Michael K. Williams, magnetic star of The Wire and Boardwalk Empire, dies at 54
A New York City Police Department spokesperson told EW that Williams was found dead Monday around 2 p.m. inside his Brooklyn apartment. Authorities did not provide a cause of death or further details.
Williams' death comes amid his most recent of five career Emmy nominations, for his performance in HBO's Lovecraft Country. He is considered to be one of the leading contenders in the Supporting Actor in a Drama Series category this year. Elsewhere, he scored three nods for Outstanding Actor in a Limited Series or Movie (for Bessie, The Night Of, and When They See Us) and one for Outstanding Informational Series or Special (as an executive producer of Vice).
Williams is perhaps most known for his role as the menacing yet charismatic stickup man Omar Little across all five seasons of HBO's beloved drama The Wire, which ran from 2002 to 2008.
In addition to his work on television, Williams' big-screen credits included Inherent Vice, Gone Baby Gone, The Purge: Anarchy, 12 Years a Slave, and Assassin's Creed.
Shortly after news of Williams' death broke, tributes poured in from across Hollywood. The actor's Wire costar Isiah Whitlock, Jr. tweeted that he was "shocked and saddened" by his colleague's death, calling him "one of the nicest brothers on the planet with the biggest heart."
Wendell Pierce, who also starred on The Wire, tweeted that the "depth of [his] love" for Williams could only be matched by the "pain learning of his loss," before calling him an "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."
In a recent roundtable interview for Lovecraft Country, Williams told EW about his process of connecting his own past to the complexities of his character.
"I'm familiar, as most adults are, [with] trauma that we have from our personal bad choices or bad situations, unfortunate things that happen to us," he said, referring to his character's mysterious past. "What I wasn't aware of was blunt trauma. I'm lucky I had this crew to get me through."
As he outlined in a 2019 episode of the PBS docuseries Finding Your Roots, Williams was born in Brooklyn, where he began his performing career as a dancer. After touring with Madonna and George Michael among their respective backup crews, Williams transitioned to stage work as an actor, appearing at the prestigious National Black Theatre Company and Mel Williams' Theater for a New Generation.
He committed to charitable causes throughout his life, including the creation of Making Kids Win, an organization that builds community centers in urban neighborhoods. Williams also served as an ambassador the ACLU's Smart Justice initiative aimed at reducing prison populations around the country.