Interview With Michael K. Williams
Chalky's troubles began early this season. Was Dunn Purnsley just waiting for his chance?
Dunn never really got over what went down in the jail. I think he was always waiting in the wings for his opportunity to pounce. When Narcisse came to town, that was his chance.
What does it mean for Chalky to call him Sweetback?
It means you're really good with the ladies. But Dunn being so good with the ladies is what got us into this trouble. So it's definitely a dig at him, a real backhanded compliment.
After Episode 408, when Dunn goes after Chalky, you retweeted a comment with an Omar Little reference: "You come at the King (of the Onyx club), you best not miss."
I had to retweet that!
Having come at him twice—and missed—Erik LaRay Harvey [Dunn Purnsley] thinks Chalky has an angel over his shoulder. Do you agree?
Chalky definitely has a survivor instinct. He loves and he can be with people, but by the same token, he is always watching to see where things are going. This is a man that watched his father hang from a tree. He grew up not trusting anybody.
This past Sunday, Chalky escaped death again. How do the two scenes—Dunn's attack and the ambush in the car—compare for you?
They both were physically demanding, but there was something very subtle about the scene in the car. The fact that Chalky choked this white man who was trying to kill him, with the American flag—I thought was just insane. In 1924, you have a a black man choking a white man to death with the flag.
And he kills the other deputy by turning his own gun on him.
It's a dose of your own medicine, if you will. Those subtle things speak to the history of what my ancestors have gone through.
Chalky and Narcisse are at each other's throats the moment Narcisse arrives in town. What is it about Narcisse that upsets Chalky so much?
The fact that they would not see eye to eye was very likely. And that Dunn did something to mess up the business didn't help matters at all. Narcisse and Chalky are dealing with something that really plagues the black community: It's the house negro and field negro. It's the light skin vs. the dark skin. It's the academically educated vs. the street educated. Those are things that plague the black community to this day and the writers wrote to that.
So when Chalky attacks the UNIA office, is he taking the fight to the streets?
Chalky's just making a statement anyway he can: "Not in my house. You are not going to disrespect me in my house. Take that shit somewhere else."
Does Narcisse get any credit for bringing Daughter Maitland to Atlantic City?
That's the first time we see Chalky slip. Does Chalky really think Narcisse brought this girl to the club to get him off his A-game? Maybe he does -- he tries to resist it at first. But Daughter is this gorgeous woman; she's everything his wife isn't. She's sophisticated, she's talented. She's New York. Daughter has this fire that he's drawn to. He tries to fight it at first, but eventually he falls prey.
Chalky is really at his most vulnerable when he's listening to Daughter sing.
Those scenes with Margot [Bingham] when she's singing, that's strictly instinct and emotion. Her voice resonates with me; it opens up my chakras. I don't have to work at it at all. When we were doing the funeral scene for the deacon, we had a rehearsal. I looked at the church and I looked at the people, and she's singing "The Old Ship of Zion." It looked too real. She transported me to when I buried my father. Her voice soothed me so much. It opened my heart up and I got full. I had to leave the rehearsal because I got emotional.
Daughter rides out of town with Chalky. Is he looking for a future with her?
Chalky's not sure what he's looking for. He knows this is not real, it can't last, but he can't stop it. He's in too deep. You can't help who you fall in love with.
Before everything went down, Maybelle told Chalky he's the man he's warned her about. What does it mean to hear his daughter say that?
It hurts him. Out of Chalky's three children, Maybelle is probably most like him. She has his spunk and his fire, so when he looks at her, he sees himself. And she's daddy's little girl. To see the disappointment, the hurt, in her eyes, to know he had something to do with that, it breaks his heart.
One alliance we can be sure of is the one between Chalky and Richard Harrow, as we saw in the alley behind the Onyx Club.
That's a very poignant scene. The guys from the club, they pull the race card on Richard. And Chalky says, it's not a black or white thing. When you find a man that's honest, that will go to bat for you, you respect him. It's not a white or black thing, it's a man to man thing. Chalky and Harrow definitely respect each other as powerful men in their own right.
Meanwhile, Chalky's relationship with Nucky keeps shifting. What does he mean when he talks about push coming to shove?
Chalky wants Narcisse out of his life, permanently. Whether it's by train or the gun. Chalky knows enough to know that Narcisse is trouble and he can never be trusted.
Will Nucky step up?
We shall see.