One of those film roles, in the Baltimore-based indie "Learning Uncle Vernon," brought him back to the city where he spent five seasons.

"I've been back several times since 'The Wire' ended — some for work and some just for fun," he says. "I have friends there from 'The Wire,' and I love that city."

One of those Baltimore friends is Felicia "Snoop" Pearson, whom Williams met in a local nightclub and introduced to the producers of "The Wire." That introduction opened the door for Pearson to play an equally chilling and memorable villain on the series.

In August, Pearson pleaded guilty to distribution of heroin and was sentenced to seven years in prison with all but the five months she had already served suspended. She told The Baltimore Sun she was moving to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.

"That situation with Snoop to me was just a big misunderstanding," Williams says. "It's unfortunate that she got caught up in the wrong situation. But it was a wake-up call for her that you have to change the surroundings sometimes."

Williams says he knows what she is going through.

"She had been given a second lease on life coming out of prison, much as we all have coming from the 'hood and being thrust into this world of entertainment, being able to make good money and put out good work and do something that we love to do," he says.

"That's a second lease on life that I definitely can relate to. And I had to learn this lesson myself: When you get that second lease on life, you have to remove yourself from those old things. You cannot continue to do the same things that you were doing before. I'm not saying you can't have love for your old people, but a new life won't grow from the old soil. I know."

Williams says he's "happy" that Snoop has decided "to take a chance on herself and go out to L.A. and roll her dice."

As he sees it, "She has nothing to lose and everything to win. So my dollar's on her. I think she's going to be all right."

And that's from a man who's feeling lucky these days.

david.zurawik@baltsun.com

twitter.com/davidzurawik



On TV



"Boardwalk Empire" airs at 9 p.m. Sunday on HBO.

"Community" airs at 8 p.m. Thursday on WBAL-TV (Channel 11).