Remembering Michael K. Williams

14th September 2021

We’re remembering the life of actor Michael K. Williams, who died earlier this month. He was 54 years old. He was best known for playing Omar Little on The Wire. Michael began his career in entertainment first as a dancer in New York, then an actor with a handful of walk-on credits. By the time he auditioned for The Wire he was in his mid-30s. When Jesse Thorn talked with him in 2016, he was starring in a show called Hap and Leonard. When we heard the news about Williams’ passing, we went into the archives to listen back to our conversation. This remixed podcast episode interview is some bits we’ve played in the past, and a lot of stuff we haven’t. At some points in the interview, you’ll notice he sounds like he’s coming through a telephone. We weren’t able to recover all of Michael’s original studio recording, but we had his phone audio as a backup. In this conversation, Michael talked about his memories of being a New York club kid, the difference that playing Omar made in his life, and the gig that made him realize that being a performer could be a career.

Episode notes

(Photo by Arturo Holmes / Getty Images for ABA)

We’re remembering the life of actor Michael K. Williams, who died earlier this month. He was 54 years old.

He was best known for playing Omar Little on The Wire. Omar was a stick-up man. He lived both outside the law and under the constant threat of retaliation from the drug dealers he robbed. He took his grandma to church. Was deeply in love with his boyfriend Brandon. An iconic David Simon character.

Michael began his career in entertainment first as a dancer in New York, then an actor with a handful of walk-on credits. By the time he auditioned for The Wire he was in his mid-30s. He’d lived a whole life.

Williams went on to more roles. He played Chalky White on Boardwalk Empire. Most recently, his vulnerable portrayal of Montrose Freeman in Lovecraft Country, earned him his fifth Emmy nomination.

When Jesse Thorn talked with him in 2016, he was starring in a show called Hap and Leonard. He played Leonard, a Vietnam vet turned Private Investigator. The show aired for 3 seasons on the Sundance Channel.

When we heard the news about Williams’ passing, we went into the archives to listen back to our conversation. There’s some stuff you might’ve heard in the past, a lot of stuff you haven’t.

In this conversation, Michael talked about his memories of being a New York club kid, the difference that playing Omar made in his life, and the gig that made him realize that being a performer could be a career.

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If you’re experiencing a crisis of any kind and just need to talk with someone, you can text the number 741741 to reach a crisis counselor. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Completely free.

There is help available, and it’s never too late.

In this episode...

Producer
Associate Producer
Maximum Fun Production Fellow
Maximum Fun Production Fellow

Guests

  • Michael K. Williams

About the show

Bullseye is a celebration of the best of arts and culture in public radio form. Host Jesse Thorn sifts the wheat from the chaff to bring you in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary minds in our culture.

Bullseye has been featured in Time, The New York Times, GQ and McSweeney’s, which called it “the kind of show people listen to in a more perfect world.” Since April 2013, the show has been distributed by NPR.

If you would like to pitch a guest for Bullseye, please CLICK HERE. You can also follow Bullseye on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. For more about Bullseye and to see a list of stations that carry it, please click here.

People

Producer

Associate Producer

Maximum Fun Production Fellow

Maximum Fun Production Fellow

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