Actor Williams thrives in out-of-the-ordinary roles
LOS ANGELES — Nearing the end of the interview — with some last-minute fact-checking points to go through — Gary Anthony Williams wants to set the record straight.
“Oh, and by the way, I am not Dick Anthony Williams’ son,” he says, referring to the “Black Picture Show” star. “Could you clear that up for me on the Internet?”
He’s talking about his profile on a popular online database, which notes other things he’d like corrected: His mother is not the late actress Gloria Edwards — his mom still lives in Fayetteville, where he was raised — and his birthday is in March, not April.
“At one point, I was 10 years younger than I am,” Williams says, “A friend called me, angry, ‘I’m changing my age on my resume if you can pretend that you’re 30!’”
Sitting in a lobby of Salami Studios in North Hollywood, the 41-year-old improv actor is good-humored and more soft-spoken than the razor-tongued Uncle Ruckus he voices on “The Boondocks,” Aaron McGruder’s adaptation of his edgy comic strip set in the suburbs. It airs Mondays (11:30 p.m. EST) on Cartoon Network’s late-night Adult Swim lineup.
Williams is chatty as he waits for his turn in the recording booth.
“Any time I hear big stars talk about how tough voiceover is, I want to punch them in the throat,” he says, with a hint of Ruckus. Then, enthusiastically: “It’s one of the easiest jobs in acting. You just stand behind the microphone and read what’s on the page and you bring that to life.”
Once in the booth, Williams makes it look effortless. Without missing a beat — well, almost — he runs through his lines for Uncle Ruckus, the bitter old black man who hates black people. For Williams, he draws from familiar territory.
“I just pull from all the people that used to stop by and talk to my daddy when I was little,” Williams says of his “deep South” Georgian roots. “Some of those guys, the stuff coming out of their mouths was ridiculous, but I loved to listen to those old dudes just talk crap.”
On the show, much of that talk includes the n-word. Williams knows it makes people uncomfortable, and he won’t use the word himself, “but I’ll gladly get paid for it,” he laughs, noting the series’ hip-hop leanings.
“The show won a Peabody, and there’s a reason for that. It does have something to say,” he says.
Ironically, the show’s most despicable character has become the series’ breakout star.
“Nobody’s standing around applauding what Uncle Ruckus says … people just want to hit him in the head,” laughs Williams, who has recorded a selection of Uncle Ruckus Christmas songs available next month on iTunes. Among those holiday favorites: “All I Want for Christmas is Some Pretty White Skin” and “Christmas is for Children, Especially if They Are White.”
But what Williams brings to Ruckus is more than just a fantastically craggy voice.
“There’s something very unique about Gary that Hollywood is going to start figuring out — he’s a special talent in the way you think about people like Ricky Gervais (‘Extras,’ ‘The Office’),” says McGruder.
It’s a sentiment shared by “Boston Legal” executive producer Bill D’Elia, who cast Williams last season as Clarence and Clarice, the painfully shy, cross-dressing attorney on the ABC Tuesday-night series (10 p.m. EST).
It was only to have been a one-episode gig, D’Elia says, “but it was abundantly clear that Gary had a reserve of talent that we only scratch in asking him to play this role,” says D’Elia, adding, “the more we give him to do, the more he proves we should give him more to do.”
Not that Williams isn’t busy enough. He performs regularly with the improv comedy band, The Flying Fannoli Brothers (“I play the stupid stuff … a big washboard and an electric razor.”). And his short film, “Snips and Snails,” won the Audience Award at L.A.’s independent Dances with Film festival this year.
Next, he’s set to shoot another film he wrote, “I Own You,” about a black man who is married to a white woman and finds out her ancestors once enslaved his.
Of course, Williams understands “a lot of people will hate it,” but he’s OK with that.
Just as long as the tale doesn’t find its way into his online biography.