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Williams saw versions of himself and many of his friends, in all their complexities and inner conflicts.
Though he lives in Williamsburg now, he goes back every few months to visit Vanderveer, a collection of red-brick buildings that stretches across 30 acres along Foster Avenue in the middle of Brooklyn.
Williams’s childhood was often a landscape of drugs and violence.
As he rode down the avenue, nearly every corner conjured a grisly memory.
Standing on the roof of the Vanderveer Estates, the man walked him through the particulars of firearms by spraying a hail of pellets into a steel door.“Best acting lesson I ever had,” Mr. Time and again, his work has returned to the complicated intersection of race, masculinity, crime and institutional failure. Even today, when a film like “Moonlight” wins the Oscar for best picture, typecasting is still woefully commonplace, and black actors are still forced into one-dimensional roles. Williams has made a mission of depicting his community in all of its nuance and variety.
After Omar, he was Chalky White, an Atlantic City bootlegger in “Boardwalk Empire” who reminded Mr. Emmy nominations will be announced within a couple of weeks, but after years of snubs he is no longer counting on industry approval.
His nimble moves even landed him some work as a part-time backup dancer.