Brooklyn Black History Maker Michael K. Williams


Michael Kenneth Williams was born in East Flatbush on November 22, 1966.

Williams grew up in the Vanderveer Estates, raised by her Bahamian mother Paula, a seamstress and daycare director, after her father, Booker T. Williams, moved back South.

In an interview with men’s health, Williams said his father’s departure left him with a lot of trauma, saying it was not easy for a black woman to raise a black boy “in an extremely violent neighborhood. It was not easy to find it alone.

“But my mom is so stable, so grounded, such a foundation. She created such a foundation for me in the middle of the jungle.

Williams went to George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School – which counts Biggie, Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes among its alumni – and after graduation got a job at Pfizer.

While at the pharmaceutical company, Williams saw Janet Jackson’s clip for rhythm nation and was inspired to become a dancer. He quit his job and entered the entertainment world.

During a year in which he was intermittently homeless, Williams visited record labels and dance studios in search of work and found employment as a background dancer with singer Kym Sims. Thanks to this, he was able to appear in videos for musicians such as Madonna and George Michael. It was while filming one of Michael’s videos that Williams realized he could act, saying that that night he “just changed my resume. I added the word “actor” to “model/dancer” and things started to change. »

Due to the large facial scar, Williams got into a bar fight on the 25thand birthday, he says he received a lot of attention for challenging roles in movies, TV shows and music videos. It was this look that attracted Tupac, who chose Williams from a polaroid to star in Williams’ feature debut, Ball.

Williams dove headfirst into theater and appeared in several productions for La MaMA Experimental Theatre, the prestigious National Black Theater Company and Mel Williams-directed Theater for a New Generation.

But the role that propelled his fame to new heights is that of Omar Little in Threadthe crime drama set in Baltimore that ran for five seasons on HBO.

Williams, who was given the role after just one audition, made Omar one of TV’s most memorable and hard-to-dislike characters. Portraying an openly gay black man, who was also a killer of drug dealers – and doing it with poetic tenderness – was groundbreaking for television at the time (Thread launched in 2002).

Williams was nominated in 2009 for an NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series” and was praised by President Barack Obama for his performance. obama said Thread was his favorite TV show and Omar was his favorite character: “It’s not an endorsement. He’s not my favorite person, but he’s a fascinating character…he’s the toughest, baddest guy on the show.

After Thread Williams went on to star in a number of other productions. He played Chalky White on HBO’s critically acclaimed series Boardwalk Empire, and earned five Primetime Emmy Award nominations for his performances in the biopic. Besie Netflix drama series When they see usand the series The night of and Lovecraft Country. He also had a recurring role as a high school teacher in Community.

Williams also received a number of accolades for her big-screen acting, which included roles in Gone baby gone, The road, 12 years of slavery, inherent vice and motherless brooklyn.

He has also starred in a number of music videos including for Young Geezy, R. Kelly, The Game, Cam’Ron, ASAP Rocky and MGMT.

In 2016, Williams began hosting Black market, a series on Vice in which he visits various underground markets to find out how they work and the customers they attract. He also worked with the media company on a show that looked at the root of America’s mass incarceration crisis: the juvenile justice system.

But Williams’ work wasn’t just on screen.

The Brooklyn native was determined to give back to his community and he did so in many ways. He created Making Kids Win, which provides opportunities for disadvantaged youth; was the famous ambassador for the American Civil Liberties Union with the Campaign for Smart Justice; testified at a 2020 City Council hearing in support of NYPD reform; and volunteered with the Operation Who Counts youth group.

Following the death of George Floyd, Williams wrote a column that appeared in newspapers nationwide to promote the work of the youth anti-violence nonprofit, NYC Together. This group, he said, “engages youth and officers in reinventing solutions to community problems, reducing the need for traditional law enforcement interventions.”

Throughout his career, Williams has struggled with drug addiction, which he has openly spoken about. Tragically, in September 2021, Williams died prematurely of an overdose at age 54 in his Williamsburg apartment. In 2022, four men were charged with selling Williams heroin laced with fentanyl.

He is survived by one son, Elijah.

During his time on screen, Williams became one of the nation’s most prominent actors and was described as a “singular presence, on and off screen, who made every role his own.” He had the unique ability to bring complicated characters to life in the most touching way, and he established himself as a talented and versatile performer who captivated audiences with his storytelling.

Michael K. Williams, we are impressed with your on-screen talent and your contributions. You are a man of the people and a son of Brooklyn and we are proud of those roots! We would like to thank you for your contribution to our borough!

Sources: www.michaelkennethwilliams.comVulture, The Guardian, Wikipedia, IMBD, New York Post

February is Black History Month! Every day this month, BK Reader will profile a Black History Maker born or raised in Brooklyn. There are countless Brooklynites – past and present – who have contributed to the fabric of America as pioneers or leaders in the arts, entertainment, sports, science and government. This month, we present 28 of them! Click here to see all profiles.

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