Michael Kenneth Williams: More Than What Meets The Eye
Actor Michael Kenneth Williams got his start in entertainment from two unusual sources: dancing and a scar. Before beginning a new leg of his career as an actor, The Wire and Boardwalk Empire star pursued a life in professional dance, performing backup for such powerhouses as the iconic singer Madonna. His success as a dancer allowed him to follow another facet of the industry through acting, a profession that came a little easier to him through the placement of a visible scar across his face. He got the scar when he was 25 years old during a bar fight; it was this scar that eventually helped land him continuous roles in crime shows. Utilizing his scar as a trademark, the roles the actor typically lands are crime-related, he usually plays the criminals himself. Williams has, despite personal problems along the way, made himself into a highly notable actor in both television and film. The Brooklyn-native’s upbringing has perhaps aided him in his portrayal of often fast-talking, complicated characters. Like many of the characters he portrays, he became involved in street-organized crime at an early age. Prior to eventually enrolling in New York City’s National Black Theater, Williams first began using drugs largely to fit in with his peers. In an interview with Inside New Jersey magazine, the actor talks about his beginnings with addiction: “I got picked on a lot as a kid. No one was scared of Mike. I was trying to get accepted by the cool kids. But they wouldn’t let me in. So, I thought, ‘I can be a party kid.’ I had the weed, I got the liquor.
I basically bought my way into that group with my soul.” Williams eventually made his way out of that scene and turned to performing as an outlet. His original motivation came from Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation 1814” album, and from there he was inspired to quit school and pursue dancing fulltime. After a period of homelessness, Williams began scoring multiple gigs as a background dancer. He then got his breakthrough film role in the 1996 urban-thriller “Bullet,” staring alongside hip-hop legend Tupac. This crime drama was a straight to video release, but the main character’s story of revenge after being released from prison had audiences captivated. Williams would have many similar, intense roles soon to follow.
– Melissa Cruz