Though he was a native New Yorker, Williams endeared himself to Baltimore for his iconic performance in “The Wire.” Williams’ portrayal was a complex, celebrated take on a character who could have been reduced to a stereotype, a gay man who robbed drug dealers but adhered to a strict moral code. Little would whistle “The Farmer in the Dell” — though some believe it was “A-Hunting We Will Go,” which shares its melody — to warn potential targets of his arrival.
The Ravens shared a video of the moment when the song began, just before the players charged onto the field, and a packed crowd cheered when they recognized the whistle.
Williams considered Baltimore “a second home,” his friend Jerel Wilson told the Baltimore Sun, and he visited the city regularly when the “The Wire” stopped airing (he loved to nosh on crab cakes). The actor’s time filming in Baltimore’s neglected neighborhoods motivated him to advocate for reforms there and in other cities — in a 2008 interview with Vulture, Williams said the show depicted an “American social problem,” not just a local one.
David Simon, creator of “The Wire” and a former Baltimore Sun crime reporter, tweeted
that he “heard the sound of Omar whistling” from the stadium and “thought [he’d] lost [his] s**t.”
“It’s the little things that are gonna get me, I guess,” Simon said. “But Michael [sic] gonna last.”
Williams was also honored — albeit without an award — at Sunday’s Emmys by presenter Kerry Washington, who called him a “brilliantly talented actor and a generous human being who has left us far too soon.”
Williams, who was nominated for outstanding supporting actor in a drama for “Lovecraft Country,” lost to Tobias Menzies for “The Crown.”
The ceremony’s “In Memoriam” tribute ended with a quote from Williams: “The only way for me to say thank you is by making sure that the foundation that I am standing on is strong enough to support the next person that will stand on these two shoulders.”