Michael K. Williams: How A Scar Transformed His Life
Michael K. Williams has captured the attention of the masses with his remarkably authentic acting skills as Omar on HBO’s hit series The Wire and as Chalky White on Boardwalk Empire. Now, the handsome star is back as a real-life rouge reporter in a documentary style series called Black Market. But it turns out that the Flatbush, Brooklyn native wasn’t always as polished as he is today, and he has the scar to tell it.
Before his infamous roles, Williams was a dancer. He appeared in music videos starring artists like Madonna, George Michael, Missy Elliott, Genuwine, Technotronix, just to name a few.
Then, on his 25th birthday, everything changed.
“There was a popping party going on in Queens,” Williams says. “I went outside to get some air, and I saw that two of my other friends were being surrounded by some dudes I didn’t know.”
Thinking his friends were about to get jumped, Williams told them it was time to go home.
That’s when someone else approached Williams from behind.
“The dude wiped his hand across his mouth and … smacked me,” he says. “What he did was he spit a razor. He was positioning the razor in his mouth to get it between his middle finger and ring finger. And then he swiped me down my face.”
That cut would leave the permanent scar we’ve come to know him to have now.
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“We managed to escape with our lives, barely, that night,” he says.
After the attack, Williams’ career took a different turn. Directors didn’t want him to just dance in videos — they wanted him to act out thug roles.
Then Tupac Shakur and Mickey Rourke were filming a movie in New York called Bullet. The production office happened to have a Polaroid picture of Williams, and Tupac himself selected Williams for the role of his little brother.
“I think he saw my pain, my struggle, my heart,” Williams says. “I was starstruck. I was like, ‘Wow, this is Tupac Shakur.'”
After filming Bullet, Williams booked roles on Law and Order and The Sopranos. After those short roles, Williams thought the phone would be ringing, but that never happened. Williams saw his acting career slipping away.
“I was down in the dumps. I got really depressed,” he says. “Like, really depressed.”
Then, months later, Williams received an unexpected fax outlining a character in a new show called The Wire.
It was the part for Omar Little.
“I got to grow with an amazing group of people that I consider my Wire family,” Williams says. “That character changed my life. And that was my big break. I had a low self esteem growing up. You know I was just a corny kid growing up in the projects. And when I became Omar, it thrust me into the spotlight and forced me to grow up.”