The actor, still beloved for his role on “The Wire,” plays a bootlegger on Terence Winter’s acclaimed HBO series
The actor Michael Kenneth Williams came to deserved prominence on "The Wire" due to his sublime portrayal of Omar Little, a trenchcoat-wearing, shotgun-toting Baltimore street thug who just happens to be gay.
The Brooklyn native is stealing scenes again on another gritty HBO series: the Prohibition-era drama "Boardwalk Empire," on which he plays no-nonsense bootlegger Chalky White. We caught up with Williams recently to ask him about being submitted for Emmy consideration for the first time and whether Chalky and Omar would get along.
You’re in the middle of filming season two of “Boardwalk Empire,” right?
Yeah, we’re on, like, episode eight right now.
Aha! You just confirmed that Chalky White will survive until the eighth episode. Thanks for the scoop!
Given how violent the show is, have you mentally prepared yourself for Chalky's inevitable death scene?
Well, who knows? I mean, I couldn’t say. Who knows what’s in the mind of Terry Winter?
Diplomatic answer! What did you think of the name Chalky White when you first heard it?
My first reaction was, I laughed. It’s like, go figure, my black ass is Chalky White.
I was surprised to learn that this is the first time your name has been submitted for Emmy consideration.
I’m extremely excited. It’s the first time HBO has thrown my name in the hat. It’s a step in the right direction, for sure.
Who gets thanked in your acceptance speech?
From past experience of watching other people go up there and get nervous, my thing would be to keep it simple. I’d probably have to thank my creator and my mom for sticking by me. I had a very turbulent young adult life and I’m very fortunate to be alive today. I was definitely on the path to destruction. So, I would have to give an acknowledgment to my mom and my family for never giving up on me even when I had given up on myself.
Actually, if I were to win an Emmy, I would definitely have to accept it on behalf of my “Wire” family and the city of Baltimore. It would be just as much theirs as it would be mine.
Speaking of "The Wire," how does your time on that show compare with your experience so far on “Boardwalk Empire”?
Being on the set of “Boardwalk,” it is just different. There’s a shitload more money than on “The Wire.” You see it in the clothes and the production.
Who’d win in a face-off between Chalky and Omar?
You know, in my neighborhood, man, growing up, we had a saying on the street: real recognize real. You feel me? Those two men wouldn't be the type of dudes that would go at each other. It’s not in their demeanor, you know what I’m saying? One would recognize the other for who they are, and it would be a meeting of the minds. I don’t see those two as having to take it to the streets.
As a former professional dancer, have you been pushing for a scene in which Chalky does the Charleston?
That would kind of be out of character. Maybe he'd do a two-step with his wife. But you know, him getting down and doing a windmill and boogieing, that’s a little out of character for Chalky. He’d give you a two piece and a biscuit across the face, but that’s about it.