This past Sunday night the Baltimore Ravens took to the field against the Kansas City Chiefs, but before they did, the team made sure they honored the late Michael K. Williams, who immortalized a character that has since become a Baltimore icon.
As reported by THR, the Sunday night game marked the first time the M&T Bank Stadium enjoyed a sold out event since the 2019 season. During the pre-game ceremony, a familiar whistle played all throughout the stadium. It wasn’t the theme of the Baltimore Ravens or any other team, but the whistling of “The Farmer in the Dell.” The nursery rhyme was often whistled by Omar, played by Michael K. Williams, on the HBO crime drama The Wire. Williams passed away unexpectedly two weeks ago. While the actor was born and raised in Brooklyn, The Wire was set in Baltimore and the Ravens played the iconic whistle in Williams’s honor. You can watch part of the tribute below.
If you heard the whistle while watching The Wire, you knew it would immediately be followed by drug dealers running for their lives from Michael K. Williams’s character, often while yelling the warning “Omar coming!” Though a criminal himself, Omar only targeted the coffers of drug dealers, and quickly became a fan favorite.
In fact, among the fans of Michael K. Williams’s Omar is none other than the former President of the United States Barack Obama. In 2008, Obama told the Las Vegas Sun that his favorite TV show at the time was The Wire and that Omar was his favorite character. Obama made sure to clarify that he didn’t endorse the crimes Omar committed, but simply saw him as a “fascinating character.” Still, considering the fact that Obama said this when he was still in the process of securing the Democratic nomination for the 2008 presidential election, it was at least a little risky for him. Clearly, Michael K. Williams’s work left a deep impression.
According to THR, Williams would ultimately develop something of an ambivalent outlook on his signature character. On one hand, Michael K. Williams loved that while Omar was a gay man, he flew hard against stereotypes. He said he also identified with Omar’s existence as an outcast. Unfortunately, he said he unconsciously began hiding behind the persona of Omar — mistaking the “admiration” fans felt for his character as being for him. Because of that, he said once The Wire was over he was “clueless about how to deal with that.”
At least one of the ways Michael K. Williams learned to recover was to continue doing amazing work in equally impressive roles, earning 5 Primetime Emmy nominations before his passing. On HBO’s prohibition era crime drama Boardwalk Empire he played the fierce crime boss “Chalky” White, in The Night Of he was the charismatic but intimidating inmate Freddy Knight, and in Lovecraft Country he was Atticus’s (Jonathan Majors) father Montrose.
Michael K. Williams was found dead in his apartment on Tuesday, September 7. While no cause of death has been confirmed publicly, his passing is currently being investigated as a possible drug overdose.