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Michael K. Williams Talks 'Snow on tha Bluff' and His Upcoming Turn as Ol' Dirty Bastard in 'Dirty White Boy'

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire June 18, 2012 at 1:27PM

Michael K. Williams, the actor best known for playing Omar Little on HBO's "The Wire," dons a new hat as executive producer for the first time with the microbudget indie "Snow on tha Bluff," which world premiered at the 2011 Slamdance Film Festival and hits DVD and VOD tomorrow.
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""The Wire" is my foundation."

Fans of your work are obviously going to see the correlations between this film that you've put your name behind and your work on "The Wire." Have you been trying actively to separate yourself from that role or are you glad that it still lives on the way it has?

Oh man. I'm ecstatic that the role of Omar and the work that we did as an ensemble cast on "The Wire" still lives on. There's nothing to do to distance myself from it. You build on that, you grow from that, but you don't wipe out your foundation. "The Wire" is my foundation. That's my breakout role and from there I'm still getting calls and offers from people wanting to work with me, solely based on the work I did on "The Wire." Why would I want to distance myself from that? Build on that if anything.

What did you make of President Obama declaring Omar to be his favorite character of the show?

It's humbling. I was very grateful. It made more proud and more secure in my admiration for him and backing for him. I'm not a politician, nor do I pretend to know a lot about the world of politics, but I supported President Obama. When he came out and acknowledged "The Wire," it didn't make me proud like, "Obama's talking about me," it made me glad that he has his finger on the pulse of what's really going on in the community. He's not detached.

I didn't take it as a personal feather in my hat, per say. It was a testimony to how involved he is and how in tune he is to what's really going on in the streets. He didn't forget about us and he sees us. It made me want to step up even more as an American citizen and do more for him in my own little world. I'm not trying to go to the White House, I'm not trying to have a beer summit with the dude. I know he's a busy man. I just try to listen to him, and take in the things that he says, and try and make it work in world and my community. In my own way, I feel like "Snow on tha Bluff" is me doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

In "Snow on tha Bluff" you're going to see a community; you're going to see people struggling; you're going to see a lot of pain; and you're going to see a lot of hope. There's this woman, Molly, she lives in the middle of the Bluff and she took her house and decided that she was going to make a place where people can come to get their resumes done, get internet access. If you're hungry she'd feed you; if you needed a place to stay she'd shelter you; if you needed clothes for you and your children she'd clothe you; if you need to get HIV tested she'll test you; if you need a hepatitis shot they give that there; and she doesn't charge anyone a dime.

She's not a non-profit organization, nor does she get subsidies from the state. It's all out of her pocket or through what people donate from the surrounding community. She was a shining example of what the President speaks about about just starting where you're at. You don't need a lot, you don't need to put your power in somebody else's hands. It starts right there in your community. There are little things you can do and you just got to get up and do it. She never asked anybody for anything, and in that sense. She opened up her home to a community that society would be like, "Oh my god, no!" She's got her doors wide open for anybody who needs help.

"I feel obligated to give it back and reach into a neighborhood where Hollywood is not necessarily going to go."

That's what I hope this film, "Snow on tha Bluff", will evoke more of. More of that approach to the community. Not to shun it or turn your nose up at it. I believe in the concept that we're all connected, so by me taking my little celebrity to go down there and shed some light on the Bluff via "Snow on tha Bluff," you know, who's to say? All I know is that the late, great Tupac Shakur took my little picture, my little dark, grimy polaroid picture laying around the office and he made them come look for me. Where else would I have gotten a chance to be where I'm at today? So, I feel obligated to give it back and reach into a neighborhood where Hollywood is not necessarily going to go.

It sounds like your role as a producer really fulfills you in a totally different way than the other side of your career does. What do you have planned next and what kind of a career do you hope to foster for yourself as a producer?

You know, as a producer I'd like to tell more iconic black American stories. I feel that the youth, especially the inner city youth, are so ignorant as to who are our black role models were -- it's like we have no one to look up to. Man. there are a lot of things that Hollywood doesn't think make for good entertainment. A lot of times we hear they don't do well overseas, in the overseas market.

But there are a lot of stores, a lot of great men and women. I had options to the rights of the the Madam CJ Walker story about the first female millionaire in this country. James Baldwin, Miles David -- there are a lot of stories of people. We tend to forget about a lot of our great black American leaders or role models or heroes, if you will. I would like to tell more of those stories.

I'd like to tell stories like that and incorporate talent that wouldn't necessarily get a chance in Hollywood. Give them an opportunity. I would like to be known for that.

I'm not sure how far along you are with it, but what can you tell me about your work playing Ol'Dirty Bastard in the upcoming biopic, "Dirty White Boy"?

"Snow on tha Bluff"
"Snow on tha Bluff"

Well we haven't begun filming yet, I'm still in production for the third season of "Boardwalk Empire." So I'm doing the research. I had the beautiful pleasure of meeting his mother, Mrs. Sherry, who gave me a world of knowledge about who he was when the cameras weren't rolling. This movie is not about the Wu-Tang and that time -- how they got their deal and how they met. It's not about that. It's about the last years of his life, and the reason why it's called "Dirty White Boy" is because his manager, Jerry, was an integral part of the last two years of his life.

And you're gonna see a lot of things that they didn't know in the media. There were a lot of faces that you didn't see in the media. He wasn't just Ol Dirty Bastard, he was Ason to some people, he was Rusty to other people, to his family. We wanted to explore those other sides, and hopefully the audience will walk away from this movie feeling like, "Wow. This could have happened to anybody." His untimely death and what happened in his life those last two years could have happened to anybody in any genre. It just happened to be his, but it's not solely about the Wu-Tang Clan, or just Ol' Dirty Bastard, it's about his life, his last years, what he was going through, what he struggled with, and how he dealt with it.

I can't wait.

Yeah I can't wait either. It seems to be a pretty hot topic. I didn't know that the hip-hop community was so on it. Everywhere I go I get a lot of support, so the pressure is on. I gotta deliver. I can't let this project down.

This article is related to: Interviews, Snow On Tha Bluff, Slamdance Film Festival, Michael K. Williams, The Wire