Actor Michael K. Williams views ‘Lovecraft Country’ role as a ‘badge of honor’
The veteran actor from ‘The Wire’ and ‘Boardwalk Empire’ plays Montrose Freeman, the father of Atticus “Tic” Freeman, on the HBO series.
Whether it’s fatherhood or sexuality, “Lovecraft Country” actor Michael K. Williams has a vast history when it comes to taking on roles showcasing the complexity of the Black male experience in America.
He’s played a gay man on the HBO series “The Wire” and Sundance TV’s “Hap and Leonard,” the father of one of the Central Park Five/Exonerated Five in Netflix’s “When They See Us,” and a racketeer with three children in “Boardwalk Empire,” another HBO series.
Williams views his “Lovecraft Country” role as Montrose Freeman, the father of Jonathan Majors’ character Atticus “Tic” Freeman, as memorable.
“Someone in my position wants to be able to come back to the plate and tell a narrative that’s meaningful and truthful, and that will resonate in the community,” said Williams. “I wear that as a badge of honor … to have this, as a piece of art, hold [us] up to a mirror, and look at ourselves right now to analyze how we got here. We look at the timeline of the events of things that led us up to this point, unresolved issues as a nation. We get a glimpse of that hopefully. We come up with an understanding of how things got to where they are.”
Montrose and Tic have a tense relationship, and Montrose is dealing with issues from his childhood via the abuse of alcohol.
Also, the father and son struggle with what to make of the demise of Montrose’s brother, George (Courtney B, Vance), misleading George’s wife, Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis), when it comes to the circumstances surrounding his death.
“I did understand that [Montrose]was a pivotal part of this family,” Williams said, “and that his family had a lot of love — a lot of trauma and a whole lot of dysfunction that he was operating in.”
The first episode of “Lovecraft Country” was filmed in Chicago, and while Williams wasn’t part of that, the Brooklyn native has fond memories of the city. “I’ve been to Chicago many times, mostly as a background dancer, my career before I started acting,” he said. “And I did a lot of shows — Chicago house music, mainly.”
As “Lovecraft Country” viewers continue to revel in the themes discussed in the first three episodes, Williams believes the show tells the true story of Black America amid social unrest, while inspiring viewers to look past headlines and further into systemic issues.
He says the timing of the series during America’s reckoning with social justice issues couldn’t be more perfect.
“For me, it was never about the looting; it was about systemic poverty and the inequality that exists that led us to this point,” said Williams. “At this time, we meet the Freemans. They already survived the massacre in Tulsa and they moved to Chicago; they’re doing this during Jim Crow — an accurate chronological timeline on the migration of our community. During those times, that could be a family that actually did that.”