Karu F. Daniels
Actor Michael K. Williams has become a bestselling author, a year after his shocking death.
The Brooklyn-born star of “The Wire” and “Boardwalk Empire” died Sept. 6, 2021, at age 54.
Her autobiography, titled “Scenes from My Life,” was nearing completion when Williams suffered a fatal overdose of fentanyl, heroin and cocaine.
The 18-chapter tome, co-written by Jon Sternfeld, was released on August 23 and immediately became a bestseller. The book offers unflinching details of Williams’ childhood trauma, his battles with drug addiction, and an acclaimed career that exceeded his own expectations.
Although Williams has built a cult-like fanbase by appearing in projects touching on civil injustice, homosexuality, domestic violence and slavery, her own journey and inner struggles have remained private.
“It was part of his act,” Sternfeld told the Daily News. “He didn’t want people to know, because he thought it was like a weakness on his part.”
Sternfeld, who co-wrote books with the senses. Tom Daschle and Trent Lott, and exonerated attorney Isaac Wright, Jr., were first approached to write a book with Williams centered on his juvenile criminal justice work.
“When I first met him it was all about this work… over time it became clear that his personal story had to play a part in the book, but he was far too humble,” said said Sternfeld. “Mike was like, ‘I don’t want to write one of those books where it’s like, ‘Look, I did it, you can do it too.'”
After being convinced that sharing her story would serve readers in a positive way, Williams agreed to open up.
“If Mike thought anything could help people, he was all for it,” Sternfeld said.
Parts of “Scenes From My Life” are brutally honest, especially the memories of Williams’ complicated relationship with his mother, who died in July at age 94, the violent attack that led to the 5-inch scar on his face and its addiction to crack.
“I think Mike wanted to share his story, but he was so trained in calming the pain that even though he had come to this mature place, there was still a little voice in his head saying, ‘Don’t let people see this .’ And he had to struggle with that,” the author said.
“He shared stuff with me and I would even say, ‘Are you sure you want that in the book? You know, thousands of people are going to read this… And he’d be like, ‘I don’t have the freedom to leave that stuff.”
Throughout the nearly three-year process of working with Williams, Sternfeld had to be available at all times to speak with the busy actor. The experience led to its own epiphany.
“Being kind of part of Mike’s legacy, which was accidental, has been a big responsibility. And it makes me feel the power of the books in a way that I’ve never felt before,” said the a former New Rochelle high school teacher and alumnus of Emory University, who describes himself as a suburban white Jewish kid and a “huge fan” of the actor.
“After writing Mike’s book with him, I can’t go back to a more direct ‘it’s just a job’ mentality,” he said.