Courtesy of HBO
Longtime viewers of The Wire have been shocked at the exploits this season of Omar Little, America’s most beloved gay stickup artist. From pulling “some Spider-Man shit” and disappearing off a balcony to calling out Marlo on the streets of Baltimore, Omar has been transformed into some combination of superhero and ghoul. As the final episodes of The Wire approach, Michael K. Williams talks to Vulture about what the future holds for his character — and for him. (Hint: He’s in a Cormac McCarthy movie.)
Caution: Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t watched season five.
When did you shoot Omar’s last episode?
How did you manage to keep Omar’s death a secret for so long?
The HBO legal department! Really, I didn’t want to spoil it for anybody. When people found out that The Wire was definitely coming back, there was so much glee in everybody’s faces. “The Wire’s coming back! Oh my God! Oh my God! But Omar’s gonna die.” There would have been a cloud.
How did your friends and family take it?
My mother doesn’t watch it. It’s not really her cup of tea. My brothers and sisters all watch it. One of my brothers, he took it really hard. Instead of seeing Omar, he saw his little baby brother. My family — we’re sensitive people.
Omar gets popped by a little kid in a corner store. Did you want a more heroic ending for him?
David [Simon] and Ed [Burns] have been doing a phenomenal job writing this character. I never got in the way of that, and I wasn’t going to start to do it now. It’s sad that he had to go. If I had my way, he would have stayed in Puerto Rico with Renaldo. It’s sad. I’m not going to lie.
We were so upset! As a viewer, we were frustrated that none of the characters were that upset. It was just this thing that happened. The guy wasn’t even mourned. Should he have been?
That’s the life he lived. He didn’t bring anybody close to him. He didn’t live anywhere, didn’t have any neighbors. But off camera, and outside of our characters, I got so much love from my co-workers. Wendell Pierce, who plays Bunk, he called me last night. Out of all the calls and the e-mails and the texts that I’ve gotten, his got through to me in a way that none of them did. It was a very heartfelt call. He said, “Mike, I want you to know that I will never, ever forget this night. Tonight is the night that Omar died.” It pierced my armor.
Toward the end, did Omar’s exploits ever get too unbelievable? I’m talking about when he jumped from that building and landed with only a broken leg.
That actually really happened. Omar’s character is based on a brother named Donnie Andrews. [On The Wire, the real-life Andrews played] the gentleman that got shot and killed in that apartment with Omar. I said, “Donnie, man, what happened that night? What was going through your mind to jump through the window?” He said, “Michael, I wasn’t thinking. There was no time to think. I was just trying to escape some hot ones.” Your partner just got murdered. You got people gunning at you. And there’s an open window? What are you going to do?
Honey Nut Cheerios. Is that your favorite cereal or Donnie Andrews’s favorite cereal?
I think that might just be something they wrote. I do happen to love Honey Nut Cheerios. I don’t know if I want to walk down to the store in my pajamas for them. But I do love them. I think that was just bringing something familiar to the character.
What would you put on Omar’s tombstone?
Omar Devone Little. A stand-up dude. Rest in peace.
What are you working on right now?
I just came from Arizona. I’m working with a young native who wrote and directed his first piece — an independent film called Addicts. I leave to start production on The Road, [a Cormac McCarthy adaptation] directed by John Hilcoat and starring Viggo Mortensen and the lovely and talented Charlize Theron. I’m really excited about that.
You’ve played Omar for five seasons. Are you having trouble shaking him off?
That character’s become a part of me. I don’t think I would ever — or want to ever — completely shake him off. —Aileen Gallagher