The best tribute to Michael K. Williams on Emmys night arrived courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens, not the Television Academy. While the Emmys snubbed Williams for his work on “Lovecraft Country” in the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series category (the prize went to Tobias Menzies from “The Crown” instead), the NFL team honored the late actor by blasting Omar Little’s trademark “Farmer in the Dell” whistle into M&T Bank Stadium (see video below). Williams starred as Omar on all five seasons of HBO’s “The Wire.” The series is set in Baltimore. Omar’s whistle was blasted during the Ravens’ home opener, the first home game in Baltimore since Williams’ passing.
While Williams lost out on the Emmy, he did get a brief tribute from Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series category presenter Kerry Washington. The actress choked up while referring to Williams in past tense and called him “a brilliantly talented actor and a generous human being who has left us far too soon,” adding, “I know you’re here because you wouldn’t miss this. Your excellence, your artistry will endure. We love you.”
Performances in “Lovecraft Country,” “When They See Us,” “Bessie,” and “The Night Of” all earned Williams Emmy nominations during his career, but his role as Omar Little in “The Wire” always remained his most iconic character. The character was initially slated to have a seven-episode arc during the show’s first season, but Williams’ portrayal was so admired that creator David Simon extended the character through the entire run of the series. “The Wire” ran for five seasons on HBO between 2002 and 2008.
In a recent interview with The New York Times, Simon revealed that Williams reprised Omar for one last time years after “The Wire” ended its run. The actor slipped back into his famous character as a favor to Simon, who was sponsoring a charity event for New Orleans and Baltimore musicians.
“For a few hours, I watched him inhabit that character one last time,” Simon said. “When it was over, we stood outside the club, and I watched a weight descend as he slipped back into Michael from Flatbush, the gentle, self-effacing and utterly committed professional who never gave a camera the wrong moment, but who somehow never took enough comfort from that great skill, who was always, I came to understand, looking for it to mean more.”
Williams long considered Omar one of his favorite roles, although the character stood in direct contrast to his real-life personality. “He was fearless. He was outspoken. He didn’t care what anyone thought about him, except the ones he loved,” the actor told GQ in 2020 about Omar. “I was the complete polar opposite. I was frightened a lot of times growing up. I had very low self-esteem and a huge need to be accepted. The only thing that I knew I shared with Omar was his sensitivity, and his ability to love and his ability to love deep.”
Watch the Baltimore Ravens’ tribute to Michael K. Williams and Omar in the video below.
For Omar 🎶 pic.twitter.com/NT6TugVaEf
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 20, 2021