Since his five-season turn as the compelling, morals-driven stick-up kid “Omar Little” on HBO’s heralded series The Wire — a character that even Barack Obama appreciates — Michael K. Williams has been building a reputation as one of Hollywood’s most capable actors, most recently taking on the role of 1920s-era gangster “Chalky White” in Boardwalk Empire, another HBO series. Aside from his television work, Williams has also appeared in more than 20 films since 1995 and is currently gearing up to portray rap legend Ol’ Dirty Bastard in a biopic about the MC’s life.
New York radio station Power 105 invited Williams on this morning for a typically candid chat with The Breakfast Club, and the actor used the time to speak on his Wire experience, clear up some misconceptions about the ODB film and much more.
When asked about his experience playing the cold-blooded Omar, Williams revealed that he had allowed some of the character’s mindset to seep into his own life. He says that he was doing “a lot of drinkin’ and druggin’” during those years and that the weight of carrying a personality like the one he’d created for Omar caused him to temporarily lose himself.
“I crossed the line with that character. It’s like the lines got blurred,” he explained. “People don’t realize how dark a state of mind one must be in to portray a character like Omar. I was in a real dark state of mind. I just identified with him on a lot of different levels.”
Williams says that he has since developed tools to help him separate his true self from his characters.
As it concerns the ODB film, tentatively titled Dirty White Boy, Williams explains that it is not a straight-to-DVD project like some have assumed; it is actually a full-fledged Hollywood movie that will focus on the two years of the MC’s life between his release from prison and his death in 2004, including the seemingly peculiar relationship he developed with his then 22-year-old manager Jarred Weisfeld. He says that there is much about ODB’s life that fans weren’t aware of, and that he wants to introduce audiences to a side of the perpetually-wild rapper that they never knew.
“We didn’t know what he was goin’ through right there in front of our face,” he says. “It wasn’t just drugs; he struggled deeply with mental illness.”
Williams explains that, contrary to popular belief, Dirty did not die due to some binge, but rather due to an inadvertent mixture of illegal narcotics and prescription drugs. Dirty, Williams says, was actually very happy and “really excited about his future.”
People didn’t know Dirty well, and Williams aims to help them know him a bit better.
“I wanna introduce ‘Ason’ — or, as Miss Cherry calls him, ‘Rusty,’” he says, referring to “Ason Unique,” one of the MC’s aliases, his mother Cherry Jones and the loving nickname she gave her son. “Nobody knows that story.”
Watch the interview in its entirety below.