CS Interview: Michael K. Williams on Body Brokers, F is for Family & more
Just in time for the true crime drama’s digital debut, ComingSoon.net got the opportunity to chat with four-time Emmy nominee Michael K. Williams to discuss Body Brokers as well as his possible return to the final season of Netflix’s F is for Family and hopes for a second season of HBO’s Lovecraft Country.
ComingSoon.net: Body Brokers is a really interesting concept and it’s a field I feel is not really explored too often on film. What about the project really drew you to it?
Michael K. Williams: I was pretty taken back that this is actually based on real events. This is, in my opinion the story and the poster child of capitalism taking advantage of vulnerable people. The same mentality that we reveal in Body Brokers, to me, is the same mentality with for-profit prisons, like these institutions are meant to rehabilitate and help to correct people’s wrongs and they get exploited. It becomes more about filling the bed than actually helping people that are in those beds, it’s just kind of disheartening, in my opinion. Then there was Wood. Wood was a huge draw for me. In a lot of the films or the stories that we’ve told or that I’ve seen that deal with addicts or recovery, it’s implied that just because a person puts down the drug or alcohol that all their problems go away and that couldn’t be further from the truth. The drug is not the problem, the drug is a symptom of the problem and there’s all sorts of character defects that still exist there when the drugs are gone. To me, Wood was a perfect example of that.
CS: So what kind of research did you find yourself conducting prior to starting filming, to really get in tune with the story?
MKW: There wasn’t really much research that was needed. John Swab, in my opinion, he did all the groundwork for us. You know, for me at least, I just needed to lock in and look for the truth that was already on the page. But Wood and the capitalists, it was kind of black and white until it came time when we had to make a decision that involved Utah toward the end. Other than that, he’s pretty much black and white, man. He’s a poster child for capitalists and as far as the world was concerned, everything you see on that and every frame of that movie, John Swab had already put it on the page.
CS: What did you find were some of the biggest creative challenges for you then, getting to the heart of Wood?
MKW: I don’t know if it was anything that was hard, but I will tell you one of the more liberating scenes when he stomps that doctor out to death, when he kills that guy. That felt really liberating in that moment, I understood where that rage is coming from of being looked down upon. It felt familiar and there was also the moment when he realized that he cared. He genuinely cared about Utah, when they had that conversation in the car, you know? That’s a really beautiful moment between Wood and Utah and Jack Kilmer, man, he just brought such a vulnerability and an honesty and a strength to Utah, it was just all right there in his eyes, man. Those two moments were very liberating for me.
CS: Since you mention Jack, so much of the film really rides on the evolving chemistry that you two have with one another. What was it like for you sort of building that chemistry with Jack prior to filming?
MKW: It was effortless, he and I, I think we met on set. If you ever get to talk to him, he is effortless to, you know, I can’t really explain it, but like we say in Brooklyn, real recognize real. He’s a real young man. You know, we met on set and we actually ended up, once we worked together, then we began to hang out. It was a flow, like we hung out a little bit in Tulsa and I got to know him off the set. That happened again, like I said, after we started working, so he brings this energy to the set that you look him in his eyes and there’s nothing that needs to be said. You know where you need to go to connect because he’s all the way in it and truly, I really enjoy working with him, really enjoy it.
CS: That’s fantastic. What was it also like then building the chemistry with Frank Grillo? You two don’t have too many scenes together, but the chemistry you do have in those few scenes is really intriguing to watch.
MKW: I love the connection between — I forget Frank’s character’s name right now, but I love the dynamic because after we see Wood lose his temper and refer to his old ways, we see when he’s talking to Frank Grillo’s character, all of a sudden now the man becomes the child. You know, there was this moment when they’re talking in the parking lot and Wood is asking him what to do with the body and you could see the change in Wood’s energy, like Frank’s character became the fixer and Wood became the bright-eyed, the wide-eyed kid who needed to be told what to do. Frank brings this thing, he’s got this sinister-ness to him, but he gives you this assurance that everything’s going to be all right. He brought that vernacular, again effortless, he gave me what I needed to shift. Because we need to see a shift in Wood at that point. We didn’t have many scenes together, we really had like, I think really that one, but yeah, I needed that. What he brought to the table, I needed that for my shift, and it was a great exchange of energy, great.
CS: A lot of the shooting locations, too, in the film really interested me, it seemed like some of it was here in LA, but then some of it seemed really sort of ambiguous as to where it was. Could you tell me what shooting on some of the locations was like?
MKW: Most of the film, I think, I remember was shot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I believe that’s where John Swab is from, and that’s a really forgotten city for a multitude of reasons. The opioid epidemic ran rapid there, if you remember when one of those pharma companies had to pay off all those millions of dollars or trillions of dollars or billions, whatever, but I think Johnson & Johnson made the payout for the opioid, the epidemic, when they caught them coming and going. That money went to the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma. So you know, to see the city coming out of that and there are a lot of people hurting themselves in that city, and you can see the city trying to come back from that when we were filming. That was really humbling to see. What blew my mind, what really dropped me to my knees was actually standing on the corner of Greenwood, Archer and Pine which is where Black Wall Street was, and knowing what happened there. I don’t know if you know this, but we were filming — I filmed Body Brokers while I was on break from filming Lovecraft Country, So to have that experience of going to Tulsa to tell a story like this, like Body Brokers, in a city like Tulsa, to have the opportunity to see where the ancestors used to live and what it looks like now, I can’t really put it into words, electrifying, maybe. A lot of emotion. I want to be clear, they’re coming back. The spirit of the people is alive and you see that. They may be down, but they ain’t out. The people, the spirit of the people in Tulsa, Blacks and whites, you can see the fight in their eyes, man. That city is on the mend and I just want to make that clear. I saw that, it was very humbling to see the fight that was still in that city.
CS: That’s incredible. Since you do mention it, Lovecraft Country ended not too long ago with its first season and there’s been a lot of — personally, I’m hopeful for a second season, but we just heard word that the writers are still looking for a possible path for the future. Can you see yourself coming back for more, if they found a path for Montrose?
MKW: Yeah, you know, it’s a lot of we’ll have to wait and see. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in Hollywood, is they say to never say never. [Laughs] But yeah, you know, I could see me going back if things aligned and the paths were still aligned. You know, that show took three years to write, so I’m not expecting anything anytime soon. By the time they were ready to start casting actors, those writers have already given two and a half years of their life in the writers’ room. I could be wrong, but I think it would be very ambitious of us as an audience to expect another season right away. I could be wrong, I don’t know.
CS: Sure. I can appreciate that. For my final question, we also heard back in October that F is for Family would be coming back for one more season and I’m curious if Bill Burr has reached out to you to have you come back as Smokey for any more episodes in the final season?
MKW: [In Smokey’s Voice] Damn, they want to hear that Smokey might be coming back? I don’t know, motherfucker, I hear he might be coming back. He might, he might, he might be coming back. One mo’ time, one mo’ time. [Laughs] I heard rumors that there’s going to be another season and I do hear that.
CS: That would be awesome to see you come back in that role because that is one of my favorite side characters on that show.
MKW: I think you stand alone because that’d be one of the funniest things I’ve ever worked on that no one knows about, so I mean, that really made my day that you even know what that is because like, nobody in my house knows. [Laughs]
Written and directed by John Swab, Body Brokers is based on a true story and centers on a drug addict who is brought to Los Angeles for treatment, but soon learns the treatment center is not meant to help people but instead acts as a coverup for a fraud operation enlisting addicts to recruit other addicts.
The ensemble cast for the film includes Jack Kilmer (The Nice Guys), Williams, Jessica Rothe (Happy Death Day), Alice Englert (Them That Follow), Peter Greene (The Mask), Frank Grillo (Boss Level), Melissa Leo (I Know This Much is True) and Thomas Dekker (Miss Bala)
Body Brokers is now available on digital platforms and VOD, the first season of Lovecraft Country is available to stream on HBO Max and the first four seasons of F is for Family are available to stream on Netflix now!