• 02.15.17

The Atlantic Lets Michael K. Williams Ask Michael K. Williams If He’s Typecast

Campaign for The Atlantic uses the actor’s self-reflection as a metaphor for encouraging the rest of us to “Question Your Answers”

The Atlantic Lets Michael K. Williams Ask Michael K. Williams If He’s Typecast

What do you think of when you think of Michael K. Williams? Omar from The Wire? Chalky from Boardwalk Empire? Freddy Knight in The Night Of? Even though Williams has had roles in films and TV as diverse as 12 Years A Slave and Community, there’s still a part of us that will always hear him whistling “The Farmer In The Dell.”


Here, in a utterly charming short film called “Typecast,” Williams discusses the idea of being stuck playing the same character over and over. And he’s discussing it with a variety of versions of himself. Like Multiplicity meets Inside The Actors Studio.

If you’re a certain type of person, from a certain type of place, and you look a certain type of way–are you typecast? Can we distinguish between Gangster Mike, Old Timer Gangster Mike, Southern Gangster Mike, Self-Denying Gangster Mike? Even as a standalone film, this short directed by the master of short-form comedy David Shane, and created by agency Wieden+Kennedy New York, would be great. But it’s actually part of a new brand campaign from The Atlantic called Question Your Answers, the company’s first such campaign in about a decade.

According to Sam Rosen, The Atlantic‘s vice-president of brand and customer growth, the goal was to help bring to life the insight that, for 160 years, The Atlantic and its readers have been challenging assumptions, re-examining the conventional wisdom, prosecuting the convenient explanations, and constantly rethinking the world around us.

“We wanted to express the spirit of ‘Question Answers’ in a novel way, that would be both thought-provoking and entertaining—two qualities we feel are as essential to The Atlantic today as they were when we were founded in 1857,” says Rosen. “From there, Wieden+Kennedy proposed depicting how, inside all of us, there’s a running debate that we may never resolve—and that that’s okay, or even preferable. In other words, there’s a certain intrinsic joy in questioning itself, without ever necessarily landing on a final conclusion. The Atlantic reader is someone who likes to be challenged, who would prefer to be confronted with ideas and perspectives that may present new or different ways of seeing the world. Put more simply, The Atlantic is the brand for people who question.”

The brand is also debuting an animated editorial series from Atlantic Studios called Bold Questions, featuring interviews with Caitlyn Jenner, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and more to come.

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.