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Michael Kenneth Williams Shares The Wire's "American Story"

Call it karma, coincidence or a casting coup, but as Omar, The Wire's stickup artist extraordinaire, Michael Kenneth Williams steals every scene he's in. We got our first glimpse this year of the gay, gun-toting gangster in his island exile last week, but tonight (9 pm/ET, HBO) he's back in Baltimore — and looking for revenge. TV Guide: Omar may be the most interesting TV villain since Deadwood's Al Swearengen. Michael Kenneth Williams: I still don't fully understand him. I think I can identify with maybe five percent of Omar, and the rest I did a whole lot of praying, "I hope they like it!" [Laughs] I was a little concerned with the backlash, because of his sexual [orientation], and the fact that he's not driving fancy cars and using fancy drugs. But Omar has resonated in a way that

Joe Friedrich

Call it karma, coincidence or a casting coup, but as Omar, The Wire's stickup artist extraordinaire, Michael Kenneth Williams steals every scene he's in. We got our first glimpse this year of the gay, gun-toting gangster in his island exile last week, but tonight (9 pm/ET, HBO) he's back in Baltimore — and looking for revenge.

TV Guide: Omar may be the most interesting TV villain since Deadwood's Al Swearengen.
Michael Kenneth Williams:
I still don't fully understand him. I think I can identify withmaybe five percent of Omar, and the rest I did a whole lot of praying, "I hopethey like it!" [Laughs] I was a little concerned with the backlash, because ofhis sexual [orientation], and the fact that he's not driving fancy cars andusing fancy drugs. But Omar has resonated in a way that I never imagined.

TV Guide: What about that distinctive scar? Is it real?
Williams:
Yes, it is. I was born and raised in Brooklyn. I survived the '80s. [Laughs] But it was a barroom brawl on my 25th birthday. I just wish I had something more exciting to tell about it.

TV Guide: Series producer Ed Burns, a former Baltimore homicide detective, has said that you didn't know how to handle a shotgun at the beginning.
Williams:
I'dnever even fired a gun prior to playing Omar.I went back to my 'hood and had to ask somereal gangsters, "How'd you do that?" If you mixwhat I took from the street with the mentoringof someone like Ed Burns, you can't lose.

TV Guide: Burns also said you were the one who brought Snoop (Felicia Pearson) to the show.
Williams:
We met at a bar in Baltimore. She had justcome home from prison, and her family hadtold her so much about The Wire. She wasn'ttrying to get on the show, but I couldn't stopstaring at her. I begged her to call me, she tookmy word, and she ain't turned back ever since.

TV Guide: Is there any frustration with the lack of awards or publicity the show has received?
Williams:
It's bigger thanaccolades at this point. I hope some kid in the 'hood willsee The Wire and take a different turn. It isn't a white orblack story. It isn't a Baltimore story. It's an American story.It's a social problem that's been going on in our country —though the country may not realize it.

Check out more of The Wire in our Online Video Guide.

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