Although he’s been acting since 1996, Michael K. Williams’ career is largely synonymous with a single character: The Wire’s Omar Little. Nearly every role Williams has taken on since he started playing Omar in 2002—from criminal roles on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and The Night Of, to comedy turns in shows like Community and The Spoils Before Dying—have had some element of the famed stick-up man looming over them. So when The Atlantic asked Williams whether he was typecast, he took the question seriously.
Rather than a simple interview answer, though, Williams’ response comes in the form of a fascinating short film, in which he appears in a number of personas, chatting with himself about that question and its connection to his life as a black man in America. It’s tense stuff, especially when a version of himself looking very much like Mr. Little pops in to ask some tough questions about the role Williams’ skin color has had on his career. It’s also a fantastic reminder that Omar Little wasn’t a great character simply because of his Robin Hood antics or his funny dialogue, but because of the layers of inner life Williams was able to imbue him with, and that the man is a talented performer regardless of the “Omar’s comin’” jokes that will probably follow him for the rest of his career.
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