Michael Kenneth Williams
Michael Kenneth Williams
as Ken Jones

Actor Biography

Michael Kenneth Williams is one of this generation's most respected and acclaimed actors. By bringing complicated and charismatic characters to life—often with surprising tenderness—Williams has established himself as a gifted and versatile performer with a unique ability to mesmerize audiences with his stunning character portrayals.

Williams is best known for his remarkable work on "The Wire," which ran for five seasons on HBO. The wit and humor that Williams brought to Omar, the whistle-happy, profanity-averse, drug dealer-robbing stickup man, earned him high praise and made Omar one of television's most memorable characters.

Williams co-starred in HBO's critically acclaimed series "Boardwalk Empire," which premiered in 2010. In the Martin Scorsese and Terence Winter produced show, Williams played Chalky White, a 1920s bootlegger and the impeccably suited, veritable mayor of the Atlantic City's African-American community. In 2012, "Boardwalk Empire" won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.

Most recently, Michael was seen playing the lead role of Rock Banyon in the IFC mini-series "The Spoils Before Dying," alongside Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph, and in the HBO limited series "Crime," written and directed by Steve Zallian, playing opposite John Turturro and Riz Ahmed.

Michael can currently be seen playing the role of Leonard in the Sundance Channel series "Hap & Leonard," opposite James Purefoy and Christina Hendricks, created by Jim Mickle, based upon the novels by Joe R. Lansdale. The six-part returning series premiered to record-breaking ratings for the network and rave reviews from critics and viewers

Williams made his feature film debut in the urban drama "Bullet," after being discovered by the late Tupac Shakur. He also appeared in "Bringing Out the Dead," which was directed by Martin Scorsese. His other film work includes roles in "The Road," "Gone Baby Gone," "Life During Wartime," "Brooklyn's Finest," "Wonderful World" and "Snitch," opposite Dwayne Johnson and Susan Sarandon.

Michael was seen in Jose Padilha's remake of "Robocop," starring with Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman and Michael Keaton, and in a supporting role in the Oscar-winning Steve McQueen film "12 Years A Slave," with Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt. He appeared in "The Purge: Anarchy," the successful sequel to the boxoffice-booming "The Purge," as the revolutionary leader Carmelo Johns.

In 2014, Williams filmed "Captive," opposite Kate Mara and David Oyelowo, and "Kill The Messenger," opposite Jeremy Renner, as well as Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film, "Inherent Vice." He also found time to reunite with director John Hillcoat in "Triple 9," with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Woody Harrelson, and Anthony Mackie, and appear in the Sundance film "THE LAND." Williams also starred opposite Mark Wahlberg and John Goodman in Paramount's remake of "The Gambler" and in the HBO Films movie "Bessie," opposite Queen Latifah, for which he garnered an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Williams recently wrapped the Paul Feig directed "Ghostbusters" reboot, opposite Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Chris Hemsworth; and New Regency's "Assassin's Creed," opposite Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. "Assassin's Creed," which is based on the popular video game, is directed by Justin Kurzel.

Giving back to the community plays an important role in Williams' off-camera life. He is working to launch Making Kids Win, a charitable organization whose primary objective is to build community centers in urban neighborhoods that are in need of safe spaces for children to learn and play. Michael currently serves as the ACLU's ambassador of Smart Justice.

Michael will also executive produce and serve as the investigative journalist for "Black Market," a documentary program that exposes and comments on illegal markets throughout the world with a focus on the people involved and connecting with them on a human level.  "Black Market" will be a flagship show for the newly launched network from Vice, VICELAND.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Williams began his career as a performer by dancing professionally at age 22. After numerous appearances in music videos and as a background dancer on concert tours for Madonna and George Michael, Williams decided to seriously pursue acting. He participated in several productions of the La MaMA Experimental Theatre, the prestigious National Black Theatre Company and the Theater for a New Generation, directed by Mel Williams.