If you never watched ‘The Wire’ you have no clue how a lot of people are feeling right now having learned of the passing of Michael K. Williams. Even die hard Wire fans may have missed the news if someone told them Michael K. Williams died. But, if someone said Omar died, now that’s a whole different ballgame.
Williams made his mark on The Wire playing the character Omar, the stick-up boy. He was that guy who stole drugs from the drug dealers. He was a bad ass. He was gay. He was cool. He was the one no one messed with. He was a fan favorite. He was the one character everyone remembers from The Wire.
The Wire is established as one of the greatest shows in the history of US television – some would say the greatest. But it was one of those shows that only black folks liked, at first. Although it featured a diverse cast of characters, the setting was all about the gritty side of Baltimore. By gritty, I mean the ‘hood, the schools, the docks, the politics, and the press. It was the one show offering an authentic anatomy lesson in a big city’s dysfunction that many live but most don’t see.
I was one of those late comers to The Wire. As much as I told myself I didn’t want to see another cop show dealing with drugs and black people, when I was around people talking about the show, they weren’t talking about a cop show dealing with drugs and black people. I finally subscribed to HBO and started watching. I was hooked.
My favorite Michael K. Williams role wasn’t as Omar, but as Chalky White in ‘Boardwalk Empire.’ I call season 4 ‘the black season’ which is where Chalky White goes from leader of the blacks in Atlantic City to a broken man in the end. My other favorite role of his was in the unscripted show ‘Black Market’ on Vice channel. I learned he was filming season 2 at the time of his death.
I phoned Chester’s Chris Mann who worked with Williams during his stint as an actor on The Wire. Mann said what many of us who wasn’t as close to Williams is saying, ’It’s a tragic loss of a very talented actor who is gone way too soon.’