In memoriam: Michael K. Williams in his last photo shoot with us, just three weeks ago

Michael K. Williams, sporting necklaces, stares at the camera
Acclaimed actor Michael K. Williams, photographed on Aug. 16 at his home in Brooklyn.
(Jesse Dittmar/For The Times)
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News of Michael K. Williams’ death Monday shocked and devastated not only his fans but also journalists who had the privilege to cover the actor during his acclaimed career. The beloved star of “The Wire” and “Boardwalk Empire” had recently spoken with Times reporter Michael Ordoña about a supporting actor Emmy nomination for “Lovecraft Country.”

Michael K. Williams, with a bright silver chain around his neck and a hand on his head.
Michael K. Williams, at home in Brooklyn last month.
(Jesse Dittmar/For The Times)

After four previous nominations but no win, he was a favorite heading into the Sept. 19 ceremony — long overdue recognition finally within reach. It seemed almost unfathomable that Williams’ previous Emmy nods (for “When They See Us,” “Vice,” “The Night Of” and “Bessie”) didn’t include his unforgettable turn as Omar Little on “The Wire.”

Michael K. Williams, known for “The Wire” and “Boardwalk Empire,” was a sentimental Emmy favorite for his work on HBO’s “Lovecraft Country.”

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Jesse Dittmar photographed Williams for that Times article at the actor’s Brooklyn home just three weeks ago. The pictures capture how Williams could convey so much with a simple tilt of the head, a gesture of the hand or a deep, persistent gaze — painful reminders that we’ve lost one of the great ensemble actors of our time.

We’re sharing some of those photos here as a tribute to his talent and also his graciousness. For journalists covering Hollywood, subjects who are collegial, who are thoughtful, who really want to answer questions fully can be all too rare.

‘The Wire’ and ‘Boardwalk Empire’ star acknowledged the pain he brought to his roles. But in his work he also found a respite.

Michael K. Williams, photographed shirtless, in partial profile, looking directly at the camera.
Michael K. Williams, photographed last month for The Times’ Envelope awards section.
(Jesse Dittmar/For The Times)
Michael K. Williams photographed on the roof of his apartment building, with Brooklyn unfurled behind him.
Michael K. Williams on the roof of his apartment building.
(Jesse Dittmar / For The Times)

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Michael K. Williams with his hands framing his face.
Another frame from The Times’ Aug. 16 shoot.
(Jesse Dittmar / For The Times)

In a part of the interview that went unpublished until now, Ordoña asked Williams about the scariest scene in “Lovecraft Country” to shoot. The actor answered with his usual forthrightness and fullness: the scene in which a Black family is confronted by white police and told to get out of the county by sundown.

“That was so frightening to me because there’s something in my DNA that knows that experience,” Williams said.

The actor’s character, Montrose, suffered his own traumas before inflicting them on his son.

Later, in a move familiar to those who knew him, the actor turned a difficult experience into something to appreciate. “That relationship with American history and racism in this country is the true monster that my people face every day,” he said. “I was really grateful that the show was able to unpack that.”

Michael K. Williams, perched over the back of a red chair.
Williams: fearsome on screen, uncommonly gracious off.
(Jesse Dittmar / For The Times)
Michael K. Williams with his eyes closed and his hands clasped against his head.
Michael K. Williams, rest in peace
(Jesse Dittmar / For The Times)

Would Michael K. Williams’ characters be as memorable without his trademark scar? Maybe, but the late actor might not have gotten the chance to play them.

‘The Wire’ star Wendell Pierce and others penned heartfelt tributes to Michael K. Williams after the beloved actor was found dead Monday.

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