Some of Michael K. Williams’ grieving co-stars from “The Wire” choked up with emotion Tuesday while paying tribute to the late actor they credit with some of the most ground-breaking, “iconic” characters in TV history.
“He understood it to be a mission and purpose, a path that God chose for him,” she said of the actor who played stickup man Omar Little alongside her Detective Kima Greggs in the gritty Baltimore crime show.
“You know, he utilized this art form for something so much greater than his own benefit,” she said, at times pausing to dab her eyes as fellow co-star Andre Royo looked forlorn while bobbing his head in agreement.
Sohn shared a message from their co-star Wendell Pierce, who went viral Tuesday with an old video in which he called Williams “one of the great American actors” behind “two of the most iconic characters in the history of American television,” with Omar and Chalky White from “Boardwalk Empire.”
Sohn also hailed his portrayal of “two very iconic characters,” saying, “We really do believe that there are very few actors — if any — who could have brought the level of humanity that he did to those characters.
“And the only way that I believe he could have done that was to really inject his own spirit into that.
“He utilized this art form for something that is so much greater than his own benefit,” she said.
Key to that, she said, was living in Brooklyn rather than New York and being “loyal” to those who helped during “his darkest days” before he found success.
“Michael came from the projects, he came from the hood, and, and he went through certain experiences that never let him forget the pain of coming from those places,” Sohn said.
“And he understood that he was put in this position of power, and he held it with such humility and such grace — but always understood that he had to physically be in front of the people that he was representing, that he was trying to lift up that he was trying to inspire.
“He knew that he could not stay in Hollywood. That’s why he lived in Brooklyn. That’s why he always made sure he came back to Baltimore, the people who held him down with it when he was in his darkest days before folks out he really knew him,” she said.
“He was loyal with just the biggest heart,” she said.
Royo — who played heroin addict Reginald “Bubbles” Cousins on “The Wire” — said he had been friends with Williams since they first met in Brooklyn in 1987.
“He always spoke of how excited he was to get a chance to … show a path for his brothers and sisters out there in Brooklyn, that they can have a way out and have a way to be heard,” he said of his friend.
“I think he knew that him being every time he was in front of the camera, or any time he had an opportunity to speak, that he was not speaking just for himself. He was speaking for a lot of people behind him that didn’t get a chance to speak, or I don’t have a chance to be heard,” he said.
“He took that very seriously, and hopefully we will continue to remember him for that,” Royo said.
He also went viral after sharing the old clip of him gushing praise on Williams as they stood together at a red-carpet event — a video seen more than 2.6 million times by Tuesday morning.
“It was an honor — an honor — for me to even share the screen with him,” Pierce said, calling Williams’ portrayal of Omar “one of the most innovative portrayals on television in our generation.”
“One of the greatest moments I’ve ever had in my career was the scenes that I did with Michael,” he said, calling his friend “a very special man” and a “very special artist.”
As he shared the clip Tuesday, Pierce wrote, “From my heart, years ago. I said it then, and it must be said now…”