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Lock the Gate. All right, let's do this, how are you? What the fuck is what the fuck buddies? What the fuck? Nix what's happening? I'm Marc Maron. This is my podcast. WTF, how's it going? My guest today is Michael K. Williams. Yeah, fuckin Michael K. Williams. Omar from the wire. Yeah. Omar from The Wire is here. You also known from Boardwalk Empire the night of. He's in the HBO movie Bessey with Queen Latifah.
He's on this the other one, the the Lovecraft show.
You know, a man, the dude with the scar. On his face. Big fan of his, and he's in this new film, Body Brokers, and I also talked to Melissa Leo on Monday. About the movie as well, a bit. And it's a it's one of these small movies, it's not going to get a lot of advertising money spent on it, and there's not going to be a lot of free publicity on it.
But it's worth seeing and it's and it's worth hearing these people who are in it. And I hopefully I can get to to talk to the director as well. But this movie is about the rehab racket. It's about the drug rehab racket on all levels. It doesn't pull any punches.
It's got a little bit of snark to it in terms of the narration, which is seems to be sort of a thing now, kind of like that, that we care a lot movie.
But but the nuts and bolts of it are pretty disturbing because there are people given the opportunity, given the window.
You know, given, you know, just the room to do it will be corrupt, morally bankrupt, greedy, evil fucks. Almost everybody is an opportunist, almost everybody is selfish, and when a system breaks down as thoroughly as the system is broken down here over the last four years, even people who think they're good when they see a window of opportunity. To do something a little off, we're way off, we'll take it if they can rationalize the action anyways, that's another tangent.
Maybe I could talk about that because I got a little something stuck in my craw.
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So morally dubious, enchanted by the possibility of being bad or just rationalizing your behavior that, you know is not on the level.
I don't know, are there really innately sort of selfless or, you know, empathetic people are most people selfish fucking people?
I tend to think so.
Like I'm a cranky bastard. I'm defensive. You know, I seem to be kind of self-centered.
But, you know, I spend a lot of time in my head. I spend a lot of time even when it's not a plague, even when I'm not alone, I find I spend a lot of time in my head.
But if you get me out of my head because you need help, if you call me up and you need something and you're a friend or somebody I know and I know you're not trying to take advantage of me, I'll fucking step up. I mean, I'm not saying I'm the guy that's going to run into the burning building to pull the people out or the doggies or the kitties. But, you know, when the guy comes down with the doggies or the kitties or the people, I'll walk them to the ambulance.
I'll put a blanket around him and and walk them to where they need to go to sit down or perhaps, you know, help give them a bottle of water. You know, I don't know if I'm the guy that's going to step in between a couple of guys fighting, but I'll I'll hang around and and say, hey, come on, chill.
Look, I'm no saint. But my point is, are there good people, are there just genuinely good people like you think about all these services, these health care people, they're tremendously good people. It's their job. But they they they do the job of helping. They do the job of healing. Those people are altruistic and necessary. And thank God they exist.
There are people that put their lives on the line for other people. And obviously everyone's got their problems. But I'm saying I think most people are out for themselves. And I don't think that's just some part of capitalism. I think there seems to be a few different types of people. There's desperate people that need to survive. So they're going to do what's necessary to survive. They have to and hopefully it doesn't kill them or others, then there's people that are just shamelessly fucking self-serving, like, fuck you, I want mine, I get mine, I'll do whatever I have to do to get mine.
It doesn't even have to be about survival. Just the fuck you get out of my way.
I'm taking it. And then there's people that think they're good, yet they're they do they do the same thing. What am I beating around the bush about? I finally know somebody I'm sure there's plenty of people, I know rich people, people of in positions of power that have jumped the line to get the vaccine. And the real question is like, if you had the opportunity, if I had the opportunity, you know, would I go get the vaccine?
Probably. Am I seeking that opportunity? You know, if someone said to me, like, dude, I got some vaccine in my truck coming up, your own vaccine, 50 bucks. I'll shoot you up right now on that. We can knock it out, dude. 50 bucks. I got a cooler in the truck. I probably wouldn't do that. You know, where am I going to hang around a parking lot of a clinic for leftover ones?
No, it's happening. So I'm going to wait till my health care provider to my Walgreens makes it available. To me, it's a drag. And I know there are line jumpers, but the truth is, is that even if you think you're a good person, where's the virtue in waiting your turn if you don't have to?
Right, I mean, if you had the choice or if you wanted to make it your goal, like I'm tired of this shit, I'm going to do whatever I got to do to go find me a fucking shot, a vaccine on the level on the up and up.
But knowing that it really isn't on the up and up because it's not your turn.
What do the virtuous get, you know, last in line covid they could die, I guess. But they'll die knowing that they didn't fucking jump the line. There's no difference between the good people who think they're good and do the shitty thing and the people that are shamelessly shitty, the only difference between those people is the good people pay lip service to feeling bad about it or guilty. But they still did the same thing. You don't feel bad. Just be honest.
I mean, people who who jump lines or cheat or steal, but they're innately good people that somehow rationalize their behavior primarily because they they worked hard to figure out how to do it or they took advantage of their place in the world to get special treatment.
And they're like, yeah, I feel a little guilty. No, you don't. You don't feel bad. You feel glad to shut up.
Don't tell anybody if you cheated or if you jumped the line, just keep it to yourself or just say, fuck you. I figured it out and I got it. That's what you did, that's who you are. You're not like, you know, I probably shouldn't have, but, you know, I just shut up.
You fucking put your mind to it and you figured out a way. To jump the line or get it, but don't don't play games like, you know, I feel bad now.
You don't. People are selfish. It's like, what do you feel like, hey, you know, it's like, I'm sorry I started that fire, you know, but but, you know, we had a nice it was a nice picnic.
I mean, I feel bad about the fire that burned all those land and killed those horses. But, you know, we those were good hot dogs. Hey, it's really sad, man, that, you know, the neighbor's house burnt down because of barbecue.
But, you know, but, you know, we had a good time and, you know, I didn't really like I don't really know them. And, you know, they're gone now. I mean, it's sad, but I feel bad about it. But, you know, you know, we had a nice cookout.
Spare me. Why am I so worked up, I know why, because I'm not trying to cheat to get my fucking vaccine and I want it so I can feel better. I'm tired of it, too.
But this is what waiting on line sounds like, fuck these people, cut the fuck. What about me? Give me a buddy. A guy got a car in a truck I'm sitting on for Meridiani like Moderna.
You want the Fizer? I got the Pfizer. Whatever you want, buddy. Come over to the truck, man. I got it in the cooler. What? Pfizer got the JMJ coming next week. What do you need, bro. Hundred bucks. You got two hundred bucks cash. I'll lay the medicine on you right now. Give you the second shot. Put it in your freezer. Just keep it for yourself. I'll give you the works.
I'll give you everything. I'll give you a full kit. Two hundred bucks. Come on, man, I got in the truck. You want the fries, I get the Fazi, you want the Faizi, want the feisty one shot to work. Two shots guaranteed. Jane, Jane, that shit's going for a little more. We'll price here five hundred. I got it right now. You want it? Want the rig? I'll give you the full works.
Five hundred for Jay and Jay.
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So this movie Body Brokers' is a good movie.
It's available to buy or rent on demand on platforms like iTunes, prime video and more. Body Brokers' is the name of the movie. Michael K. Williams is my guest. You also know him as Omar from The Wire. That was the the the big breakout Boardwalk Empire Lovecraft country the night of Bessey. He was in Bessey anyways.
I was nervous because I didn't know what he would be like. But, man, we had a nice time and we had a nice chat. This is me talking to the amazing Michael K. Williams.
Were you at right now? I'm in New York. It is it is the snow still there. You know, it's snow on the ground winter that we do here. I know.
I lived there for a long time. I lived on the Lower East Side and over on 16th Street.
I got no seasons out here. Yeah, well, you know, I am in California and it's just a little chilly.
That's our winter then.
Little chilly here. Not too bad.
There's some part about having nothing to do that's not that terrible.
And the more we talk that talk, I mean, I know it's like it gets a little crazy, but on another level, it's like, hey, if nobody else is doing anything, fuck it, I'm OK.
You're going to have to be worse because the alternative sucks. You have to be OK, man, and get some type of grounding. Did you get it or.
No, you know, I got a little a little scare. Someone in my family, they went down there, had to be hospitalized and I was in contact with them. So, you know, I quarantined. Yeah. For the 14 days. Yeah. And, you know, there was a point where, you know, like, I don't know if and, you know, you got a little a little, you know, like, you know, because I cook rice.
I made a pot of curry. Yeah. Like, damn, I know I could taste my curry and like, OK, maybe I had no symptoms but the grace of God, I didn't have to be hospitalized with temperatures, no problems breathing. It's what I'm just going to show up.
But so you tested. You got it. You got it. And you just got a minor.
Yes. So yeah. You got lucky. It's fucking crazy, man.
You know, I you know, I consider myself blessed today, man. You know what? I've got good genes. You know, I got I came from really good genes physically. And, you know, over the summer, man like you spoke about with that with everybody else ain't doing nothing. So I had to find something to do because nothing for me is not an option. I don't my double workshop to.
Yeah. So I found a I found physical fitness this summer, but not for the sake of muscles. You know, I got real got real familiar with cardio and calisthenics and stretching and breathing simple shit. And I truly believe that because I put that in my program and my daily routine that it gave me a leg to stand on to fight them off. I go back a little bit that that didn't knock me down. I mean, I'm no doctor.
That's just my little take on aspirin. I chose to believe that, you know, we are so conditioned to run from this thing that I think sometimes we need to also remember that we have everything in our bodies to kind of at least the army to fight back. But we got a gun in our body is called an immune system that keeps the bullets in that motherfucker. We just slay the giant. We don't know.
And so we fight back. So that's you know, I just that's what I've met with you going home.
I'm not going to hang tough. I'm not the only one. It's still not. What's up, man? Talk to me more.
Well, yeah. I mean, I've been doing that to you. Do you meditate? Yeah. Yeah. Not as much as I used to. I'm one of those people like them. You know, meditating is so hard. I'm like, damn Mike. You mean sitting down not saying shit, turning up your brain, closing your eyes. That's hard. Like really.
Like you got you got to do it first thing. It's only hard if you've been doing other shit. If you had a bunch of coffee you've already eaten, you know what I mean. Yeah. Well whatever you've already on the computer and then all of a sudden I got to sit down, shut it off. Right when you get out of bed, just do it. That's what I've been doing. I just started a couple of months ago. You know what?
I received that. Well, thank you. That's the trick. Because, you know, I wait till I, you know, by the time I remember to do it, I've already done a few things in the morning and it was fire. Yeah. If that's what to do it first thing in the morning for my be to leave the bed.
Right. I got the mat on the floor. I got, you know, like I just see it on the floor and I get up and I do yoga a little bit and then I sit with the the guy, the English guy on the app, the Headspace app, and he he talks me through it. He's annoying, but, you know, talks me through it.
You know what? I'm going to take that suggestion, bro. I'm like, the next time I see you, I would be like, thank you. And this will be a problem. You gave me two things. One, do it first thing in the morning and I got a yoga mat here that I never used. But if I lay it out in my room, in my bedroom, by my bed and if I if I see it, it'll jar my memory.
That's great. That's a great idea. I would try that shit. Yeah. Just get up and do it.
Like, I also know I'm a I'm a big fan and I. I watched the new movie, The Body Brokers, and I you know, look, I'm a sober dude, you know, and I like I know that world a little bit. And then as it reveals itself, it's sort of like it's insane and heartbreaking and informative.
I really like the movie. And I thought that you did a great job with it. Man, oh, man.
Thank you. And, you know, first of all, this was this was a passion project for me because I share your story. You know, I'm in the club as well. To really. Yeah. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. And you know, anybody that has heard me speak before, I'm not I'm not shy about it. You know, relapse to me neither my story and, you know, but I'm living good today, you know, I guess all we got to sedate.
But this film, you know, jails, drugs, jails and institutions. Yeah, right. So, yeah, I've had my fair share of institutions. Thank God I haven't gone to jail yet. And obviously I'm still here, but I've had my fair share institutions. And, you know, I feel what you said was this this film, the narrative of this film was extremely disturbing. Right. Dream that disturbing. And I was like I did almost like, well, what do we do with that?
Like this? Are you kidding me?
So when you when you first read the script by John Swab, is that his name. Yeah.
John Swaby, great guy. He's the writer and director.
Yeah. Because I know guys that work in that industry.
But my buddy Mike, he came over yesterday to talk a little bit because I told him about the movie and he's like when he works with in rehabs and he had to quit two jobs, you know, because they were corrupt and they didn't feel comfortable.
Right. So my my thing was, you know, when you read that script as a sober guy, you know, you realize you must realize, like, you know, I got to do this. People have to know this. Right. But then the character to like that character, he's not only a guy who's not quite sober and playing that part, but this is it's a movie about people rationalizing, you know, compartmentalizing things that makes them kind of evil, right?
You hit it right on the head. You know. You know, as we all as you and I, we both know. Yeah. Being sober doesn't take away the craziness. You know, just a lot of crazy motherfuckers in this program, you know, me included.
I call them I call them demons in exile. There you go. And, you know, and to me would was a perfect example of that. Yeah.
You know, you know, like I'm sober, but I can still do cocaine, you know, but even I'm sober.
But I can still use people. Right. You know, I'm selling drugs. Yeah. You know, that was even more profound, you know, because for me, this film, it spoke about the insanity. And like, people think that. Well, I assume that sometimes people think that drugs are the problem. Drugs are the symptom of a lot of the problem. You know, we once we put the drugs down, that's when the work because we've got to clean up this house, all this garbage.
And so because it manifests in other ways in our life, poor decision making and poor characteristic traits. Right. And so would was a perfect example and an opportunity for me to show. That side of what a recovering addict looks like, it's not all roses, and once you put the drug down, it's happily ever after and life is going to be great. No, there's a lot of stinking thinking that we need to get rid of and bad bad habits and bad thought processes.
And what is the example of that? But I'll tell you, the redeeming moment for me with Would. In the car? Yes, the car scene, and when he apologized, he apologized, he made a man's man and that was that was that redeeming quality in him that made me fall in love with the character on a whole nother level that that acting to where, you know, you drop into the heart of that guy that's actually tormented and not the guy that justifies his behavior.
That is a great turn there. And you can feel like those choices, man.
And I just want to take the time this time to also say, you know, I wasn't in that scene alone, obviously. I just got to tell you, Jack Kilmer, what he bought the the honesty, the vulnerability that he brought to that character. Yeah. Him and Alice, they are they are like I'm obsessed with them.
I can't take my eyes off of the man in this film. But what but with Jack bought in that in that scene, in that car, you know, that level of loyalty that he had, that the way he looked up, that he bought so much to the to the dynamic that I couldn't I couldn't have reached where I needed to be had it not been for what he brought to the table. That's interesting.
It was. It was. Yeah, he was great. And it was definitely that contrast of like, you know, that moment where he says, like, you know, people have been talking to me like that my whole life, you know, and you really.
Come on, bro. Come on, bro. Validation for would keep here. It was like that was like a meeting in the car, right? Yeah, right. I mean, that's what it meant a lot to me. And he brought us so much to approach him as as with his instrument. He was so much the to the character. He made it he made it very easy for me.
Then I got a question because I get asked it too, because when I was when I did the show Glo, my character does blow, you know, and I've been sober twenty two years something and people always ask me like, was that hard?
And I'm like, I don't know. I didn't even think about it.
What was it like for you to be around drugs, you know, in the film? Body brokers, ironically. Would. Didn't trigger me. Because of the decision that I made.
As to where he was in his recovery when he was sniffing that Coke at that pool party, yeah, I'll tell you who who did me the fuck up Good Friday night on the night of when he was sniffing dope and the reasons why the escapism that was very that was very familiar to my to my journey to maximize my struggle with this disease.
Now, when you when you were in jail. Yes.
It's called the night of the national anthem. Yeah. Yeah. Freddie Freddie night triggered the hell out of me, man. He woke up, he was rubbing that genie bottle like a motherfucker.
How do you know you're back there? Oh, yeah. I don't know. Would would that night, you know, I believed would when he said, man, yeah. You know, you know, it was more about, you know, the chicks being in the moment. I don't think that he was that he was in a relaxed state of mind, although, you know, technically he he did really he did get high. Right. I don't think that it was that.
I think he was just in the moment. And because he said it, you got to check these double checks. But this shit over here, blah, blah, blah, blah, whatever. Freddie was in a different space that I don't know how to do drugs regulation in just a moment. I know how to I know how to numb. Right. He did it to cope. Yeah. Cope I that's what I did it for. And that tripped me up.
So like now when did you start, where do you think it started with you. Would you I mean would you grow up. I grew up in Brooklyn.
I slept was Brooklyn and a little little practice called the Vanderveer to Vanderveer States. And, you know, you know, like I said, it ain't about the drug, the drug at the center of the problem. But I started Copan very early and I became an actor very early. I would say by age nine, I was completely addicted to fantasy, like nothing about my life that I want, you know, so I can't like.
How did that manifest itself? I go, what kind of fantasies?
What we I mean, you know, being something that wasn't, you know, like, for instance, my community, you know, is a western Caribbean community heavily that, you know, that's what we call the Ocean Avenue, Little Haiti. Is that where folks are from now?
My mother's from the Bahamas and my father's from the south, which is. So you had half of the community that was West Indian, Caribbean, and then you had the other had that was black America. And there was a clash of cultures like in the in the mid to late seventies to the eighties. And you you had to pick one. You were either a lazy welfare recipient, Yankee, or you were a high, high water wearing banana boat driving coconut.
Yeah, those are your options. And my mother being from the Caribbean and my father being from the south, you know, and me having a huge need to fit in high and low self-esteem. I you know, I started like I lost my identity very quickly, very trying to fit in to to be to be like to be accepted, to go under the radar. So nobody would I didn't want to ever be singled out. And yeah. So the disconnect.
From getting to know who Michael was, it started at a very early age and the ability to to chameleon myself, yeah, fit whatever I thought you needed to see the kid in which you had also started very early. So that's what I mean when I say I got addicted to fantasy very quick.
Will you get addicted to like I have that problem, too. Like, you know, by the end of this conversation, I'll probably be talking exactly like you.
I just have that thing where I feel like I'm a whole person.
But, you know, when I get around stronger personalities, you just kind of I just live in that guy's skin for a while.
And of course, I became an actor. Right. Great. Great job with someone like me. But, you know, I really like Joe Masso crazy, man, but, you know. You know, again, Wood was an opportunity to to explore all those different things, you know, because I believe in some form of fashion, we're all addicts, you know?
Yeah. Ah, the the the economy of this country is built on it. It requires the movie requires which is what the film talks about. Yeah. That it manifested in food. Yeah. Food disorders, sexual disorders, shaoping disorders. But you know, being codependent, being emotionally manipulative, that shit seeps out in so many different. You just have just a human personality. That's my daily schedule you just read off.
So yeah, I would love to hear you speak what they wrote through. So.
So you like to cook, you're cooking back there. Did you grow up like. Because I always assume that, you know, people from the Caribbean, I always think about food, you know, like like so it must have been at least you had an interesting confluence of culture there in the food department, huh?
Absolutely. And I'm a foodie. You know, I don't eat to live. I live. I live to eat. You, me. And I just I love everything about food, not just the eating process. I love the preparation. Like, you know, in my mind, Rachael Ray is like one of my best fucking friends. I sit here and I'll watch a segment and, you know, the way she what you know. But ah, yeah, some of that.
Oh, look at that. Yeah. Yeah. Make my mouth water when she cooks and I still have passion for food is like it's bananas. And then what I'll do is, you know. I'll challenge myself, I like I won't go to the website and look at the recipe I have. I could look at what he's doing, that data. I know the basics of what she she has a basic like template that she works on, new garlic, olive oil, a little salt, pepper.
And so we got the same foundation. And I just kind of, you know, I might do I may put a little twist on it and maybe fuck it up, who knows. But I just love I love the prepping of who I love trying new things. And Lord, do I love feeding people I love. We've called people over. Let's break bread now. My people, my family, my friends.
Right now, you serve everybody. Then you have that minute where you like show. So how good am I? I'm great. Right. It's great.
Yeah. I did that. I did that pretty fucking good. Right.
I would love to see people eat me too.
I'm like I do. And also it's a great way to occupy the time that I've been smoking fish. I've been like I'm a Jew. So I've been trying to figure out how to smoke the fish like the old Jews.
And I got the smoker out there, so I'm fucking Prepon. I'm Brian and I'm smoking fish. Yesterday I spent an hour trying to figure out how to make perfect baba ghanoush.
And then, like, you know, you you spend like three hours doing this shit like, you know, smoking fish takes hours and then I'll eat it in thirty seconds. Like, I don't give a fuck. I put upward hours into prep and then I'll just plow through it.
If I'm alone and I make something, I'll eat it. Oh my God. You know.
Twenty five seconds. You're too poor to the yoga mat and doing doing meditating in the morning I'm going to find a smoke bucket bitch.
You got to smoke coming up. No, I'm going to get more because I know I've heard about this process before. I know I'm not. I'm going to get the smoker and I want to go to Africa. I don't think I want to go. Oh yeah.
But the smoker. Oh yeah.
I heard about the air fryer. Everyone's talking about the smoker. Yeah. I think they gave it to me. The Trager Grill. They gave me the smoker, the wood pellets. You got a yard to put it in the.
I've got I've got a little I got a little outdoor space. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Throw it out there.
Yeah. I mean I've been yeah I've been smoking the fish and like I love to cook and I'll do it by myself.
Keeps me saying the same thing you're talking about with you know, I just got to be careful.
Like I got like if I get off on it like I made a pie like I mean like if I eat, if I, if I, if I can make a pie, dude, I'm fucked for weeks, you know, then I mean I'm making cakes, I'm putting the pie in the pie hole.
Yeah. Yeah I stay away from it.
Yeah. My family we were more pecan pie. Pecan pie. Have you ever made those that are never.
But I will eat about three pies by myself I promise you that.
If he can't get it. Yeah. Yeah. Puts you in front of me.
I eat sweet potatoes all the time. Just I just have them for a snack. That's what I do. I drink a pot of coffee is how I manage my addiction.
Mike, just like like if there's ever a spare minute I'm thinking about. All right, what can I what do we got in a where nobody.
I mean I said I love food, you know. I mean know I try to keep it, you know, I'm not a health, not in the sense where, you know, I don't eat that. Yeah. I don't care about what if I want a good, juicy, greasy cheeseburger. That's what I'm going to eat. You know, I'm not doing that every day. I'm going to definitely make sure I use it in my in my in my regiment.
But yeah, it's good. Yeah.
Enjoy yourself. Try to enjoy the alternative. You've got to enjoy life and enjoy it. Yeah. Yeah.
I don't think about the other shit at all anymore.
So when did you like start really doing the acting. I mean when did you start doing it. Like did you decide it was your life. I mean was it one of those things where you like, you've got to save your life with something, you know, the wire, you know?
So before the wire, you know, I used to be a background dancer, you know, mostly house acts or crystal waters techno try and fix things like that. You were a dancer. Yeah, I dance like seven years, man. And self-taught. Yeah. Street Street Dance. I watched the Janet Jackson videos. That's how I look at the choreography. Then I will go public and I would try to do the dance and they'd be like, you're going the wrong way.
We're going to be funny.
So it's Rachael Ray and Janet Jackson. These are the keys to your existence, right?
So sort of around in nineteen ninety seven. Nineteen ninety eight was my first film I ever did was a film called Bullitt, Tupac Shakur, the late, great Tupac Shakur. He he saw a picture of Polaroid of mean. He saw that I had the scar on my face. He was like, oh, he told Julian Temple, the director, let's find this guy and audition him. And that was the first thing I'd ever done.
And the scar got you the. Basically, yes, it did. What was that fight about that got you that scar? Real simple and a couple of sentences. Twenty fifth birthday, pissy drunk, barroom brawl, nothing special. And except the fact I almost lost my life for that date at night. But I'm starting to admit, you know, there was a situation where I technically I started, you know, I was drunk. I had the courage in me, and I saw a situation with someone that I had known at the time.
Yeah. And it had nothing to do with me. And I stuck my nose in someone else's business. But in my drunk mind, I was being loyal, like, you know, I'm not going to watch you get jumped. So and I was so puffing my chest out due to the alcohol and I was in that zone. And when that situation deescalated. Those dudes that were will have the confrontation with the person that I knew, they turned their attention on me and the rest is history.
So the second thing that I did was this movie called Mug Shot, you know, and it was with Matt Mahorn from New York City. And it was it was an independent film. But I went from being just like a two parts little brother to my second thing was a lead role in the independent film that was starting to get a little bit like starting to think this could happen. And then, you know you know, the Dick Wolf, he had all that all of his projects to cover law and order that was essential for New York City actors at the time.
And I started booking those things, those things, and then the phone just went dead. Nineteen ninety nine.
Rosarito with a dick wolf stuff, though. Did you feel like you were being typecast? Hell no. I just I never you know, I still to this day don't I don't acknowledge typecast, you know, news flash, you know, I don't get to assimilate into other cultures very much. And I'm a black man and I tell the black experience. Right. Yeah. And, you know, I'm from the hood. Yeah. And I know for a fact I have I have a front seat view with how people end up in the situations that they end up.
No one wakes up one morning, says, I got it, I'm going to be successful, you know, a crack dealer on the corner. I'm a thug that robs people who want to be successful. No one wakes up. I'm going to be a successful anything that gets them in jail, do that out of a series, out of desperation and a feeling that they have no other options. Right. And I've watched that happen so many times that people that I call my brothers, my family members in my community, and when I started becoming an actor and people were in Hollywood was looking to me to portray these stories, I immediately wore that as a badge of honor that was like this.
This is my community. They're my people. I know these people. And to do everything possible to make sure that people who don't know this lifestyle don't know this community will leave from the story, feeling empathy and having some sort of compassion and some sort of understanding, not saying you've got to agree. But those three things, and I made it my responsibility to leave the audience with those three things. Well, that's interesting. So so your point of view was that like, you know, instead of looking at me as somebody who is pigeonholed by this type of role, you say like, yeah, but these are real people who I know and this is part of the experience and I'm going to depict it with honesty and authenticity in these characters are going to are going to be alive.
This isn't I'm not playing a caricature. This isn't a puppet here, you know, so you won't. So I imagine that when you look at a script, you think in terms of like, you know, how how deep is this fucker? You know, like, is this a real thing or are you selling this guy short?
I don't have to even wonder. I can read the first 20 pages. And you bullshitting as a writer, I don't have to wonder about that. What I what I go in the script looking for is how to identify. That's what I go looking for. OK, Mike, how do you how do you identify with this character? Because I know if you're really saying you write writing the story about my community, I'm going to find somewhere on this man's life, I'm going to have a parallel with him.
So I go in looking for that and I can tell you where the fuck you talking about within the first 20 pages and where'd you learn the craft?
What did you study the acting? I study well. I was, again, New York City man in the world, and I was blessed to be introduced to the the off Broadway theater world of New York City. My first play that I did was at a theater on the Lower East Side called La Mama. I know that movie theater. OK, let's do it. I was actually God bless the soul, man. I was the last play that she produced and directed and wrote.
I was in that it was a city opera and it was called Tang Crazy and Armenia. And it was about the war of cultures in that part of the world, Middle East. And then I studied there for about a year or two. And then I left and went to Harlem and I studied under the late, great Tonday Samuels, and he worked at the National Black Theater, as we call it, NBT. And there was a young writer director.
Her name is Judy Shepard King. And she had written this play called Endangered Species. And I got a part in that. And then thirdly, my good friend and brother, Ray Thomas, or a lot to he bought his Philadelphia shout out to Philly and he bought his mentor and his theater company to New York City every Saturday. These men would either get on the train or they would pile up in cars and they would come to New York every Saturday and they would teach.
And Mel Williams, he's the director of the company and it's called Theater for a New Generation. Every Saturday, man, we would come and we would have class, either the Producers Club or any any little holy black black box in New York City. And we would go from 12 to three. We would have a theater, theater company, theater class, and it would be a ten week course that he would do. And then around the fourth or fifth week, he would start giving out.
He would he would break this up into groups and into partners, and he would give us scenes from a classic plays like A Streetcar Named Desire Ceremonies in Dark Old Man. He has a litany of classic plays. He would take scenes to give. He would give us the different groups scenes. And at the end of the tenth week, the last two weeks, he put us on stage. We would put up, we call it, he called it the theater night would be called the Night of Scenes and we'd sell tickets and get people to come in.
And the definitely years been. And then I took that and took that into the to the audition process in Hollywood. And I started the book. But then, like I said earlier, man, the phones went dead like around ninety nine. Yeah. I couldn't, I couldn't get a gig. And so, you know, my mom, God bless her, she, she retired and she decided that sitting down was it for her and she opened up a daycare in the projects where we live and by two thousand and one she was, she was blossoming some somebody a woman with no education like like like really doing it.
And so what?
The day care center got popular. It got popular at her high like the kids we kept up. We took them from one to five year olds. They loved that they were the first grade. She the kids that were leaving our daycare were all such. We were performing academically on such a high rate we would have no one in the community.
And that was our teaching. No, no, no, no, no. You know, after like I was saying, when I couldn't get when I stopped, I stopped booking and in two thousand. My mom took all of us to the Bahamas where she's from, because that was the end of the world. Took was coming the end of the world. The sky's going to fall, the sky's going to fall. And a mom was like going out.
I want all my family because we go home and we go to rock out. And so at the New Year's dinner party, she goes she says that she offered me a job at the daycare because, you know, I was borrowing money to pay my rent from every friggin month. They said that might work for me. I'm paying your rent. You might as well earn the money that they gave me. You know, that's not a bad idea.
This could be a lot worse. We got a family business in the community. Why not? So I did that for all of of of of two thousand and and then. And into two thousand and one. She gave me a desk and I thought I to myself, her administrative assistant, because she old school she had everything on and ledger books. So you know, I put a computerized everything for that. Yeah. So give me something to do so so that all the two thousand and then all of two thousand and one.
And as you know by September nine, 11, 2001, that happened. And I slipped into a it was dark, it got real dark for me. You know, I stood on my building and I saw the second plane hit with my naked eye like me and my cousin. We watched the buildings drop for like two weeks after that happened. Like the when given on any given Sunday and depending on which way the wind would shift, I could smell the burning flesh still.
Yeah, that might be a bad.
I was in Astoria, I watched the same thing in Astoria from my roof and you know and yeah. And then that metal smell burning smell the lasted for weeks and also the flesh.
Yeah. Yeah. That's what I, I know what burning flesh smells like and I was like this is so anyway needless to say I relapsed. I couldn't get that out there. Right.
So what was your thing that cocaine. You I mean cocaine. Alcohol. Yeah. So I relapsed and I struggle for all of two thousand and one, I mean for most of two thousand, you know after 9/11 and on October I was sit in my apartment with my cousin and one of my homeboys and we was always getting hot and the setting would be you turn the TV on what you muted and then you blast the music. Right. And everything goes, yeah, yeah.
That's how you do it. Right. So and then you talk and you talk and we talk shit. So I think I think we're playing chess. You know what? I don't get how I talk shit, you know?
So the TV was on and I had HBO and I looked at the screen. And it was an episode of Sopranos that I was in, so I looked up, I was like I had this like out of body experience. Look at that. Look what I was doing as a minute. Something wrong with this picture. And so I asked my mom. I said, Your mom? I said, I don't know if I could do this no more.
I said, I got this. I feel like I should get this because Holly was shit, one more shot. And she said, what you need. I said, I need you to lend me some money because I got to reinvent my package because I've been up to see for two years. And now I do this new thing called a real you got to put a real together and I got to do headshots, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
I've got to hire people more. And she said, all right, she lent me the money. And this was in late October. Early November, I did everything. And you spend it on drugs.
That's good. Not all of it. Hey, keep it real right now, all of it.
Yeah, I've got what I needed to get done. And then I gave them out. I had a hit list of names of people who I knew in the business that if I had any shot, I could get it from them. And Queen Latifah as Serkin Cooper, Jimmy Rosemann, Jackie Brown, Karmin, I remember with 10 names and I sent out the real the new package. And I said, you know, what is Christmas? And they're going to look at it.
They're going to see that I'm back on the block and I'm going to bring up the hook, give it the second, third week in January. It's going to be major right here we are in February and nothing happened. And my mother was like, where the fuck did you what did you do with my money? And I was like, Oh, man. So I slip into a depression, man, you know, like, for real. For real.
I got to go see a doctor. He prescribed me like Paxil, smoking weed and taking Paxil one day. Why? I don't feel better. I like to fuck.
Anyway, that was in February and March.
My mother caught me and she's like, yo, come downstairs, there's a fax for you. And I went and I got the fax and you know what it was.
But it was straight down. Yes, it was actually with Alexa Fogel and it was the breakdown for Omar DeVone Little. And that's when I knew this is real. This is real. Like this. This is it. And we offered it to. Well, I had to audition. Yeah, I had to audition, but once I got it, I'm saying, you know, I wouldn't have obviously auditioned me. I think three days later she called me, telling me to be on the next Amtrak and report to Baltimore like I was on the set for like a week before I ever met David.
Like, I had to, like, jump right in headfirst and I never looked back.
God, you done the research, huh? Yeah, right. You don't. But that's that's that's for real. Yeah. Put a lot of my pain into the character. Oh man.
Yeah, yeah. I mean it's a it's a great character. Was one of the best characters in the whole thing. I mean I remember like I didn't watch it in real time. I watched it all at once. So like I watched it a couple of years after the fact. But I was in New York and I was doing a radio gig and I just would watch three or four episodes a day like I was on drugs.
It was like The Wire was my drug. I would binge I would do like four or five episodes a day and I'd feel fucked up after.
But but your character was like every time Omar came on, you like fucking Omar, man.
You're always I'ma tell you a secret. Do you want to know what the best character on that show was? Hands down. Yeah, it was the city of Baltimore. Yes, I promise you, I like that city permeates it. I can't. You had to be on those streets like, you know, we sell a lot of location. Yeah. Why was it it wasn't a cushy set type of a gig? We were we was in the streets and I got to know the people.
I got to see the culture. I've got to feel the streets. Yeah. You know, when I tell you that city is one of the most beautiful cities, one of the most beautiful gems in this country, and we don't know it, but Baltimore, the city of Baltimore is the number one character, the people and the energy and the spirit of that city is is the number one character on the wire.
And Simon and Simon loves that city. I mean, so he still lives there, but it's still there.
Yeah, I interviewed that guy. He's a smart guy. Yeah, crazy. Well, I. That's my big bro. Yeah.
I thought obviously I'm not alone in thinking that was an amazing show, but it's just all the performances were deep and, you know, and I just work with Andre.
I'm friends with Andre Royo. Yeah. Oh, man. Yeah.
We just did a movie a month ago and I know I know what it is.
I mean, we stay contact that. I know exactly what we're supposed to talk about. Oh my God. For the name.
But I know too Leslie it's called it's a name go. Yeah but I can't imagine you two getting together. That would I would I would have to sit that one out and just watch just to watch you guys talk.
We've been talking about the mayhem and Sonia. Yeah. Sonya and I have been talking about the show. Sonya Song will play Kima Greggs. Oh okay. Right. Yeah. Usque with Three Musketeers and she and I, we both have full working knowledge that you must know now to Andre Royo was special. Yes. Different he hee hee hee hee hee. Far from regular. Like we all cute. Oh we all of us is cute but for Andre Royal was special and like you got to if you know him that you know I'll talk about, I got time to go into why we know this.
But you will not know why I say he's special.
He'll go there. Dre different bro. He says like you know, he says with such vernacular and such effortlessness, what most of us are thinking and it's not it's not tacky. Is that offensive? He just has this way of spitting that shit that's on all of our minds.
But none of us have the balls to say that he does it with such a freedom that you just have to be like, yeah, you just don't like what do you what do you like anyway?
He has no, he's got there's a there's a like a real kind of honest vulnerability there that he speaks from.
Perfect. Yes. Right.
And you just got to be like, what the fuck you can't you you've got to love him. You've got to love him. That's true. Love him or you hate them. But you ain't going to like like him. You ain't going to love him. What? You're going to hate him. You hate him. You got problems. You got fucking problems.
So we've been working on a project that will highlight draymen. And if I could be up with what you said, it could be really sewing. You know, we talk about that after we've got to create solve our problem because that's how much we feel. He's just he's just he's just that special to us.
Yeah. And I think also, like, you know, it's a it's a weird place for him, for him because, like, he should be in everything.
But I don't know how much is coming to him. And I don't know if he's if he if people really know how to use him, you know, because if they come on, man, you think you already know what that is.
That's about that's enough. That's a whole nother conversation that I'm not going to go down that road right now. I'm tired of waiting for. They you know, I'm at the point now where it is time for me to build build my own table, for us to build our own team. Sure.
You know, start our production company that's already done is called Your Own Productions, three o'doul three three Don't Productions. And we are housed in the Navy Yard here in Brooklyn. And yeah, that ship has sailed, you know, and this pandemic has has is humbled us and it has leveled the playing field massively. And if it's ever a time to shoot this shot, I believe it's now. Yeah. You know, yeah, you're right. They don't know what to do with it.
They barely what the fuck to do with me. So, so, so, so, you know, it's time for us to to to lift each other up.
Now, do you ever think about you ever think about theater anymore. Absolutely. Absolutely. Me and my brother, the same gentleman that introduced me to theater. Yeah. Thomas in Philadelphia, he and I was talking the other day, man, we were working on this idea about a traveling theater. Like just take it. We come with a story and and travel the idea of traveling theater and taking it to like neighborhoods that normally would not be exposed to a play, you know, and what that would look like.
Yeah. What about that? We can go back outside.
We can try to get it right back. But, you know, we don't we'd be talking about that.
It must have been interesting, like La Mama, because, like, that's some weird shit.
Sometimes I don't know what the was. I love about theater too. There's no mistakes. There's no cut and action you have it forces us to use everything. Yeah. You've got to stay in the moment. It forces me to stay in the moment. Like I remember when I first started, when I first started coming around because of my theater training, I memorized everybody's lines. In fact, I used to write I would only write my lines and not memorize them.
I would just write them down. But I would memorize your lines of actors lines because I needed to stay in that moment. And what I did with my dialog, I would tell myself, well, Mike, if I understand the world and what these what the other characters are saying, where they coming from, my lines will be common sense. They'll be logic. I don't have to remember. I remember my line. It'll come to me because it's logical.
And then if I can then once so then, you know, the intention, you know, go.
Right, they go. And this theater taught me that in theater also taught me to because it taught me to know the intention if you switched it up. Because another thing about Andre Royo, he also comes from the theater background, same the same circuit that I was running and Jay was running. And we didn't know each other at the time. Yeah, we actually did the same play and didn't know each other at the time. We get Landeros. We played three different men in her life and she was like, Marion is so.
So Dre was notorious for switch it up at the line was like, yeah, I've got to go home and walk my dog. I got to go feed my cat and you got to like, you know, you and theater taught me, no matter how many times we how many nights we do it, if I if I mess around and stop listening to you and waiting for you to shut up. So I could say by line that that leaves.
