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How Michael K Williams got the scar that ‘changed everything’ for his acting career

Williams got a ‘buck fifty’ from an altercation on his 25th birthday (Picture: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Michael K Williams was determined not to let his facial scar ‘traumatise’ him, after being slashed in the face on his 25th birthday.

The Wire actor has died aged 54, with his body found in a New York City apartment.

No cause of death has yet been given.

The Brooklyn-born actor shot to fame in the iconic role of Omar Little in the acclaimed drama The Wire, but prior to that, he had been a choreographer and a dancer, after becoming obsessed with Janet Jackson videos.

And the prominent scar he sustained in an attack led from him being cast as a dancer to being cast as an actor.

Williams had been at a party with friends on the night of his 25th birthday when he went out to get some air and got involved in an altercation.

Speaking about how he sustained the scar in a 2011 interview with the Hollywood Reporter, he said: ‘You know, it’s nothing special. It happens all the time. I got drunk, and I got it twisted, you know what I mean? I had that liquid courage in me, and I poked my chest out in an environment that I had no business doing that, because I know, in my right mind, that’s not who I am, you know? And I inter-changed something that I normally would have ignored, and he zigged when I zagged, and I got the buck-fifty. Nothing special. It was just me being out of character, once again.

The incident led to Williams being noticed as an actor (Picture: HBO)

‘He had a razor in his mouth and I never even saw it. He could have finished this across my jugular and I would have never even known what hit me, you know? Too drunk.’

A ‘buck-fifty’ is slang for a cut across the face caused by a blade or razor and requiring 150 stitches.

While the scar ran from his forehead to his cheek, Williams ‘refused to let it beat me up’, and discovered that his distinctive appearance was catching the attention of producers and directors.

He later told NPR: ‘Things changed immediately after that. Directors didn’t want me just to dance in the videos anymore.

‘They wanted me to act out these thug roles, you know, like — “Mike, roll these — roll these dice in this video. Have this fight in this video.” I was like, “All right.”’

His scar also caught the attention of Tupac Shakur, who chose Williams to play his little brother in the film Bullet – the role that led to Williams being cast in Law & Order, The Sopranos, and eventually The Wire.

Since starring as Omar Little, Williams became one of the most acclaimed actors in television, with roles on Community, The Night Of, When They See Us and Lovecraft Country. 

Following the news of his death, tributes poured in from friends, fans and colleagues, with The Wire’s Wendell Pierce saying: ‘The depth of my love for this brother, can only be matched by the depth of my pain learning of his loss. A immensely talented man with the ability to give voice to the human condition portraying the lives of those whose humanity is seldom elevated until he sings their truth.’

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