Many were heartbroken when award-winning actor Michael K Williams was found dead in his luxury Brooklyn apartment on Monday, Sept. 6. Known for bringing depth and humanity to the characters he portrayed, the 54-year-old was best known for his iconic portrayal of Omar Little, an openly gay gangster in HBO’s “The Wire.” Most recently, Williams brought his immense talent to the role of Montrose Freeman in HBO’s acclaimed “Lovecraft Country.” He is up for an Emmy award for the role.
An outpouring of tributes and condolences filled social media timelines in honor of Williams, who was open about his struggles with depression, self-worth and drug addiction. He was just as poignant with his words in real life as he was onscreen. Here are 20 top quotes from “The Wire” actor Michael K. Williams.
“I am a dark-skinned, nappy-headed, scar-faced dude from the streets of Brooklyn. I can’t hide from being who I am. It’s all over my face.” – Michael K. Williams
“It would be my desire to help heal my community to stop all the bloodshed. When I say bloodshed, I don’t just mean, ‘Oh, the white cop killed the Black kid.’ I also mean for the 10 Black lives that are taken by 10 Black hands. How can my country better equip me and my brothers and sisters to stop our kids from hurting and bleeding and dying on the streets?” – Michael K. Williams
“I’ve come to realize that the race thing is a smokescreen. The real war is a war on class. It’s about how much green you have in your pocket. In this country, you can unfortunately literally get away with murder if you have enough political background behind you. You are innocent until proven poor.” – Michael K. Williams in a TIME interview.
“Omar became an alter ego. A gay man who doesn’t like fancy clothes or fancy cars, doesn’t do drugs, doesn’t even curse and robs the most gangster drug dealers in the community. He’s an outcast, and I identified with that immensely. Instead of using it as a tool to maybe heal myself, I hid behind that. Nobody was calling Michael in the streets. Everything was Omar, Omar, Omar. I mistook that admiration. It felt good. But it wasn’t for me. It was for a fictional character. When that show ended, along with that character, I was clueless about how to deal with that. I crumbled.” – Michael K. Williams
“My dream role is to portray someone like James Baldwin. I’ve always been a fan of his writing, and I feel like he’s one of our unsung heroes. He’s been pretty much forgotten, and I think he needs to be recognized. He had to go all the way to Europe to find recognition and acceptance, and I’d just like to bring him to the forefront.” – Michael K. Williams
“Revenge is not a positive state of mind or energy to indulge yourself in.” – Michael K. Williams
“I grew in a community where I saw the process of how one becomes a drug dealer or a gang banger or a stick-up kid. There’s a series of events that happen. People don’t just wake up and decide they wanna be that.” – Michael K. Williams
“Music’s been part of my entire life. It’s in my DNA … I came out the womb dancing.” – Michael K. Williams
“Writers will see your work and want to try you in different things but I think you have to stay true to your vehicle. We all have a vehicle. Whether it’s a thug, or a schoolchild or the babyface or the sex siren or the video vin, whatever it is, ride that until the wheels fall off and, eventually, if you build your foundation then you can branch off.” – Michael K. Williams
“When you love someone unconditionally, you go to war for them, and they do that for each other. They know they can call each other when they need each other. In this day and age, everyone needs a friend like in ‘Hap and Leonard’.” – Michael K. Williams
“I am the epitome of the underdog. By societies standards, I should have been dead a long time ago, and I was nobody’s gangster, I wasn’t a thug, I wasn’t selling drugs on the corner – I was scared of that.” – Michael K. Williams
“I use my job to engage empathy and compassion for people society might stereotype or ostracize.” – Michael K. Williams
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“The most successful people reach the top not because they are free of limitations, but because they act in spite of their limitations.” – Michael K. Williams
“At the core of every person or belief, there’s a pain and a thorn. There’s always something, whether it’s a physical thing, a health thing, or an ‘I wish I had someone or something in my life’ thing. We all know some level of pain, so I like to see the ugliness of characters. It’s a side that we show, only when we strip down in the bathroom mirror.” – Michael K. Williams
“I know nothing of what it is to be a gangster.” – Michael K. Williams
“I spent a lot of my younger years not feeling beautiful. When I look back at my pictures now as a kid, I’m like, ‘Damn, you were actually beautiful.’ I couldn’t see it back then. That’s a large thing that makes me go back to working with the youth in my community. I let them know that they’re beautiful.” – Michael K. Williams
“I’m totally comfortable today with the success that Omar and ‘The Wire’ have brought me—living with that character, being recognized and remembered for that character. I have to say, in the beginning, it was difficult for me. I’d never been exposed to celebrity or that level of acknowledgment for anything I had done as an entertainer before. So there was an adjustment period.” – Michael K. Williams
“No one who was in my circle, who knew me as Mike, was allowing me to get high. I had to slip away to do drugs. I had to hide it. I’d be gone for days at a time. I was lonely in that part of my life. I was broke, broken and beat up. Exhausted. Empty. I finally said, ‘I can’t do this no more.’ I didn’t want to end up dead.” – Michael K. Williams
“I don’t believe in typecasting. Just because all my characters may come from the other side of the tracks doesn’t mean they are all the same. You don’t stereotype people and generalize people, these guys are all different. Omar is different from Chalky, Chalky is different from Neville. Neville is different from Carmelo in ‘The Purge’. These are all different human beings in different walks of life. They may all be on the wrong side of the tracks in society’s eyes, but they are all different the way they are and I play them that way. … I haven’t had a problem with being typecast, but if I was only getting one type of role, I wouldn’t mind. What I’m worried about is not working.” – Michael K. Williams
“The streets would have chewed me up and spit me out and I knew that, but I found my own ways and different knacks for getting in trouble and being reckless with my life. And I’ve overcome a lot of personal demons and to be alive is really my greatest achievement.” – Michael K. Williams
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