Williams started his career as a stage actor, earning a Tony award nomination in 1965 for his work in the drama Slow Dance on the Killing Ground.
From 1968 to 1973 he starred as Lincoln"Linc" Hayes about the TV show The Mod Squad. The show helped make cop shows cool, as Linc - alongside spouses Pete Cochran and Julie Barnes - were counterculture youths who agreed to work as undercover detectives. The trio's style and demeanor created them pop-culture iconsand Williams remained with the show for 123 episodes before departing.
Back in 1984, he scored his first film role, playing the emotionally and physically abusive father of Prince's character, the Kid, in Purple Rain.
At a 1995 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Williams explained working with Prince as"disorderly," but also extremely unique. 1 moment in particular stood out of his mind.
"There was an acoustic guitar laying on the church and set was sitting on the ground, just staring off into space and I figure that he had been going through exactly the same procedure I had been going through--thinking about what we had taken," Williams recalled. "He just picked up the guitar and began doodling. I had my eyes shut, and I was leaning back in the chair and that I believed concerning Jimi Hendrix. I mean he was hitting some chords and the soundstage was totally quiet. It was just a wonderful, wonderful experience."
He also had guest spots over a long list of television show, including Twin Peaks, Empire, Justified, Burn Notice, Cold Case, Everybody Hates Chris, along with Law & Order.