I was a huge fan of The Wire, HBO’s award-winning crime drama.
There series offered many interesting characters, but one notable standout was Omar Little, the shotgun-wielding robber of drug dealers, portrayed by actor Michael K. Williams (seen in the above photo).
Jonathan Abrams at Crimereads.com, an interesting new online publication, offers a piece on The Wire and the iconic Omar character.
Early on, HBO executives asked David Simon to cut a seemingly pointless scene featuring a shadowy figure named Omar, who robbed drug dealers. His presence did not seem relevant to them in moving the story along. Simon asked them to wait. The introduction of Omar, he said, would serve as a placeholder for the character when he was reestablished later in the inaugural season.
The request paid off. Television had never seen a character as full of contradictions as Omar Little, depicted brilliantly by Michael K. Williams. The role was the first major gig for Williams, a native of Brooklyn’s East Flatbush, who had dropped out of school to pursue a dancing career. Omar wore a duster and a bulletproof vest, carried a .44 Magnum, and whistled “The Farmer in the Dell” as he stalked the streets, ringing fear in the neighborhood. Yet, he nurtured out-of-luck mothers, refrained from cursing, attended church with his grandmother, and showed a caring, tender touch with his gay lovers. As inconceivable as it sounds, Omar, too, was sourced from real-life inspirations. During his days on the force, Ed Burns found that stick–up artists roamed independently and often maintained their own set of rules, while providing accurate information. He cultivated several into his best sources. Donnie Andrews, one of the primary inspirations for Omar, positively transformed his later life, becoming a consultant on The Wire.
“The guys that I knew, the Anthony Hollies, Shorty Boyd, those type of guys, they all had a code,” Burns said. “They all lived by something, and they hunted drug dealers. That’s what they hunted. Donnie [Andrews], he was ferocious. Ferdinand [Harvin], this guy was amazing. He gave me a call one time, and says, ‘You want to hit this house.’ We got a search warrant, hit the house. It’s three guys who are in their fifties. You don’t see many guys in their fifties with shoulder holsters, with .45s in the shoulder holsters, at a table. It was a substantial amount of drugs on the table, but we didn’t find all Ferdinand said was in there.
“I went outside, and I called him up. I said, ‘We can’t find it.’ He says, ‘I don’t understand you. Every time I been at their house, I find everything.’ I said, ‘Ferdinand, I can’t put a gun down a guy’s mouth. I mean, I’m willing to talk to the guy, but I can’t do that.’”
ALEXA L. FOGEL (CASTING DIRECTOR): Michael K. had auditioned for me for Oz. You keep very good records for all your auditions. I had to figure out which character it was that he had auditioned for, and I had to go back every season and go through every page until I could find him. I knew I had wrote in my notes that he had this scar, so that’s how I refound him to have him in for The Wire. He made an impression. I knew I wanted to see him again.
MICHAEL K. WILLIAMS (OMAR LITTLE): I mean, it was odd. How many people walk around with a scar in the middle of their face? It’s a very odd thing to see. When you really think about it, on my face, you know? My face got mauled over. It’s jarring.
ED BURNS (CO-CREATOR): We picked Omar, primarily, because of the scar. His first scene was him and his partner, getting ready to go do a robbery, and the guy comes and gives him a sawed-off shotgun. He takes the shotgun and—Mike was the name of the guy who gave it to him—he starts walking away, and Michael K. says, “Excuse me.” “Yes?” “How do you open this?” “It’s a fucking shotgun, Michael.” I’m standing right next to him going, “Oh God, this is going to be so bad,” And then he goes out there and it looked like when he was in his crib, his mother gave him a shotgun.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link: