Michael K. Williams portrayed one of the most iconic characters in TV history when he played Omar Little on HBO's "The Wire," a gay, shotgun-toting stick-up man who robbed from drugdealers to give to the poor.
But in an interview with The New Jersey Star-Ledger, Williams, who's currently starring as Chalky White on "Boardwalk Empire," revealed that he turned in the legendary performance while living a double-life as a cocaine addict getting high on the streets of Newark, New Jersey.
Williams says he became addicted to cocaine and marijuana in 2004, and would sneak away from his friends and family to go on days-long drug binges.
“I was playing with fire," Williams admitted. “It was just a matter of time before I got caught and my business ended up on the cover of a tabloid or I went to jail or, worse, I ended up dead. When I look back on it now, I don’t know how I didn’t end up in a body bag."
During those dark days, he went by his character's street name Omar, or O. “Eventually, I got so sick and tired of this charade. No one who was in my circle, who knew me as Mike, was allowing me to get high. I had to slip away to do drugs. I had to hide it. I’d be gone for days at a time. I was lonely in that part of my life. I was broke, broken and beat up. Exhausted. Empty. I finally said, ‘I can’t do this no more.’ I didn’t want to end up dead.”
Williams now sees the irony of living a secret life in the drug underworld while starring on "The Wire," a show that explored the same topic. “I suffered from a huge identity crisis ... But when I look at the characters, I got to exorcise my demons, a lot. In the end, I was more comfortable with Omar’s skin than my own. That was a problem."
Now clean, Williams credits the spiritual guidance of Reverend Ronald Christian of the Christian Love Church in Irvington, New Jersey with helping him to kick his habit.