‘The Wire’ actor Michael K. Williams is dead at 54

The Emmy-nominated actor is suspected to have died of a drug overdose

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Michael K. Williams, famed for his role in The Wire, was found dead in his Brooklyn home on Monday. He was 54.

Williams’ family released a statement to the Hollywood Reporter confirming his passing.

“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,” his long-time rep Marianna Shafran said.

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Michael K. Williams is seen in his award show look for the 27th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on March 31, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rodrigo Varela/Getty Images)

Williams’ body was discovered by his nephew, sources told The New York Post which first reported the news. The actor is suspected to have died of a drug overdose as there was reportedly drug paraphernalia such as heroin found in his home.

“No foul play indicated,” a police source told the outlet. “No forced entry, the apartment was in order.”

The news of Williams’ reported death comes only weeks after he signed on to play the role of Doc Broadus, the trainer of legendary boxer George Foreman in an upcoming biopic, Deadline reported.

He also recently dazzled as Montrose Freeman in the HBO breakout hit Lovecraft Country. He shared with the Los Angeles Times what he wanted to bring to the complex role.

“Montrose was given a book of stereotypes as to what it means to be a man, especially a Black man, in America. Vulnerability, softness; those are not celebrated in the community. Your experimental sexual experiences; none of these things are celebrated in the ‘hood, in the community Montrose came from, or that I come from, for that matter,” he said.

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Michael K. Williams attends February’s 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

The Emmy-nominated Williams gained a legion of fans and following for his standout role as Omar Little in HBO’s The Wire, earning the part after only one audition. Williams played the gay, Baltimore stick-up man from 2002 to 2008.

“Omar is this dark-skinned outspoken man in the hood who didn’t care what anyone thought of him,” said Williams describing the character to the New York Times in 2017. “He is everything I wished I could be.”

Williams developed an addiction to cocaine while portraying Omar.

“When I came through those doors, I was broken. … This was, I would say, around the … third season of ‘The Wire,’” Williams told NPR in 2016.  

“I was on drugs. … I was in jeopardy of destroying everything I had worked so hard for, and I came in those doors, and I met a man who had never even heard of ‘The Wire,’ much less watched it,” he said, referring to the pastor.

He questioned the integrity of his work and was surprised to learn that former President Barack Obama was a fan of him and his character.

“Hearing my name come out of his mouth woke me up,” he told the Times. “I realized that my work could actually make a difference.”

Williams also starred on the Netflix series When They See Us as Antron McCray‘s father, Bobby McCray. He further spoke of how Obama’s recognition touched him.

“I had to grow up. It was frightening. I wasn’t living my best life at that time. You know, here goes the … president of the United States, you know, singling me out for something I had done. It was a little like ‘whoa.’ But what it did was set me on my journey,” he told CBS News. “Because at that point I was a grown man on television who thought my voice didn’t matter, so I wasn’t involved in my community. I didn’t think that my input mattered.”

The condolences have begun to pour in for the beloved actor who was also a backup dancer for Madonna, Crystal Waters, and Ginuwine in the 90’s.

“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. tweeted.  

Michael Lee hailed him as “the man who made Omar Little one of the greatest characters in television history.”

“Heartbroken by the loss of this amazing soul. Replaying in my head our conversation recently on the streets of Brooklyn, just sharing love,” talk show host Tamron Hall tweeted of Williams who appeared on her show in February.

“I can’t…I’m crushed.  💔 no words. I love you bro. RIP to the legend Michael K Williams aka one of the dopest Actors/Brother in the world. #Omar #TheWIRE FOR LIFE. I’m off the grid for a while hard to process this one. I love you bro smh dam,” Tray Chaney tweeted.

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