Michael K. Williams is everywhere these days. If he’s not popping up in the Ghostbusters reboot, he’s appearing in HBO’s new series The Night Of. Everything still comes back to Omar Little, however. The Wire‘s gay, shotgun-slinging stick-up artist was the role that first introduced Williams to mainstream recognition (along with his co-stars Idris Elba and Michael B. Jordan, of course). The character has become one of the most iconic creations of 21st century American television; even President Barack Obama loves him. So during Williams’ Thursday night appearance on The Late Show, host Stephen Colbert asked him what he learned from the role.
“It was my breakout role, it definitely changed my life, but on a personal level, it kind of grew me up,” Williams said. “I equate my years with the cast of The Wire as being like my college years. I learned the business, from financially how to to manage my money better to how to ride a character out for a period of time.”
Before The Wire, Williams had mostly been a back-up dancer for the likes of Missy Elliott and Crystal Waters. Even before that, he said, he was an artsy kid, and often felt misunderstood, something Omar helped assuage.
“I had a very low self-esteem growing up, high need to be accepted, a corny kid in the projects,” Williams said. “All of a sudden, as Omar, I’m getting respect from the people who probably would’ve taken my lunch money as a kid.”
Watch the clip below.