Michael K. Williams, Star of ‘The Wire,’ Dies at 54

Michael K. Williams wearing a suit and tie looking at the cameraMichael K Williams

Michael K. Williams, the enigmatic performer whose work included “The Wire” and a recent Emmy nomination for “Lovecraft Country,” has died at the age of 54. Law enforcement confirmed the news to the media. Representatives for Williams said, “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.”

The actor was discovered in the living room of his Williamsburg apartment by his nephew. It was said that Williams possibly died of a drug overdose, with police saying no foul play is suspected. Williams had been vocal over the years about his struggles with substance abuse. The actor, a five-time Emmy nominee, recently received a nomination for his role as Montrose Freeman in the HBO drama “Lovecraft Country.”

Williams was a Brooklyn native raised in East Flatbush. He was discovered by rapper Tupac Shakur and made his acting debut in the Shakur drama “Bullet” in 1996. In 2002 he received critical acclaim playing Omar Little in the HBO drama “The Wire.” The character initially slated to have just a seven-episode arc, but Williams’ portrayal was so admired that the character was extended through the series’ run in 2008.

Williams worked with several top directors throughout his career, in both film and television. He played Chalky White in Martin Scorsese’s “Boardwalk Empire” from 2010 to 2014, Paul Thomas Anderson in “Inherent Vice,” Ben Affleck in “Gone Baby Gone,” and Steve McQueen in 2013’s “12 Years a Slave.”

The actor’s appearance in various television shows were generally well-received, from “Alias” to an episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims’ Unit.” Though he was never nominated for “The Wire,” he received his first Emmy nomination for playing Jack Gee in the 2015 musical biopic “Bessie.” He would later be nominated for “The Night Of” and “When They See Us.”

The actor was praised by a number of LGBTQ Black writers who have cited Williams’ nuanced portrayal of gay character in “The Wire,” Hap and Leonard,” and “Lovecraft Country” as barrier breaking for the Black community.

Williams had several two projects completed with another currently in post. He was slated to play Doc Broadus in an upcoming biopic on George Foreman but it’s unknown how far into production, if at all, the film was at his passing.

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