Michael K. Williams pushed for more intimate gay scenes for Omar on The Wire: 'We should go all in'
However, his new posthumous memoir, Scenes From My Life, reveals that the late actor advocated for more intimate scenes between Omar and his boyfriend, Brandon, while filming the critically acclaimed series.
"In regards to Omar and his lover Brandon (played by Michael Kevin Darnall), it seemed like everyone was dancing around their intimacy issue," Williams wrote, per an excerpt on Vulture. "There was lots of touching hair and rubbing lips and things like that. I felt like if we were going to do this, we should go all in. I think the directors were scared, and I said to one of them, 'You know gay people f---, right?'"
In the book, co-written by Jon Sternfeld, Williams — who died of a drug overdose at age 54 last September — recalled that "at some point, the issue boiled over for me," so he pulled Darnall aside and suggested that the pair kiss in their next scene.
Darnall agreed but asked if they should run the idea by director Clark Johnson first, to which Williams replied, "I don't think we should ask anyone. I think we should just do it." Darnall then requested that Williams make their kiss "spontaneous so it looks natural."
"When I went in and kissed Michael on the lips, everyone stopped what they were doing and went slack-jawed," Williams wrote of their first rehearsal. "Twenty years ago, men — especially men of color — were not kissing on television. I don't mean it was rare; I mean it did not happen."
The move took Johnson by surprise. Williams recounted that the director called him and Darnall "some brave motherf-----s" before shooting the scene.
Williams starred as Omar in all five seasons of the HBO show, which ran from 2002 to 2008. In the memoir, the actor, who did not identify as gay, expressed that he was originally concerned about portraying the character.
"I think my initial fear of Omar's sexuality came from my upbringing, the community that raised me, and the stubborn stereotypes of gay characters," he explained. "Once I realized that Omar was non-effeminate, that I didn't have to talk or walk in a flamboyant way, a lot of that fear drained away. I made Omar my own. He wasn't written as a type, and I wouldn't play him as one."
Instead, Williams recalled, he tapped into what he and the character had in common. "Omar is sensitive and vulnerable and he loves with his heart on his sleeve. You can say what you want to him — it rolls right off — but don't you dare mess with his people. He loves absolutely, fearlessly, with his whole entire being," he wrote. "After clicking with that, I understood him completely."
Scenes From My Life (Crown) is available now.
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