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Death of Michael K. Williams, sublime Omar of “The Wire” and militant actor

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He will forever remain Omar Little, cult gangster with a scarred face. Michael Kenneth Williams, comedian with painful youth, become a dancer, model and supporting role of the American small screen, died suddenly Monday, September 6. He was 54 years old.

The scar crossed his face, cutting his forehead in half to end up on his right cheekbone. A memory of a fight that had gone wrong, the trace of a violent past. Michael Kenneth Williams knew how to play gangsters, The Wire (2002-2008) to The Night Of (2016) through Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014). He was found dead Monday, September 6 in his New York apartment, possibly from an overdose, police said. He was 54 years old.

Raised in an underprivileged Brooklyn neighborhood, a drug addict early in his adulthood, he could have become a criminal himself. He got away with dancing. At 23, fascinated by Janet Jackson’s album Rhythm Nation 1814, he leaves his studies, goes on auditions for New York labels, sleeps in the street every other night, and manages to get a place in the troops who accompany Madonna and George Michael on tour. His marked face and his carnivorous smile offer him small roles of mobsters in clips, then catch the eye of photographers, including David LaChappelle, who immortalized him in the early 1990s. Rapper Tupac Shakur came across one of these portraits , and made him hire in his film Bullet, in 1996. His acting career was launched.

In The Wire, the series that relaunched his career as he was about to change lanes.

HBO – Blown Deadline

Michael K. Williams will forever remain Omar, an atypical character of the political thriller The Wire of David Simon, drug dealer with the inflexible “code”, feared by all in the cities of Baltimore, and – small revolution – gay. “I arrived on the set completely ignorant, unable to consider a work in all its complexity”, he told us during a meeting at the CanneSéries festival in 2018. He will emerge from it a cult actor, celebrated by Barack Obama, his career revived when he was preparing to change lanes on the eve of the shooting.

“I want people to be able to understand all my characters, even the ‘bad guys’.”

Preview in a host of series the day after The Wire, ofA.k.a of Experts Passing by New York, judicial police, he put down his suitcases again in 2010 to Boardwalk Empire, series on prohibition produced and directed by Martin Scorsese. He plays Chalky White, a powerful gangster from Atlantic City. In 2016, he played the co-inmate of the main character of The Night Of, miniseries in the bowels of the American legal system, before playing last year one of the heroes of Lovecraft Country, historical-fantasy adventure in racist America of the 1950s – a role that earned him a nomination for the upcoming Emmy Awards, which will take place on September 19.

I tirelessly seek the compassion of viewers. I want people to be able to understand all my characters, even the “bad guys” “, he explained to us in his deep voice, sharp silhouette, collar of white beard and attentive gaze. The fictional gangster had become a big brother in reality. He continued to frequent the city of his childhood, producing documentaries, of which he was the narrator, to highlight the injustices suffered by those who were born, like him, in these forgotten areas of America (1). There emanated from him a sweetness, an unsuspected fragility, which turned into passion when he spoke of his commitments. “I am an actor before being an activist, he insisted however during our meeting. I don’t come on set to defend ideas, but to reflect on the human condition. I’m not wondering what message the series conveys, but who is this guy I’m being asked to play: where does he come from? What are its faults? What attracts me are the flaws. I like broken characters. The sudden death of Michael K. Williams puts him, more than ever, in this category.

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