The death of The Wire actor Michael K Williams has film industry professionals questioning how it handles addiction and trauma.
The actor — whose death of a suspected heroin overdose rocked the industry to its core — was very public about his struggles. In addition to recently sharing how the COVID-19 pandemic threatened his sobriety, Michael K Williams told Men’s Health that his role on Lovecraft Country was the hardest of his career.
“Lovecraft just kicked the door off the hinges,” he said, adding that the role “awoke generational trauma.”
That prompted two film industry professionals to take to Twitter and question how well the industry handles actors’ pain and trauma — especially in the case of Black actors, who are given far less leeway than their white counterparts.
“I don’t like that [the] show didn’t give MKW [Michael K Williams] aftercare even after he made it so clear working on it broke him and he relapsed,” said TV writer Ashley Ray.
“An actor’s trauma should NEVER be a form of entertainment,” agreed film producer Bettinna J. “It’s dangerous. It really screws with your head. Acting is work. When I’m directing actors, I don’t want them to be in an emotional state recalling things they haven’t settled in therapy. The set and stage is for work.”
While, ultimately, it is the responsibility of the addict to remain clean and sober, one can’t help but wonder if Michael K Williams would still be with us if his cries for help were taken seriously by those in charge. At the very least, he deserved to have a sober sponsor to talk him through his trauma and relapse. And the world at large is a whole lot less bright without him in it.