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How did Michael Williams get his scar? Life changing incident led to 'The Wire' role

For years, fans have theorized how Williams ended up with his facial scar, and it's about as scary as you'd expect, the actor admitted in 2014
Michael K. Williams attends HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" Season Five Premiere at Ziegfeld Theatre on September 3, 2014, in New York City (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
Michael K. Williams attends HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" Season Five Premiere at Ziegfeld Theatre on September 3, 2014, in New York City (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

Following the passing of Michael K Williams, friends and fans have taken to social media to mourn the beloved 'The Wire' actor. Williams quickly rose to fame for his role as Omar Little in the show, but that casting nearly didn't happen. Back in 2018, Ed Burns, the co-creator of the show acknowledged there was only one reason for Williams to land the role - his rather visible face scar. In fact, Williams has credited the scar for changing his life, as this story will explore.

Before the scar, and his fame thanks to 'The Wire' though, Williams was a struggling backup dancer, as we have reported. However, he soon became a household name, even getting a shoutout from former President Barack Obama for his role of Little. Unfortunately, though, Williams' promising career came to an end on September 6, after he died from a reported drug overdose. Williams' death comes just days after comedian Fuquan Johnson also died from a drug overdose in Los Angeles. 


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Since 'The Wire', Williams has gone on to appear in some of TV's biggest hits, from 'Boardwalk Empire', to 'The Sopranos', 'Law & Oder', and films like 'Django Unchained' and 'The Red Sea Diving Resort'. Well before 'The Wire', Williams had a presence both on the big screen and small, but it was the 'The Wire' that really changed the game for his career. And that wouldn't have happened without his famous scar, as Burns admitted.

Michael K. Williams poses for the 2021 Critics Choice Awards on March 07, 2021, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)


The scar that changed William's life

For those of you who are fans of Williams' work, it's hard to miss the large scar across his face. The actor himself acknowledges it's not a pleasant sight. "How many people walk around with a scar in the middle of their face? It’s a very odd thing to see. When you really think about it, on my face, you know?" he told Crime Reads. But, that was exactly what got Burns to sit up and take notice of Williams.

"We picked Omar, primarily, because of the scar," Burns said in the same interview. The rest, as they say, is history. But even before landing the role of Omar Little, the scar had fundamentally changed William's life. "Things changed immediately after that. Directors didn’t want me just to dance in the videos anymore," he said in a 2014 interview with NPR. "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"," he added. 

In 1996, Williams landed the role of High Top in the Tupac Shakur-starring 'Bullet'. That too, he credits to his scar. Tupac Shakur "happened to see a Polaroid picture of me and was like, "Yo, this dude looks thugged out enough that he could play my little brother"," Williams admitted. Bullet let to roles in 'Law and Order' and 'The Sopranos', before his rise to fame as Omar Little. But have you wondered just how he got the scar?

Michael K. Williams attends Netflix's FYSEE event for "When They See Us" at Netflix FYSEE at Raleigh Studios on June 09, 2019, in Los Angeles, California. ( David Livingston/Getty Images)

How did Williams get his scar?

In the same 2014 NPR interview, Williams revealed the rather scary story behind his unique facial feature. On his 25th birthday, Williams was at a party in Queens with some friends when he decided to exit the bar for some air. "I saw that two of my other friends were being surrounded by some dudes who I didn't know," he recounted. Williams tried to get his friends out of the situation, but it didn't go to plan.

"This one dude kept pacing behind me. He kept walking behind me. He kept like, you know, like sucking his teeth, and I'm looking - I'm like "yo - so what's up dude? Yo bro, what's your problem?" he said. The next thing he knew, "the dude wiped his hand across his mouth - what I thought appeared to be - smacked me, but what he did was he spit a razor." Williams said the man put the razor between his ring and middle finger, and then "swiped me down my face."

Luckily, no serious harm appeared to be done - apart from the mark. Williams and his friends made it out alive with their lives, and Williams got a scar that changed his destiny. Since 'The Wire', he's gone on to appear in films like 'Assassin's Creed', 'The Purge: Anarchy', and '12 Years As A Slave', as well as TV shows like 'Lovecraft Country', and 'Community'. Had it not been for his untimely death, he would have perhaps appeared in many, many more TV shows and films.