Michael K. Williams is a standout actor in any role he portrays, and most recently, he has been receiving much acclaim for his turn as Montrose Freeman in Misha Green’s Lovecraft Country.
Throughout the HBO series, Montrose is consistently plagued by the traumas that haunt him, even to the detriment of the group’s larger mission. Whether it’s grappling with his own personal identity or the violent childhood he has yet to process, it’s safe to say that Montrose is beyond troubled.
As The Root’s contributor Kinitra D. Brooks writes in her fascinating feature series unpacking each episode of Lovecraft Country, “Montrose’s whole narrative could be considered ‘Man, Interrupted,’ as he is a walking, gaping wound of trauma.”
In a recent interview with People Magazine, Williams spoke about the personal way he approached portraying Montrose and the many demons he wars with.
“[Montrose] comes from such a broken place,” Williams noted. “I just had to find my own pain and my own trauma, which was a very painful experience for me. All the generational pain that had been passed down through my own personal experiences, I had to dig deep down in that for Montrose.”
In the episode titled, “Rewind 1921,” the audience got a deeper look into Montrose’s childhood, particularly his survivor’s guilt as a result of his tragic experience with the Tulsa Massacre. Williams pointed out that not only does Montrose deal with the PTSD of Tulsa, but continuously relives it in the Southside of Chicago during the Jim Crow era. To be able to portray Montrose with authenticity, Williams tapped into the trauma and pain from his own upbringing.
“In that moment, I went home to the projects [where I grew up] in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, and remembered all the violence and the anger and the missed opportunities and the potential and the innocence lost and stolen,” Williams shared.
Learning of the sheer terrorism enacted by white supremacists toward the thriving Black residents in Tulsa, Williams realized the police brutality in his community was intrinsically connected.
“It was very painful. I was looking at my neighborhood, especially the murder and the death and the way police treat us...I looked at all of that and for the first time, I understood the why,” he continued. “All of that greatest that was in Tulsa, I saw that in my community. It was a really painful connection to make, but in my mind, that’s where I went to for that scene.”
In the interview, Williams also touched on Montrose’s journey toward discovering his sexual identity.
“He has issues, unresolved issues about himself that he was never allowed to explore,” Williams said.”
In the series, we get a glimpse into what it would be like if Montrose had the freedom to explore his sexuality when he had the time of his life during a drag ball in Episode 5, “Strange Case.”
“Montrose doesn’t know if he’s gay or straight or bisexual,” he added, noting that the arc is one of the many ways the series challenges limited notions of Black masculinity and fatherhood. “He was never given the opportunity to explore any of that.”
The season finale aired on Sunday, but for those who wish to dive into the series, Lovecraft Country is available to stream on HBO Max.