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Michael K. Williams Tells Honeysuckle Magazine About Playing Drug Kingpin 'Freeway' Ricky Ross in 'Kill the Messenger'

When he was 25, Williams mouthed off to the wrong person and got his face slashed.

Michael K. Williams Tells Honeysuckle Magazine About Playing Drug Kingpin 'Freeway' Ricky Ross in 'Kill the Messenger'

Michael K. Williams came from a tough background. The actors shares candidly about the use of drugs and alcohol in his story. When he was 25, Williams mouthed off to the wrong person and got his face slashed. He has said if he hadn’t been drunk he would’ve had better judgment. What is fascinating about that Michael K Williams scar is that how it has helped his soaring career. He’s a natural for playing bad guys. He sure looks the part.

When I met Williams, I was struck by his warm and gentle demeanor. He seemed so humble and kind. When one interviews tons of A-list celebrities, those are not the typical characteristics. Here’s a clip for the article. Enjoy!

Michael K Williams interview clip for Honeysuckle Magazine

Michael K Williams

Full of charisma, Michael K Williams is best known for his breakout role as Omar Little on the HBO drama series “The Wire.” Most likely, you also know him as 1920s bootlegger Chalky White on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.” For me, his best role was playing “Freeway” Ricky Ross, a cocaine trafficker in Los Angeles in the 1980s in Kill the Messenger.

Kill the Messenger is an under-the-radar thriller that I can call one of the best suspense thrillers I’ve seen. Williams joins the strong cast, headed by Jeremy Renner playing Gary Webb, an investigative journalist who broke the story that the CIA allowed Contras to smuggle cocaine from Nicaragua into the United States. Webb accused the Ronald Reagan administration of protecting inner-city drug dealers. And what was their motive? To keep gobs of money flowing to the Contras.

Michael Cuesta directs and Peter Landesman wrote the screenplay. The cast includes Andy Garcia, Michael Sheen, Oliver Platt, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosemarie DeWitt, Paz Vega, Barry Pepper and a Ray Liotta cameo.

Another Cool Thing

Another cool thing about the actor: Michael K Williams loves to give back to his community. He enjoys sharing his successes. The actor created a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called Making Kids Win. The org’s mission is creating safe places for underprivileged children to play in their neighborhoods. What a treat it was to sit down and chat with Williams.

Dorri Olds: Is it true that you became friends with drug kingpin “Freeway” Ricky Ross?

Michael K Williams: I speak to him more than we hang out because he lives in L.A. I got a lot from him. When I first read the script and after speaking to him I wanted to fill his character out a little more. He is just the most nicest guy, well mannered and I spoke with the writer and director. I just wanted to make sure that I didn’t come across as one noted because he’s not. This is a man who wanted to become a tennis player, very soft-spoken, friendly, warm, inviting. His persona that he’s known for doesn’t speak to any of that, but that’s really who he is.

Check Out This Trailer for Kill the Messenger

See also: Five Essential Films To Watch This Black History Month

DO: Rick Ross may be an anomaly in terms of drug dealers. Do you think drugs dealers get a bad rap in movies?

MK: Yes, I do actually. I think the drug dealer gets a bad rap in society. Last I checked they don’t grow cocoa leaves in the hood so where’s it coming from? So with Rick Ross, I’m not making excuses because at the end of the day we still have choices so I’m not doing that at all.

But at the end of the day if you take a man like Rick Ross who was allowed to float through the Los Angeles school system without being taught to read or write. He clearly had a talent. He excelled in tennis and there were scholarships on the table. They were talking about scholarships for him to become a tennis player. When they found out that he was illiterate it was all snatched away.

So, you have an 18 year old young black male in the inner city, under-serviced communities of Los Angeles, no education, no money, no job opportunities and then the streets are flooded with crack cocaine and crime, what would you do? That’s the real question. So, yeah, I think the drug dealer gets a bad rap all across the board. I’m not making excuses for them but I feel their pain. Like Jay Z said, “Whistling dimes because we ain’t doing fine.”

Michael K Williams
Michael K. Williams. Photo © Dorri Olds

DO: Have you ever been asked to play in a film with Don Cheadle?

MK: No, I have not but I would jump at the opportunity.

DO: It would be a good match.

MK: I think so. We’ve worked together in a film that Antoinne Fuqua did, “Brooklyn’s Finest.”

DO: All the black men die in that movie!

MK: You know, unfortunately, that’s the harsh reality of my community.

Photo and Article by Dorri Olds