We lost one of my (and tons of other people’s) favorite actors in Michael K Williams last week. Right after the 30-minute mark in this Fresh Air interview, he has a beautiful statement about how feeling good starts within. Whatever we’re struggling with, this matters.
Williams explained how he never felt like he had the power or confidence his character Omar on The Wire had. He was scared when people saw him in the role on TV they’d say, “Mike?! He’s nothing like THAT!”
Going into the show he struggled hard with impostor syndrome over playing a fictitious character he was impersonating. Think on that for a second (!).
Williams had to figure out how to connect with the character. He found his commonality in Omar’s anger and emotions. The difference he uncovered was how despite feeling and experiencing many of the same things, Omar took his anger out on others, while Williams took his anger out on himself.
And so an iconic character was born. But he still felt like crap. All of the success that followed, and Williams still ended up addicted to drugs and struggling to survive. He still was taking it out on himself.
He told Terry Gross when she asked him about it,
See, that’s the trick… it can’t be anything outward that makes you feel good about yourself. That is the trick. Those things don’t work. Feeling good? That’s gotta come from the inside out, not the outside in.
We can learn to play the part, but until we learn to do the work towards whatever truly frees us and makes us happy, we will still be stuck. We don’t have to Omar on the outside OR Michael K. Williams on the inside. We’ve got to find our balance.
Williams bit the hook. He died of a suspected drug overdose. He saw how to break out, knew what it would take, but couldn’t get himself there.
It’s a loss. A tragic one at that. Hopefully, it’s one to learn something from too. Besides his body of work he left interviews like this behind too. Purpose has to come from the inside out. It can be nurtured and expanded from the outside in, but it has to start from the inside out. Every time.
Ps. Omar. Damn. Still…