Michael K. Williams, a prolific actor best known for his work on The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, and Lovecraft Country, has reportedlly passed away at the age of 54. The news was first confirmed by The New York Post, which reported that the actor was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment on Monday afternoon. His cause of death is unclear at this time.
Born in Brooklyn, New York City on November 22nd, 1966, Williams got into the entertainment industry as a backup dancer and choreographer, appearing as a dancer in videos and on tours for George Michael, Madonna, and others. Williams got into acting after being discovered by Tupac Shakur, which led to him portraying the brother of Shakur’s character in the 1996 film Bullet. He then would go on to appear in episodes of The Sopranos, Boston Legal, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, and Alias.
Among Williams’ most well-known roles is Omar Little on The Wire, appearing in nearly fifty episodes of the iconic HBO series from 2002 through 2008. Williams’ portrayal of Omar was met with widespread critical and fan acclaim, with former president Barack Obama citing him as his favorite television character back in 2008.
Williams would go on to have a brief cameo as a bystander in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, and appear across television in series such as Law & Order, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and Community. His later film appearances included Bessie, 12 Years a Slave, RoboCop, Inherent Vice, Ghostbusters, and Assassin’s Creed. He also had multiple memorable television roles in the past decade, including Chalky White in Boardwalk Empire, Bobby McCray in When They See Us, and Montrose Freeman in Lovecraft Country.
Over his career, Williams was nominated for five Primetime Emmy Awards — Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for Bessie, The Night Of, and When They See Us, Outstanding Informational Series or Special for his work with Vice, and a now-posthumous nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for Lovecraft Country.
“I made a decision very early on in my career that the two things I will go for when I’m asked to do a role is I will look for the truth and I will tell that truth with as much compassion and as much empathy as I can,” Williams explained to Essence in an interview earlier this year.
Our thoughts are with Williams’ family, friends, and fans at this time.