It is. I could get tripped with a acto like like like Andre who might you know, he might throw you a nugget. And if you if you're not in a position to catch it, you won't trick. It was not going ahead because you also taught me those things.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. You got to listen. Got to listen. Yes, sir. Yeah. So. So you feel better when. Now when you did the wire, were you high.
I didn't get high the whole first season of The Wire. I had wanted to make such a good impression on David and Nina and Ed. I decided smoking. We wasn't getting high, nothing. Ironically, I picked up cigarets. I said, you know, because I said, I can cigarets don't get me high. It'll it'll it'll feed my oral fixation. That's a tough one. Yeah, but I went to close rooms. Yeah. Yeah. I started there.
No. And so on the whole first year I didn't get high end and then they may be a series regular on season two. Yeah. And as we all know, season two is about the dogs. So what happened again. Adamiya became my adleman became the devil's workshop. I'm I'm in Baltimore. I'm already party and going to clubs and things of that nature. And I have all this time on my hands. I don't have the responsibility that I can't get fucked up because you got to be to work tomorrow.
They were like weeks, a week or days, chunks of time in between.
So you've got a place with Jesse and you know, and I ended up picking up in season two. But, you know, I really like the cast of The Wire. Wendell Pierce. So you, Andre, when when Seth Gilliam, Dom Lombardozzi, these men and women, men, they they would come grab me up. They never let me slip too far between the cracks. Man And we became a family. They became they became my family on season two I should say.
And that's still holds true to this day as beautiful.
And I can't there's in terms of influences to have Andre on one side and Wendell on the other. You've got the full spectrum, man. You know, you've got you've got the raw honesty and you got the thinking stuff. You know what I mean?
When the window is is like a oracle, you know, a lot of heart and a lot of heart. And he got a lot of fight in him. Don't let that don't let those reading glasses and that three piece suit for you with that necktie window will fuck you up. And he comes here. That's the New Orleans do through, went through. And I just educated and is not afraid, you know, and and like he I take he drops Jules like he he's full of wisdom, like early on in the career man window.
Set me down. Forget we're talking about places. You know what, Michael, is that this business is about the work you do, the people you meet and the relationships that you build. And I never forgot that. It kept me humble, kept me focused on what what's important about being in this this land of make believe that we that we live in. Yeah. Yeah. Kept me. Yeah. So that's that's the kind of thing that one of the but he also he'll be right beside you at the bottom of the back.
He has a lot of people when you look at him and you perceive him a certain way and oh you missed the party, you miss the party. We're looking at his suit and tie.
Yeah, I've talked to him. He's a great guy. So when you did that when you did the Boardwalk Empire, man, how do you feel about that time travel business? You go in a different time.
You know, I was talking to a good friend of mine, and he he kind of. He kind of. Hit me, pull my attention to what you just said. Yeah. Yes, the answer, first off is yes, I do. I do love going back in time. I decided to use those stories, whether it was Chalky White on Boardwalk Empire or JAG in in in Bessey upcycling four or if it was Monceau screaming and love crab country I keep there is something that my friend Gano was telling us that you might have noticed the ancestors.
Keep bringing you back, using you to tell this story, and it's not just all over the place, I'm always being axed. To go to the 1920s, the area that my father was born in, huh, and my good friend, like I say, he was talk and he was like, we do we do, you know, ah, I work with my ancestors and I acknowledge them on a daily basis. And he hit me that that just recently.
So, yes, I do. I also take that the opportunity to go back in time and tell the stories of my ancestors. I also wish that just as much with a badge of honor and a huge responsibility to me as well.
Is your your folks still around?
My father's deceased, my mom still alive, and she just made 93 this past December. He's still swinging that cane, trying to knock me out. Come here.
Knock you out of my. She live close by.
Now that we got her out of the city, out of state. We got about in New York, you know. Ninety three miles this light years in the projects, you know, she she managed to save her and let me go on record. She she bought our own house cash from that daycare, you know, and.
Yeah, man, it took some nudging because she was so comfortable with this almost 60 years of one apartment and one building and one community.
And that's New York.
Yeah, I'm Brooklyn. Right. Vanderveer. And, you know, like around seventy seven. Seventy fifth birthday man. We, we, we we took some nudging where she said that. What the hell. I'll go. So she's out of state now but she's happy but she's happy. Very happy. And you're happy. Yes I am.
And I'm grateful. You know. We already know. Yeah, I'm grateful. I ain't got nothing to complain about man. We hear.
Yeah. And you're cooking. You got Rachael Ray, right? Yeah. But Rachael Ray out of missile ready for this is what I told my mom. Have you ever met her? Yes, actually, I did.
And she interviewed me when I was doing a show called Happened Leonard.
And she said, you know, you're such a big fan. Well, after the show went off, she found out because I was not about to leave, I said I saw Rachel. I said I said I said, you know, there's you know, there's no way I'm leaving the studio without you making me a hamburger. You got you got maybe you got maybe the special Rachel Ray Burger with the the three different kinds of meats. I need that in my life.
She looked at me, she she chuckles she's like this motherfucker. Yeah. He went she went to the kitchen. There's a real kitchen on that. So yeah. That's all real. She went in the back and twenty minutes later when I had a I had authentic Rachael Ray cheeseburger, I could have died with the.
Well I'm glad that I'm glad that happened for you. All right.
Now it's good talking to you and I love the movie. I love your work. And, you know, this is like going to a meeting. I feel better.
Thank you. Same here, brother. Thank you. OK, take it easy. Yeah. That's it. That's our show. The movie is Body Brokers, and that's available now to buy or rent on on demand platforms like iTunes, prime video and more. And don't forget, friends, it's time to stop searching dozens of streaming platforms trying to find what you want to watch. Paramount Plus isn't just another streaming service. It's live sports, breaking news and a mountain of entertainment all in one place.
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