Michael Kenneth Williams is one of this generation’s most respected and acclaimed actors, bringing complicated and charismatic characters to life with bold authenticity only a man with a story of his own can bring. Raised in the now infamous Brooklyn housing projects, Vanderveer Estates, Michael climbed from the concrete jungle to deliver the messages from the people who remained. While many people run away from the humble places that made them, Michael used his platform to tell the stories of the forgotten by channeling their energy in
Michael Kenneth Williams is one of this generation’s most respected and acclaimed actors, bringing complicated and charismatic characters to life with bold authenticity only a man with a story of his own can bring. Raised in the now infamous Brooklyn housing projects, Vanderveer Estates, Michael climbed from the concrete jungle to deliver the messages from the people who remained. While many people run away from the humble places that made them, Michael used his platform to tell the stories of the forgotten by channeling their energy into his roles.
Williams made his feature film debut in the urban drama Bullet, after being discovered by the late Tupac Shakur to portray his on screen older brother. His breakout role however, the whistle-happy, profanity-averse, drug dealer-robbing stickup man- Omar Little on HBO’s “The Wire”, would earn him high praise and change the landscape of television by becoming one it’s most memorable and important characters. By 2010, Williams was co-starring in another HBO critically acclaimed series as Chalky White in “Boardwalk Empire”. He again played a fearless black man, a 1920’s bootlegger; and the impeccably suited, veritable mayor of the Atlantic City’s African-American community. Michael used those platforms to further push into the limelight the conditions of underrepresented peoples by playing Rikers Island prisoner, Freddy Knight, in the acclaimed HBO limited series “The Night Of”. The series focuses on a broken criminal justice system through the story of a young Arabic man sitting in jail while facing accusations of murder. As Ken Jones in “When We Rise”, an ABC miniseries, he portrays a gay rights activist battling HIV on a program diving deep into the LGBT and Civil Rights movements of San Francisco over the last few decades. As Executive Producer and starring investigative journalist for “Black Market”, a documentary program that exposes and comments on illegal markets throughout the world, Michael focuses on the people involved and connects with them on a human level to “show why people do the things they do”. Black Market is a flagship show for the newly launched network from Vice, VICELAND. His portfolio spans many genres and decades, but Michael’s mission permeates it all.
Off screen, Michael established the non-profit organization in his hometown, Making Kids Win, to develop community centers that provide a judgment-free and safe zone where neighborhood children can engage with their peers through academics, sports, and the arts during the “gray part” of the day - after school ends and before a parent gets home. He also serves as the ambassador for the ACLUs campaign “Smart Justice”- an unprecedented, multiyear effort to reduce the U.S. jail and prison population by 50% and to combat racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
In spite of an impressive resume and unending works of community service, Michael Williams still finds time to travel around the world to speak with many different types of people, advocating the rights and needs of underrepresented people. He unpacks his own experiences of drug addiction, sexual abuse, criminality, prison, violence, family incarceration, depression, poverty, and fitting in a honest and steady voice that constantly keeps people engaged and pushed to action. His life’s work will open the eyes for many people across the globe to finally see the forgotten, while pulling up many others who were forgotten to live out their passions on global stages. He is a bridge, bringing people from very different places together, for the singular goal of eliminating the conditions which keep people oppressed and in desperate circumstances.
“We’ve been taught success means leaving the communities that made us, but this is the only place in the world where I feel free” - Michael K. Williams