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One of the producers behind Vice TV’s Black Market With Michael K. Williams is talking about their final conversation with the show’s star and executive producer, and why the series tapped his longtime friends to narrate for season two following the actor’s death at 54.
The series’ second season, which premiered on Jan. 10 and explores issues like online scams and illegal cannabis markets, was still filming when the Boardwalk Empire and Lovecraft Country star passed away on Sept. 6 in what was reported on Sept. 24 to be an accidental drug overdose. At the time, principal photography had been completed on Black Market but the narration and on-camera commentary had only been finished by the late star for three out of the season’s six episodes.
To help finish out the season, the series called up several of Williams’ friends: comedian Tracy Morgan, fellow The Wire star Felicia Pearson and longtime friend and fellow actor Rosie Perez. All three narrated the rest of the episodes without payment, per the New York Times, with the production making donations to charitable organizations of the stars’ choosing.
While speaking about her decision to pick up where Williams had left off, Perez said in an email to the Times that she initially didn’t support Williams’ decision to do the show. For The Wire star, it was a chance to highlight how criminal industries are fueled by human desperation and systemic inequity. But Perez worried about how — in spite of her own understanding of desperation’s relationship to poverty — the show might present theft as a way of life.
In his response, Perez says Williams told her, “‘I’m just trying to understand and trying not to judge desperate people’s desperate behavior. All I ask of you is to just watch and do the same.'”
Black Market producer Greg Cally — who first met Williams while he was a locker attendant at Madison Square Garden and stepped in when the actor was questioned by security while accessing the VIP area — also recalled to the outlet one of the last conversations he had with the host and EP.
While in Williams’ Brooklyn penthouse apartment, Cally said that the beloved actor who was appreciated in and outside the industry for his vulnerable honesty and support fellow talent, was looking to have more creative control in his future career endeavors. Their conversation was just days before he was found dead.
“He kept talking about how he wanted to be like a Berry Gordy in film,” Cally said. “And he wanted to just discover Black talents and give them an opportunity.”
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