TAK­ING FATHERS FUR­THER

On ‘Love­craft Coun­try,’ Michael K. Wil­liams plays his lat­est com­plex dad

Chicago Sun-Times - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - BY EVAN F. MOORE, STAFF RE­PORTER emoore@sun­times.com | @evanF­moore

Whether it’s fa­ther­hood or sex­u­al­ity, “Love­craft Coun­try” ac­tor Michael K. Wil­liams has a vast his­tory when it comes to tak­ing on roles show­cas­ing the com­plex­ity of the Black male ex­pe­ri­ence in Amer­ica.

He’s played a gay man on the HBO series “The Wire” and Sun­dance TV’s “Hap and Leonard,” the fa­ther of one of the Cen­tral Park Five/Ex­on­er­ated Five in Net­flix’s “When They See Us,” and a rack­e­teer with three chil­dren in “Board­walk Em­pire,” an­other HBO series.

Wil­liams views his “Love­craft Coun­try” role as Mon­trose Free­man, the fa­ther of Jonathan Ma­jors’ char­ac­ter At­ti­cus “Tic” Free­man, as mem­o­rable.

“Some­one in my po­si­tion wants to be able to come back to the plate and tell a nar­ra­tive that’s mean­ing­ful and truth­ful, and that will res­onate in the com­mu­nity,” said Wil­liams. “I wear that as a badge of honor … to have this, as a piece of art, hold [us] up to a mir­ror, and look at our­selves right now to an­a­lyze how we got here. We look at the time­line of the events of things that led us up to this point, un­re­solved is­sues as a na­tion. We get a glimpse of that hope­fully. We come up with an un­der­stand­ing of how things got to where they are.”

Mon­trose and Tic have a tense re­la­tion­ship, and Mon­trose is deal­ing with is­sues from his child­hood via the abuse of al­co­hol.

Also, the fa­ther and son strug­gle with what to make of the demise of Mon­trose’s brother, Ge­orge (Courtney B. Vance), mis­lead­ing Ge­orge’s wife, Hip­polyta (Aun­janue El­lis), when it comes to the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing his death.

“I did un­der­stand that [Mon­trose] was a piv­otal part of this fam­ily,” Wil­liams said, “and that his fam­ily had a lot of love — a lot of trauma and a whole lot of dys­func­tion that he was op­er­at­ing in.”

The first episode of “Love­craft Coun­try” was filmed in Chicago, and while Wil­liams wasn’t part of that, the Brook­lyn na­tive has fond mem­o­ries of the city. “I’ve been to Chicago many times, mostly as a back­ground dancer, my ca­reer be­fore I started act­ing,” he said. “And I did a lot of shows — Chicago house mu­sic, mainly.”

As “Love­craft Coun­try” view­ers con­tinue to revel in the themes dis­cussed in the first three episodes, Wil­liams be­lieves the show tells the true story of Black Amer­ica amid so­cial un­rest, while in­spir­ing view­ers to look past head­lines and fur­ther into sys­temic is­sues.

He says the tim­ing of the series dur­ing Amer­ica’s reck­on­ing with so­cial jus­tice is­sues couldn’t be more per­fect.

“For me, it was never about the loot­ing; it was about sys­temic poverty and the in­equal­ity that ex­ists that led us to this point,” said Wil­liams. “At this time, we meet the Free­mans. They al­ready sur­vived the mas­sacre in Tulsa and they moved to Chicago; they’re do­ing this dur­ing Jim Crow — an ac­cu­rate chrono­log­i­cal time­line on the mi­gra­tion of our com­mu­nity. Dur­ing those times, that could be a fam­ily that ac­tu­ally did that.”

HBO

“Love­craft Coun­try” ac­tor Michael K. Wil­liams be­lieves the HBO series tells the true story of Black Amer­ica amid so­cial un­rest.

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