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Michael K. Williams Insisted on Showing Gay Intimacy on The Wire

Michael K. Williams Insisted on Showing Gay Intimacy on The Wire

Michael K. Williams Insisted on Showing Gay Intimacy on The Wire

Williams felt the directors were too scared, so he took matters into his own hands.

rachelkiley

Michael K. Williams broke barriers play a gay, Black man on The Wire, and had wrapped up another meaningful queer role in HBO’s Lovecraft Country shortly before he died of a drug overdose in 2021. Now, his posthumous memoir is revealing how he fought for his most iconic character’s queer scenes to be more intimate and true-to-life.

Vulture obtained a lengthy excerpt from Scenes From My Life, co-written by Jon Sternfeld, detailing how Williams got the role as Omar Little in David Simon’s gritty Baltimore-based drama.

The actor detailed his initial hesitance at playing a gay character (an identity Williams himself did not share), chalking it up to “my upbringing, the community that raised me, and the stubborn stereotypes of gay characters.”

But Omar wasn’t any kind of stereotype, and Williams soon not only embraced the role but says he was the one ultimately pushing for scenes between him and his boyfriend, Brandon (Michael Kevin Darnall) to be physically intimate in the way heterosexual couples were readily allowed to be on TV.

“It seemed like everyone was dancing around their intimacy issue. There was lots of touching hair and rubbing lips and things like that,” he recalled. “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?’”

Williams says “the issue boiled over” for him after a point, so he approached Darnall and suggested they take things into their own hands, adding a kiss into a scene that didn’t explicitly call for it. He got Darnall to agree to bypass the director and just go for it during rehearsal — and it worked.

“When I went in and kissed Michael 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,” he wrote.

Their bold move convinced the director to film the scene with the kiss included, with Williams (and Darnall) to thank.

Scenes from My Life officially hit shelves last week and is currently available to purchase for anyone hoping to learn more about the late actor’s life and career in his own words.

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Rachel Kiley

Rachel Kiley is presumably a writer and definitely not a terminator. She can usually be found crying over queerbaiting in the Pitch Perfect franchise or on Twitter, if not both.

Rachel Kiley is presumably a writer and definitely not a terminator. She can usually be found crying over queerbaiting in the Pitch Perfect franchise or on Twitter, if not both.