Michael K Williams, the actor renowned for his role as Omar Little in the HBO show The Wire, was found dead in his Brooklyn penthouse in New York on Monday. He was 54.
The actor’s body was reportedly discovered by a relative, who paid him a visit after he failed to turn up for an event on Saturday. While it is unclear how long he was dead before being found, a police source told New York Post that there was no indication of foul play. “No forced entry, the apartment was in order,” the source said.
The cause of his death is suspected to be heroin overdose, as per the report.
“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 insurmountable loss,” Williams’ representative Marianna Shafran told The Hollywood Reporter.
The actor, who received five Primetime Emmy nominations over the course of his career, started out as a background dancer for artists like Madonna and George Michael. A slash-scar on his forehead that he got during a brawl at a bar became his signature feature and landed him parts in several music videos. One of his first acting credits was in the 1996 film Bullet, where he played a sidekick to the drug kingpin portrayed by late rapper Tupac Shakur.
He shot to fame with his role as Omar Little in The Wire. The crime drama television series revolved around the wire-tapped conversations of drug lords in America.
The actor opened up about his own struggles with drugs during a conversation with NPR in 2016. Mentioning that he could not separate his character Omar, who stole from drug dealers, from reality, Williams revealed that he had sought help from a pastor in New Jersey.
Williams also made brief appearances in shows like Boston Legal, The Sopranos, Law and Order, Human Giant, and Third Watch. His film work included roles in the Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave and Inherent Vice (2014).
His frequent collaboration with HBO continued with the shows Boardwalk Empire, and more recently, Lovecraft Country.
The media and production giant wrote in a statement, “We are devastated to learn of the passing of Michael Kenneth Williams, an HBO family member for more than 20 years. While the world knew of his immense talents, we knew Michael as a dear friend. We send our deepest condolences to his family for this immeasurable loss.”
Several members from the industry paid tribute to the actor as well.
Camrus Johnson, who will appear in the show Batwoman, wrote, “I met Michael K Williams about 8 years ago when I was still a background actor and man, was he cool. He’s been one of the black actors I’ve been able to look up to ever since, and I can’t believe he’s gone already. We lost another one.”
Filmmaker Spike Lee said on Instagram that he is “shook” and that it has been a tough day with the loss of the veteran French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo and then Williams. “Our brother passed away today in his home, Da People’s Republic Of Brooklyn. Our greats are leaving us left and right,” he added.