Michael K Williams, star of “The Wire” and “Boardwalk Empire,” has died at age 54. The NYPD confirmed that the actor was found dead in his Brooklyn home on Monday. His death is investigated as a possible drug overdose.
Williams, who is up for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series at the Emmy Awards, appeared on many HBO series, including “The Wire,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “The Night Of” and most recently, “Lovecraft Country.” Throughout his career, Williams received five Emmy nominations, four of them for outstanding supporting actor.
The actor’s films included “Inherent Vice,” “12 Years a Slave,” “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Road.”
Williams’ Omar Little, a “stick-up boy” based on real figures from Baltimore, was probably the most beloved character among devoted fans of “The Wire,” which ran from 2002 to 2008. As Little, Williams portrayed a criminal with a strict moral code, known for taking advantage of a reputation for brutality that wasn’t always real.
Because his character on “The Wire” was so beloved, people often conflated the actor and the role he played.
“People didn’t even call me Mike, they called me Omar,” he said in a 2012 interview. “That mixed with my identity crisis and my addiction – and it was not a good mix. I had to stop trying to be Omar and just be Mike.”
In that same interview, the actor opened up about his history with drugs and how he went about it all while acting.
“I was playing with fire,” Williams told the news outlet at the time. “It was just a matter of time before I got caught and my business ended up on the cover of a tabloid or I went to jail or, worse, I ended up dead.”
And when he decided to get clean, Williams wondered whether surviving it all was pure luck.
“I thought, ‘Why me? Why did I get spared?’ I should’ve been dead,” Williams said. “I have the scars. I’ve stuck my head in the lion’s mouth. Obviously, God saved me for a purpose. So, I decided to get clean and then come clean. I’m hoping I can reach that one person.”
Williams had a large facial scar he received in a bar fight on Jamaica Avenue, New York City, on his 25th birthday, when he was slashed with a razor blade. The scar became his signature feature, and resulted in offers to perform as a thug in music videos and modeling opportunities.
Celebrities took to social media Monday to pay tribute to the late actor.
(image credits: Wikimedia Commons)