Michael K. Williams Career in Photos

The actor, a five-time Emmy nominee and Screen Actors Guild Award winner, was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment on Sept. 6, 2021

01 of 10

The Wire

Michael Kenneth Williams
Michael K. Williams in The Wire. HBO

Though he started acting in 1996, with small roles on shows like Alias and The Sopranos, Michael K. Williams really hit it big when he landed the role of Omar Little on The Wire, from 2002 to 2008.

"In a lot of ways, that character became my Superman suit," Williams told GQ in 2020. "I put Omar on and I just felt invincible."

02 of 10

12 Years a Slave

Michael Kenneth Williams
20th Century Fox

"Working with Steve McQueen was the dream," Williams said of joining the cast of 12 Years a Slave in 2013 while on the red carpet at the New York Film Festival. "The whole cast ... I was really happy to be there."

03 of 10

Boardwalk Empire

michael kenneth williams
HBO

Williams earned his sole Screen Actors Guild Award with the cast of Boardwalk Empire in 2012; he played southern-born Chalky White on the show.

To embody the unofficial leader of Atlantic City's Black community on the series, he drew on his father's early life in small-town South Carolina.

"What Boardwalk and portraying Chalky White did for me was it gave me time with my dad, who's no longer here, again, but not in this time frame," Williams explained to NPR. "It allowed me to go back to hang out with him in his childhood, what he went through in coming up as a man."

04 of 10

Assassin's Creed

Michael Kenneth Williams
20th Century Fox

"I looked at this as my opportunity to be like an action hero," Williams told Collider of playing Moussa in the 2016 film, based on the video game. "It's off my bucket list."

05 of 10

The Night Of

Michael Kenneth Williams
HBO

In 2017, Williams earned his second of five Emmy nominations for portraying Freddy Knight on the limited series.

"That role, it blindsided me for a number of reasons," Williams told Vanity Fair in 2020. "And then we filmed in these amazingly built sets that really resembled prisons ... It was somewhere halfway through in production I realized that I'm getting a glimpse of what my nephew, Dominic Dupont, who served 20 years of his young adult life incarcerated, was like when he was behind bars. That was a very frightening and difficult process to experience ... The emotional aspect of what that narrative was waking up in me I wasn't really prepared for and it woke up personal traumas and past experiences that were very difficult to navigate through. Thank god we had the art to put it into."

06 of 10

When We Rise

Michael Kenneth Williams
ABC

In the 2017 miniseries, Williams played activist Ken Jones, and got to meet him to truly learn his story, he recalled to Vanity Fair in 2020.

"You're talking about a dark-skinned man of color in the Navy in the '70s, the racism he must have faced, having to hide his homosexuality, the homophobia, being in love with a white man, having to come home, surviving all of that and then having to fight his next war, which was gay rights and HIV/AIDS ... To have the opportunity to tell his story, I jumped at it."

07 of 10

Motherless Brooklyn

Michael Kenneth Williams
Warner Bros.

Williams played "Trumpet Man" in the 2019 film, though it was musician Wynton Marsalis who actually made his music, according to the Los Angeles Times.

08 of 10

Hap and Leonard

Michael Kenneth Williams
Everett Collection

"The world that this writing lived in was so unique and like nothing I'd ever done before," Williams told Vanity Fair of the 2016 series, in which he played Leonard Pine. "It was an opportunity to show that a white man and a Black man can be complete equals and can be brothers and can have if not the same, a very similar human experience. I knew at that point there was no other white man in Hollywood who could take that journey with me better than [friend James Purefoy]," who played Hap Collins.

09 of 10

When They See Us

Michael Kenneth Williams
Netflix

Williams played Bobby McCray, father of Anton of the Central Park Five, in the acclaimed 2019 series.

"I had to have it in my career," he told GQ of the part. "One because I'm from Brooklyn, New York, and I remember when that was happening and two, I could've easily been swept up in that number: I was a Black man living in New York City and I was at risk. I jumped at the opportunity to tell their story."

10 of 10

Lovecraft Country

Michael Kenneth Williams
HBO

Williams earned his fifth Emmy nomination for his work as Montrose Freeman in Lovecraft Country, a series about a Black family moving from Tulsa to Chicago in the era of Jim Crow and the racism they face.

"I would hope that after watching Lovecraft, people walk away with this understanding of the beauty and necessity of a father-son relationship in the Black community," Williams told PEOPLE last October. "Black fathers have been ripped away from their sons for so many years, mine included. That was the main thing that attracted me to this to this role was the opportunity to play dad to that amazing Jonathan Majors and for us to explore what father and son bonding looks like and how we can rebuild that and treasure it."

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