Short of the Day
‘The Wire’ actor examines his own typecasting.
Actor Michael K. Williams was born in Brooklyn. Like most kids he got into some trouble here and there but nothing that stuck, and eventually he traded in his hijinks to indulge his passion: performing. After working briefly for a pharmaceutical company, Williams set out to be a dancer, eventually working with artists like Madonna and George Michael. He came to acting thanks to Tupac Shakur, who gave him a role in the film Bullitt. Owing to a scar on his face he received in an altercation involving a razor blade when he was 25, and owing to the color of his skin, Williams is often cast as a thug or other urban neer-do-well, especially since his stint on The Wire where he played Omar Little, a character many – including former President Barrack Obama – consider the best in television history.
All this begs the question: is Michael K. Williams typecast?
That’s the subject of this fascinating short film Williams made for The Atlantic in which he debates with iterations of himself – including one as Omar, marking the first time he’s inhabited the character in a decade – about the role of his race in his typecasting, as well as his own agency; he is, after all, the ultimate arbiter of his career, he picks the roles he takes, they aren’t forced upon him. It’s a bold and thought-provoking line of inquiry and in attempting to find an answer Williams ultimately displays his versatility as an actor, turning the question of his typecasting back on us, society at large.
It’s not your typical Short of the Day, but this demands your time and attention.