Michael K. Williams Wished ‘The Wire’ Went ‘All In’ on Omar’s Intimacy: ‘You Know Gay People F—, Right?’

·3-min read

Portraying openly gay stickup man Omar on HBO’s widely acclaimed “The Wire,” Michael K. Williams offered a fresh portrait of masculinity that was considered revolutionary at the time.

But according to the late actor’s memoir, “Scenes of My Life,” Williams pushed “The Wire” to go further in terms of portraying Omar’s intimacy with his boyfriend Brandon Wright (Michael Kevin Darnall).

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“In regards to Omar and his lover Brandon, it seemed like everyone was dancing around their intimacy issue,” Williams wrote (via 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 fuck, right?'”

While Williams, who died of a drug overdose at age 54 last year, did not identify as gay, he mentioned in his memoir that he was called “Faggot Mike” growing up.

The book, co-written by Jon Sternfeld, details Williams’ initial fears about playing a gay character onscreen.

“As for Omar’s homosexuality, it was groundbreaking 20 years ago, and I admit that at first I was scared to play a gay character,” Williams wrote. “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. 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.”

Since his character was the “opposite of the stereotypical hood types,” Williams advocated for the series to “go all in” regarding the portrayal of Omar’s relationships. He remembers one time telling co-star Darnall that it was “time to step it up with Omar and Brandon” in terms of the couple’s romantic intimacy.

According to Williams, he told Darnall, “I’m thinking in this scene we should kiss,” to which Darnall responded: “Okay. But — that’s not in the script, though.” When Darnall suggested they run it by director Craig Johnson, WIlliams said, “Naw. I don’t think we should ask anyone. I think we should just do it.”

Williams wrote that Darnall agreed and wanted the kiss to be “spontaneous so it looks natural.”

When, during rehearsal, Williams kissed Darnall on the lips, “Everyone stopped what they were doing and went slack-jawed. 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.

Johnson apparently asked the actors to do it again when he rolled action, calling them “some brave motherfuckers.”

“The Wire” ran for five seasons from 2002 to 2008, winning two Emmys for outstanding writing for a drama series. Williams’ memoir “Scenes From My Life” is available now.

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