Michael K. Williams, best know for playing Omar on The Wire, was found in his Brooklyn apartment. He was only 54.
Acclaimed actor Michael K. Williams has died.
According to the NY Post, Williams, who was only 54, was found dead in his Brooklyn penthouse by his nephew on Monday, September 6th. No cause of death has been revealed but the Post is reporting that there was “drug paraphernalia” found around Williams. Marianna Shafran, his rep, confirmed Williams had passed away but did not detail the cause of death. In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter she wrote:
“It is with deep sorrow that the family announces the passing of Emmy nominated actor Michael Kenneth Williams. They ask for your privacy while grieving this unsurmountable loss.”
Williams’, who was born in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, had a long-winding career in entertainment. Inspired by Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 album, he started out as a dancer, going on tour with legends like Madonna and George Michael and choreographing Crystal Waters’ “100% Pure Love” video.
His big breakout came in 2002 when he was cast as Omar Little in The Wire. From season one, Omar, who was an openly gay robber, became one of the most memorable characters in TV history. (President Barack Obama said Omar was the best character on The Wire.) But it was a tough role for Williams. The actor, who received two NAACP Image Award nominations for the performance, said the character brought a dark energy to him, which lead him to a fight with addiction. Williams said he was doing cocaine while playing Omar. In 2012, he told NJ.com:
“I was playing with fire… 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. When I look back on it now, I don’t know how I didn’t end up in a body bag.”
Williams eventually got clean, thanks partially to support he got at the Christian Love Baptist Church in Irvington, New Jersey. Over the years, Williams would talk openly about his fight with addiction, while still acknowledging that it’s a daily fight. In 2017, he told the New York Times:
“Addiction doesn’t go away… It’s an everyday struggle for me, but I’m fighting.”
Since the success of The Wire, Williams’ career blossomed, appearing in dozens of films from The Purge: Anarchy to Kill the Messenger to Motherless Brooklyn. (It had just been announced he was going to have a starring role in Sony’s George Foreman biopic.)
It was TV where he continued to shine. Staring in Boardwalk Empire, The Night Of, When They See Us, and Lovecraft Country. (He was just nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of Montrose Freeman on Lovecraft Country.)
As news spread around on Monday, A number of Williams’ peers went to social media to pay tribute to the actor.
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
If you don’t know, you better ask somebody. His name was Michael K. Williams. He shared with me his secret fears then stepped out into his acting with true courage, acting in the face of fear, not in the absence of it. It took me years to learn what Michael had in abundance. pic.twitter.com/BIkoPPrPzg
— Wendell Pierce (@WendellPierce) September 6, 2021
Horrible, sad, and unbelievable to think we’ve lost the fantastically talented Michael K. Williams at the age of 54.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) September 6, 2021
Rest in Peace Michael K. Williams. Gone far too soon. A man that taught me so much. Thank you for your wisdom. pic.twitter.com/qoOKxdnErF
— Damson Idris (@DamsonIdris) September 6, 2021