December is a good month for people who love Michael K. Williams. The 48-year-old actor has supporting roles in two year-end releases: Paul Thomas Anderson's "Inherent Vice" and Rupert Wyatt's "The Gambler." His breakout performance is available, too. HBO is airing all five seasons of "The Wire" in high-definition on the network's Signature channel. "It's all about the writing," Williams, who played Omar on the acclaimed series, told HuffPost Entertainment. "I'm like a mouse to cheese when it comes to my roles. If it's on the page, I'll show up. If you want me there, I'll be there." Ahead, Williams talks about "The Gambler," working with Anderson and his dream collaborators.
You have all these great monologues in this film. What was it like reading William Monahan's script?
William's an amazing writer. I pride myself on going after the writing. Always. I love the writing. I love his style. It just has so much swagger. It wasn't just a mouthful of words. He's a wordsmith. The way he put the character together in these scenes, and the layers they had. It was really fun to play.
Your character, Neville, and Mark Wahlberg's character, Jim, have a very friendly relationship under the circumstances: Neville being a gangster to whom Jim owes money. Why do you think they get along?
The parallels that existed in their lives. They both feel they're at a crossroads. Neville was tired of the world, I believe, that he was living in. He's in a world where he can't trust anybody. People always want something from him, and are manipulating him and lying to him. And here's Jim, like a breath of fresh air, with his brutal honesty. Jim restored hope. When Neville says, "A man can change his shit," he's talking to himself as much as Jim. He's used to having to hurt people to maintain his respect in the business. But he didn't want to hurt Jim because he knew it wasn't about that. He knew Jim was on this journey and he wanted to see where this journey would end up. He didn't want to see it end bad for Jim. He wanted him to end up on top.
What was it like making "Inherent Vice"?
Joaquin Phoenix, like Mark, is a dream to work with. He's so whimsical. He's so easy going. It's really incredible. But you know Paul Thomas Anderson's process is very different from what I was used to. I come from HBO -- that's a majority of where my work lies. There, it's about time. It's about getting the shot and moving on. You go to a P.T.A. set, and he's like, "Let's sit down and talk about this." He takes his time. He's not under the constraints of the clock. Not to say that doesn't happen on HBO shows, but they're definitely mindful of the clock. We don't have the luxury of time to have a half-hour discussion of what the characters are feeling.
You're doing a new show with HBO now, but who else do you want to work with?
I consider myself a baby in this process. So there are many people I want to work with: Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, the Coen brothers, Spike Jonze ...
How have you not done a Coen brothers movie? That makes so much sense.
Hey, you know, it ain't over yet.
"The Gambler" is out now.