‘The Wire’s Most Memorable Character Takes On Racial Politics In The Film Industry

Written by Noah Remnick

“The Wire,” HBO’s five-season epic of Baltimore life (it first aired in 2002), is a perennial contender for the greatest TV series ever, and Michael K. Williams, in his role as the stickup man Omar Little, its most memorable actor.

Mr. Williams, as Omar, will forever be remembered for his scowl, his scar, his mordant wit and the sawed-off shotgun he held at the ready, but he has always wanted more.

Even today, when a film like “Moonlight” wins the Oscar for best picture, typecasting is still woefully commonplace, and black actors are still forced into one-dimensional roles.

Home for Williams is Vanderveer, a Brooklyn housing complex now known as Flatbush Gardens. Mr. Williams has made a career of bringing nuance and contrast to his roles, inspired by the swaggering characters he grew up with in East Flatbush.

From the New York Times. Story by Noah Remnick.

Emmy nominations will be announced within a couple of weeks, but after years of snubs he is no longer counting on industry approval. Capitalizing on the continued relevance of “The Wire” and the rest of his catalog, Mr. Williams is now delving into film and TV production, and deepening his activist role with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Along with taking more commercially viable roles in films such as a coming installment of the Star Wars series, Mr. Williams is expanding his work into production. Among his projects in development are a film called “Bishop,” which he describes as “a hip-hop coming-of-age cautionary love story set in the Fort Greene projects”; “Brooklyn Chronicles,” a TV series examining the relationship between the West Indian immigrants and Orthodox Jews of East Flatbush; and an as-yet-unnamed documentary series about recovering from addiction.

His desire to produce follows a lifetime of frustrations with the racial politics of the film industry, of “feeling like us black actors are rabbits jumping for a dangling carrot.”

“While we’re wasting our energy being angry about a damn statue, the crime happened months ago in a boardroom,” said Mr. Williams, who has received hardly any award nominations. “There aren’t enough people of color behind the scenes, and that’s where real change happens.”

Most immediately, he is completing a documentary to be released this fall through Vice on HBO. The project intends to detail the dangers and inequities of the American criminal justice system, particularly the juvenile justice system, largely focusing on the stories of three people close to Mr. Williams: his cousin Niven, who is trying to reintegrate into society after more than a decade in prison; his nephew Dominic; and his friend and “Wire” co-star Felicia Pearson, who has cycled in and out of prison.

Read more at New York Times.

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