Michael Kenneth Williams Talks Boardwalk Empire
Created by Terence Winter (The Sopranos) and featuring a pilot episode directed by co-executive producer Martin Scorsese, the upcoming series Boardwalk Empire looks set to be another jewel in HBO’s television crown.
Set in Atlantic City, New Jersey at the dawn of Prohibition (when the sale of alcohol became illegal throughout the U.S.), the show is based on Nelson Johnson‘s book Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City. Known as “The World’s Playground” thanks to its large hotels, amusement piers, beach resorts and nightclubs, 1920s A.C. is portrayed as a getaway for working men, street hustlers and powerful entrepreneurs alike. Boardwalk Empire‘s storyline revolves around Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, the town Treasurer (expertly played by Steve Buscemi) described as “equal parts politician and gangster, and equally comfortable in either role.”
Best known for his incredible role as Omar Little in The Wire, Boardwalk Empire sees Michael Kenneth Williams (pictured above) play Chalky White, unofficial leader of Atlantic City’s black community. We caught up with Williams recently for a quick chat about the show.
Boardwalk Empire is set in Atlantic City during the Prohibition era. Did you know much about the period before you got involved with the show?
“No, I didn’t know too much about the Prohibition era prior to me becoming involved with the show.”
What was your audition process like for this series?
“I received the audition information while I was in Capetown, South Africa. I put myself on tape and sent it through the internet.”
You play Chalky White, the “de facto mayor of Chickenbone Beach.” What exactly can we expect from your character?
“My role of Chalky White is a significant character on the show. Many people in the 1920s didn’t expect black men to stand up; it wasn’t the norm. They weren’t allowed to. My character shows differently.”
Martin Scorsese directed the pilot episode and has continued to be involved in the series. How would you describe working with him?
“Working with Martin Scorsese is a blessing! I highly respect him and his work.”
The Baltimore City Paper once said your character of Omar Little in The Wire was “arguably the show’s single greatest achievement.” Do you think Omar will always overshadow your other roles?
“My role as Omar Little was my breakout character. I can’t predict what will happen in the future. But I’m confident I will do more great things.”
Boardwalk Empire premieres on HBO on September 19.
Watch the official trailer: