Michael K. Williams: “Kill The Messenger” Star Feels “Drug Dealers Get A Bad Rap In Society”

“Kill The Messenger” may just be one of the most important films to be released in 2014.

It’s the story of a real-life investigative reporter named Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) and how this reporter at the small-time San Jose Mercury News blue the lid off the C.I.A.’s involvement in the 1980s drug epidemic.

This gripping film shows how Webb won a Pulitzer for his groundbreaking reporting, but how his reputation was smeared by the same news outlets that were once excited to have him share his story.

In the end, Webb commits suicide with two shots to his brain—that’s not spoiling anything, this film is based on real life, remember? But think about it, can a person really shoot them self twice in the head?

Michael K. Williams in “Kill The Messenger” caught up with actor Michael K. Williams, who plays the notorious drug dealer Ricky Ross in “Kill The Messenger,” at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York City and he talked about this small, yet impactful role; drug dealers in general and his work on “The Wire.”[divider]

This role is small but essential to the story.

I was taught very early on by theatre coaches that there are no small parts only small actors.  No matter how many lines you may or may not have within a script–you create a beginning, middle, and an end so I take that training into every role that I do.   I’m not at the point where I’m choosing my roles, I’m just grateful to be working consistently.  It’s the grace of God that these roles I’ve been chosen to do are people I find interesting.

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In preparing for this role, did you spend time with Rick Ross?

He lives in Los Angeles so I speak to him more than we hang out.

What insights did you get from that, or did you develop your insights into the character outside of him?

I got a lot from him. When I first read the script, and after speaking with him, I wanted to fill his character out a little more. He is the most nicest guy, mild-mannered. I spoke with the writers and the directors and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t come across in my portrayal of him as being just one-noted, because he’s not. This is a man that wanted to be a tennis player — very soft-spoken, friendly, warm, inviting. His persona that he’s known for doesn’t speak to any of that, but that’s really who he is.

Do you think the drug dealer gets a bad rap in feature films?

Yes, I actually do think the drug dealer gets a bad rap in society, last I checked, they don’t grow cocoa leaves in the hood so where is it coming from is my question? I’m not making excuses [for them] because at the end of the day we still have choices to make so I’m not doing that at all, but, if you take a man like Rick Ross who was allowed to float through the Los Angeles school system without being taught to read or write, clearly had a talent, he excelled in tennis and there were scholarships on the table… there was talk of scholarships on the table for him to become a professional tennis player.  When it was discovered that he was illiterate it [that opportunity] was all snatched away.  So you have a 17-18 year old, young black male in the inner city, the under-served communities of Los Angeles with no education, no money, and no job opportunities.  The streets around him are flooded with crack cocaine and crime.  What would you do is the real question? I think that the drug dealer gets a bad rap all across the board. I’m not making excuses for them but I feel their pain. Like Jay-Z said, “we’re selling dimes because we ain’t doin fine.”

Michael K. Williams in “Kill The Messenger”

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You’re currently on “Boardwalk Empire” and have several other major films you’re working on. You’re working a lot! Of the roles you have been blessed to have, are there any favorites?

Omar Little [from “The Wire”] will always have a special place in my heart; that was my first of many things and my first reoccurring character.  “Omar” was my break out role; personally, I did a lot of growing up on The Wire. I learned the business on that show so Omar will probably be dearest to me, like your first born child.

Speaking of “The Wire,” so many huge TV franchises like “The Wire” have continued to maintain a cult following long after they’re off TV and come back as a feature film.  Would you like to see a movie on “The Wire” get made?

Absolutely. I believe [its creator] David Simon had said if there were to be, it would have to be a prequel, which I think is interesting, going back to what we talked about earlier. It’s important to show the process of how people got to where they are. No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I’ve got it! I’m going to be a drug dealer!” or “I’m going to rob people for a living.” Everybody wants to be proud of what they do or feel good about life and feel good about themselves. People are put in positions to make certain decisions that are not healthy, for whatever reasons, and it’s important that we show that process, and that’s what I attack my characters from. I show the process of growing up in East Flatbush, Brooklyn; I [am a] witness to that. I saw the chain of events that led up to someone making bad decisions in life; I myself [did]. So if we were to do a Wire movie, the prequel I think is important. We all know what these characters are, what they were known for, how they ended up. But to show the road to what led up to that, I think, is beautiful.  [This] is what made Boardwalk Empire so special to me. We all know Lucky Luciano and Al Capone; we know them to be these infamous gangsters, but we’ve never seen them [growing up]. In “Boardwalk Empire,” we got to see a 19-year-old Al Capone, [as a] baby when he started wearing caps, and we saw him go from caps to hats, and wearing grown-man suits when he got his first suit made, and how that rise to [being infamous] came about.[divider]

If you love the media, are a conspiracy theorist, a political junkie or someone who loves history, “Kill The Messenger” is for you! This compelling feature film opens in theaters on Oct. 10.

Jeremy Renner & Michael K. Williams in “Kill The Messenger”

VIDEO: Watch the official trailer for “Kill The Messenger”

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