When Ubisoft first began developing an Assassin’s Creed movie, there was little hope that film would break the “video game movie curse” and be, you know, good. However, as the movie started coming together, hope started rising. And now, with Macbeth helmer Justin Kurzel directing, a terrific cast led by Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, and a gorgeous debut trailer, there’s reason to believe 2016 could give us the very first great video game movie. And yet another reason to be hopeful is Michael K. Williams, as the The Wire and Boardwalk Empire alum gets to tackle his first action hero in the film.
Williams plays Moussa, a fellow “patient” at Abstergo, where Fassbender’s Callum Lynch is being held and forced to use the Animus, a device that allows him to live the life of his 15th Century Spanish ancestor Aguilar. But Fassbender isn’t the only patient at Abstergo with curious blood, as Williams’ character has a direct line to his ancestor Baptiste, a character from the game Assassin’s Creed: Liberation who is something of a voodoo assassin in 18th Century Louisiana.
Late last year, I had the opportunity to visit the London set of Assassin’s Creed along with a small group of reporters, and during our visit we got to speak briefly with Williams about his experience with the film. The actor was clearly enthused to be a part of something so big, but also had high praise for director Kurzel and his co-stars. During our conversation, Williams teased a bit about his character’s abilities—which may or may not also manifest in the Abstergo setting—and also briefly touched on the franchise potential of his character. Moreover, towards the end of our conversation, Williams made known that if he were to land a role in Marvel’s Black Panther, he wouldn’t exactly be upset about it.
Check out the full interview below along with links to the rest of my set visit coverage. Assassin’s Creed opens in theaters on December 21st.
- ‘Assassin’s Creed’: 33 Things to Know About the Ambitious Video Game Adaptation
- ‘Assassin’s Creed’: Michael Fassbender on the New Animus and How the Franchise Is Like ‘Star Wars’
- ‘Assassin’s Creed’ Director Justin Kurzel on Avoiding Green Screen and the Process of Adapting a Video Game
MICHAEL KENNETH WILLIAMS: His name is Baptiste, and that’s pretty much where we’re at right now with it, just all of us finding each other, learning to trust each other, and getting out of this hell hole that they have us imprisoned in so that we can become who we were destined to be.
What’s his relationship like with Michael Fassbender’s character Cal?
MICHAEL KENNETH WILLIAMS: Moussa is what we call the trickster. His whole thing when Cal comes into the prison is he sees him as the missing link to the puzzle and immediately realizes that we need to bring him into the fold, into the family, and to make him feel safe in this room full of crazies of some sort. So that’s Moussa’s relationship with Cal right now, bring him into the family, make him feel comfortable, and to let him know that we all need to get out of here.
Can you talk some more about Moussa’s abilities? How he uses what he’s channeling and what he brings to the table as an assassin?
WILLIAMS: Moussa definitely has some assassin skills although I think he prefers to use trickery and magic and voodoo to slay his opponents as opposed to just hand to hand combat, but if it needed to be he could take it to the mat if he had to.
What are you hoping your assassin outfit looks like?
WILLIAMS: I’m just hoping he looks like a bad ass. Real, non-traditional. He’s a voodoo assassin, it’s whatever that means. I don’t want him to look typically like anything. Just, Baptiste.
Is there a chance we’ll see a bleeding effect with your character? Where we’ll see your ancestor interact with you in the modern time?
WILLIAMS: Yes, there will be.
We saw some voodoo stuff in the garden, is that permitted by Abstergo for you to have?
WILLIAMS: That is actually some of Moussa’s weapons.
Do they not mind you keeping that?
WILLIAMS: The garden area, the altar. Yeah, that’s some of Moussa’s trickery.
Does he make voodoo dolls of…
WILLIAMS: No, no, you don’t want to mess with Mr. Irons. Even in this place, it’s not a secret that we have powers so they know that Moussa plays with magic and they encourage that we do these things so they can siphon it out of our brains with the thing they stick in the back of our heads. They want our power on some level. So they give us little safe havens where they feel are safe to play with our gifts. It backfires miserably for them.
What’s it been like working with Justin as a director?
WILLIAMS: Man I really, really love this dude, Justin. It really makes my job so much easier when a director comes in and he knows what he wants, he’s clear with in describing what he wants. Crystal clear, and he has a certain reassuring type of feeling where you trust him. I’m not a big person to run to the monitor to look at playbacks but with this type of physical stuff, me not coming from this genre of film, I tend to want to run behind every take to make sure I’m looking like an Assassin. I think I’ve done that twice here, and when he comes behind the monitor and just says ‘Mike, we’ve got it’ or ‘Mike, stretch, give me something else.’ I trust him. He just has a really crystal clear way of communicating that just makes you want to trust him. He knows what he wants.
What’s surprised you or met your expectations of working on a film like this?
WILLIAMS: I think the main thing that has exceeded my expectations is this amazing set. I think this is the coolest office I’ve ever been asked to come work in. It’s a really dope set. The designs are beautiful, and it makes you believe where we’re at. I believe every inch of this set, nothing is taken for granted and I love that. The stuntmen that we have are in my opinion some of the best in the business. I’ve never seen stunt actors like this on this level before. Not just stuntmen, I consider them to be stunt actors.
Are you familiar with the games at all?
WILLIAMS: No, not a gamer. I’d never even heard of Assassin’s Creed before I was offered the project.
Have you looked into them since?
WILLIAMS: Oh yeah. Not so much the game but the history of the characters is so well written for a video game so I had to do a lot of studying into this world and what these characters mean to each other in this world that the game has built. The battle of good and evil and all that stuff is a very interesting world. Ancestral energy, all of that past and present. I did a lot of studying.
What was the biggest draw for you that made you say yes to this project? Was there any one particular thing that made you say yes?
WILLIAMS: You know, I think the main thing was I looked at this as my opportunity to be like an action hero. So that was kinda cool for me, my son is all excited. It’s off my bucket-list, it’s like ‘Okay I gave you guys your action hero,’ they want me to be a Marvel comic character but I don’t think that’s going to happen. This is my take on an action hero so I’m really psyched about that. Of course another opportunity is to be in scenes with Michael Fassbender. We crossed paths in 12 Years a Slave, but we never really got to be in the same frame together. So that was another easy sell for me. I love the storyline, this whole battle between good and evil kind of speaks to I believe the time we’re living in right now, just with all the craziness going on. It’s an interesting take of right over wrong, light over dark. I like those types of things.
It feels like there’s franchise potential too. Is there something that’s been discussed, hey maybe come back for more?
WILLIAMS: (Shrugs) If that were to happen I have no problem with that at all. None. Not just for the obvious reasons but to also just have a chance to work with this cast and the director, Justin. It’s a great crew of people.
For your son’s sake would you like us to run a rumor that you’re gonna be in Black Panther?
WILLIAMS: Oh man, dude, you got a Christmas envelope coming (laughs). That’s the one my kids want for me, actually. Oh yeah.