RIP Omar Little, Chalky White and Montrose Freeman.
Fans honored late actor Michael K. Williams’ most brilliant characters on social media Monday — including a genre-bending gay gangster from the “The Wire,” a menacing mob boss on “Boardwalk Empire” and a captivating alcoholic father on “Lovecraft Country.”
The 54-year-old star, who was found dead in an apparent overdose in his Brooklyn penthouse Monday morning, once told Vanity Fair he picked roles that told the stories of black men with nuance and honesty.
“I don’t get to assimilate into anything other than the black experience,” he said in a September 2020 video interview with the magazine. “For me to be given the opportunity to be a storyteller and to tell a narrative of people in my community that look like me, I wear that as a badge of honor — and a huge responsibility.”
“I’m grateful for the gift of art — if nothing else, just for that,” he said.
Here are some of the talented actor’s best moments on screen:
“Farmer in the Dell”
From 2002 to 2008, Williams starred in “The Wire” as gay Robin Hood-style stick-up man Omar Little, who robbed from drug dealers to give to the poor — breaking ground for mixing gay sensuality with tough-guy thugishness.
His character was infamous for whistling an ominous rendition of “Farmer in the Dell” as he strode through the West Baltimore slums, looking for his next victim.
In one unforgettable scene, Little swaggered through housing projects wearing a trench coat and clutching a shotgun, sending terrified teenage drug pushers running for safety while screaming, “Omar coming!”
“I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase”
In another iconic moment from the show, Little faced off with the hired attorney of his drug-dealing adversaries, turning the lawyer’s accusation that he “leeches off the drug trade” on its face.
The lawyer was incredulous that Little, wearing a tie over his ordinary street attire, would give accurate testimony due to his admitted profession of “robbing drug dealers.”
“I’m just like you, man,” Little fires back without missing a beat. “I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase. It’s all in the game, though, right?”
Little, who doesn’t curse despite his demeanor, also takes issue with the lawyer’s assumption that he would hurt innocent people.
“Hey look, I aint never put my gun on no citizen,” he said.
Don’t mess with the king
After Little’s character single-handedly takes down a group of dealers in a wild west-style street shootout, he proclaims, “You come at the king, you best not miss.”
The Rikers Island jailbird
In 2017, Williams earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for his role as Freddy Knight in HBO’s “Night Of.”
Williams played a Rikers Island inmate — which was inspired, in part, by his nephew’s experience behind bars, he told Deadline that year.
“Freddy, the character, being an addict of sorts, I’d be having to revisit those old feelings of what it’s like to do hard drugs,” he told the outlet about filming the mini series. “And in that setting, it was just a lot. It’s a heavy world to live in for so long.”
The dapper mob boss
In the drama “Boardwalk Empire,” Williams played Chalky White, the roughneck head of an African-American organized crime syndicate in Atlantic City during prohibition. His character dazzles in bow ties and fedoras, at one point breaking out of jail and dropping iconic lines, including one where he admits he’s as sensitive “as a baby’s ass.”
The bad dad
Earlier this year, Williams was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a drama series for his portrayal of Montrose Freeman in HBO’s “Lovecraft Country.”
Williams shines as the hard-drinking, abusive father of the protagonist Atticus, who later goes missing.
“At face value, Montrose is just a miserable drunk. Really just mean to his son,” Williams said in an interview with the newspaper The Los Angeles Times last week. “I subscribe to the narrative that hurt people hurt people.”