Actor Michael K. Williams, best known for his role as Omar Little on HBO’s “The Wire,” has died at the age of 54.
“It is with deep sorrow that the family announces the passing of Emmy-nominated actor Michael Kenneth Williams,” a representative for Williams told The Hollywood Reporter. “They ask for your privacy while grieving this unsurmountable loss.”
Williams was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment at about 2 p.m. Monday, a New York Police Department spokesperson told HuffPost. The cause of death is under investigation.
At the time of his death, Williams was in the running for a 2021 Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a drama series for his role as Montrose Freeman in HBO’s “Lovecraft Country.” The prolific and acclaimed actor previously received three Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for “Bessie,” “The Night Of” and “When They See Us.”
The Brooklyn-born Williams began his career as a professional dancer in his early 20s, appearing in dozens of music videos and touring with artists such as George Michael and Madonna before breaking into the acting world with early roles that included playing Tupac Shakur’s brother in the 1996 movie “Bullet.”
When “The Wire” began airing in 2002, Williams’s portrayal of Omar Little ― a gay Baltimore stickup man who stole from drug dealers and gave the money to the poor ― launched him to fame as a fan favorite on the celebrated series.
Williams would later reveal that he was experiencing cocaine addiction struggles while working on the show.
“I was playing with fire,” he told NJ.com in a 2012 interview. “It was just a matter of time before I got caught and my business ended up on the cover of a tabloid or I went to jail or, worse, I ended up dead.”
He added that he was sharing his story when he did because “Obviously, God saved me for a purpose. So, I decided to get clean and then come clean. I’m hoping I can reach that one person.”
Tributes from fans, former co-stars and fellow members of the entertainment industry poured in to commemorate Williams’s legacy.
The depth of my love for this brother, can only be matched by the depth of my pain learning of his loss. A immensely talented man with the ability to give voice to the human condition portraying the lives of those whose humanity is seldom elevated until he sings their truth. pic.twitter.com/EvrESGSK8O
— Wendell Pierce (@WendellPierce) September 6, 2021
Shocked and saddened by the death of Michael K Williams. One of the nicest brothers on the planet with the biggest heart. An amazing actor and soul. May you RIP. God bless.
— Isiah Whitlock Jr. (@IsiahWhitlockJr) September 6, 2021
Michael K Williams, in addition to being one of the most talented actors around, was also one of the kindest, sweetest, most gentle souls I’ve ever met. This is heartbreaking. My thoughts are with all those who loved him.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) September 6, 2021
Michael K Williams was a beautiful, passionate, expansive soul. I felt so lucky to have known him, and we were all so fortunate to have enjoyed his incredible talent. He burned so very bright.
Rest in power, MKW.
You will forever be The King. pic.twitter.com/LuFY0tG9NA
— Aisha Tyler (@aishatyler) September 6, 2021
I met Michael K. Williams once, at a social justice event we both spoke at. He was warm, friendly, and super into the issues of the criminal legal system. We talked for a while, and I’m regretting not reconnecting better afterwards. This is awful. What a light. pic.twitter.com/TofhSIteKf
— back…but barely! (@MsPackyetti) September 6, 2021
For years Wikipedia listed Michael K. Williams as my brother. Neither one of us chose to correct it, instead we took it at its word. “We’re brothers, yo.” He shared poems with me. We broke bread & kicked it whenever we could. A deep & sincere connection. A beautiful spirit.
— Saul Williams (@SaulWilliams) September 6, 2021
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