' Alias. He also had a recurring role on Abrams' produced Six Degrees.[8] He has also made brief appearances on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Boston Legal, The Sopranos, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Third Watch.

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.[10]

Williams played detective 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 characterised him as a passionate and hands on director.[8] The film also featured his co-star from The Wire, Amy Ryan.

He played Teddy the former boyfriend of Nikki Tru (Kerri 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 "This Is How We Do" music video, Tony Yayo's "It's a Stick Up" music video and Cam'ron's movie Killa Season, as well as Trick Daddy's video "Tuck Your Ice In".

He starred in the HBO drama series Boardwalk Empire as prohibition era crime boss Chalky White.


Guest star

Season 1 credits
"The Target" "The Detail" "The Buys" "Old Cases" "The Pager"
"The Wire" "One Arrest" "Lessons" "Game Day" "The Cost"
"The Hunt" "Cleaning Up" "Sentencing"
Season 2 credits
"Ebb Tide" "Collateral Damage" "Hot Shots" "Hard Cases" "Undertow"
"All Prologue" "Backwash" "Duck and Cover" "Stray Rounds" "Storm Warnings"
"Bad Dreams" "Port in a Storm"


Season 3 credits
"Time after Time" * "All Due Respect" "Dead Soldiers" "Amsterdam" * "Straight and True"
"Homecoming" "Back Burners" "Moral Midgetry" "Slapstick" "Reformation"
"Middle Ground" "Mission Accomplished"
Season 4 credits
"Boys of Summer" * "Soft Eyes" * "Home Rooms" "Refugees" "Alliances" *
"Margin of Error" "Unto Others" "Corner Boys" * "Know Your Place" "Misgivings"
"A New Day" "That's Got His Own" "Final Grades"
Season 5 credits
"More with Less" * "Unconfirmed Reports" * "Not for Attribution" "Transitions" "React Quotes"
"The Dickensian Aspect" "Took" "Clarifications" "Late Editions" "-30-"

* - credit only


  1. 1.0 1.1 Robert Bianco (2004). 10 Reasons we still love TV. USA Today. Retrieved on 2006-07-21.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Chris Barsanti (2004). The Wire - The Complete First Season. Slant Magazine. Retrieved on 2006-07-20.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Brent McCabe and Van Smith (2005). Down to the wire: Top 10 reasons not to cancel the wire.. Baltimore city paper.. Retrieved on 2006-07-21.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Interview on Fresh Air, January 22, 2008.[1]
  5. 5.0 5.1 Tavis Smiley . Archives . Monday, September 20, 2004 | PBS
  6. Michael K. Williams on IMDB
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Joel Murphy (2005). One on one with... Michael K. Williams. Hobo Trashcan. Retrieved on 2006-07-21.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Michael Ricci. The Wire's Michael K. Williams on Playing Gay. After Elton. Retrieved on 2007-09-20.
  9. 2007 Image Award nominees and winners. Hollywood Reporter (2007). Archived from the original on 2007-03-05. Retrieved on 2007-11-05.
  10. Alan Sepinwall (2007). "'The Kill Point' proves formulas can pay off". New Jersey Star Ledger. Retrieved on 2007-09-05.

External links

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