In Memory of Michael K. Williams

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So when I finally got around to watching The Wire…I pretty much binged the whole thing all the way through. About an episode a night. There were a lot of performances that stood out for me. That show is an embarrassment of riches. But one of my favorites–and one of everybody else’s favorites, it seems–was Michael Kenneth Williams as Omar.

This video, posted last year by HBO, is basically Omar’s Greatest Hits. Obviously, if have yet to watch The Wire: first, you should do that sooner rather than later. And second, spoilers for almost the entire series in this thing.

It’s a pretty thorough round-up of what made Omar so memorable: a villain with a code who preyed on other villains. A Dexter of street criminals, I guess you could say. He called it exactly like he saw it and understood the game and his place in it. One of the best characters in the history of the medium.

And it was impossible not to appreciate the actor behind the character. I remember fearing, at the time, that MKW wouldn’t get cast in other big roles–not because of a lack of talent or ability, but because everyone casting other projects would simply see him as “Omar” and pass. Thankfully, my fears were ultimately unfounded.

That’s just a memorable scene chosen from many memorable Boardwalk Empire scenes with MKW. But that little monologue from Chalky White is something else.

So he wound up with a sizable filmography. But one thing that’s on it that most people I talk to don’t know about is a show he did for Vice called Black Market. Basically, he went around looking at…well, black markets–the nature of them and why they spring up. And MKW could go pretty much anywhere and talk to anyone–even and especially criminals–because he was Omar Little. And that apparently carries huge weight. It had eight episodes that featured his explorations and a side/spinoff called Black Market: Dispatches which he hosted and let others do the exploring/investigating. All of it is highly recommended.

Here is a brief snippet where he’s talking to the man he says saved his life.

As you no doubt know by now, he was found dead in his home in Brooklyn this past Monday. Goddamn, I’m gonna miss him. Rest well, MKW. Thanks for everything.