“The Wire” creator David Simon paid tribute to late actor Michael K. Williams (who died September 6) in a heartfelt essay published by The New York Times. Williams was one of the breakthrough performers on the acclaimed HBO drama series as Omar Little. The character was initially slated to have a seven-episode arc during the show’s first season, but Williams’ portrayal was so admired that Simon extended the character through the entire run of the series. Williams even reprised Omar years after “The Wire” ended as a favor to Simon, who was sponsoring a charity event for New Orleans and Baltimore musicians.
“Wendell Pierce, an actor native to New Orleans, would hype the local acts in the guise of his ‘Treme’ character. I asked Mike [Michael K. Williams] to fly down, on almost no notice, and intro the Baltimore acts in the persona of Omar Little,” Simon wrote in his Times essay. “He was there at the asking. For a few hours, I watched him inhabit that character one last time. 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.”
Simon continued, “‘Was that what you wanted?’ he asked. ‘Did that go ok?’ I felt ashamed for having asked for one last, selfless favor from my friend. But he had my back. Always. Along with the talent, charm and honesty, I’ll miss that part, too.”
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.”
“The Wire” was just one of Williams’ many acclaimed performances for HBO. The actor is nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series thanks to his work on HBO’s “Lovecraft Country.”