Michael K. Williams, the actor who played Omar Little in The Wire, was found dead in Brooklyn on Sunday.
The NYPD confirmed that the 54-year-old was discovered his Williamsburg apartment on Kent Avenue around 2 p.m. The medical examiner’s office will determine his cause of death.
Williams, who was born in Brooklyn and was a background dancer for acts like Technotronix, Crystal Waters, Missy Elliott, and Ginuwine before he became an actor, was best known for his indelible performance on The Wire as Omar Little, a gangster who robbed drug dealers and whose reputation preceded him:
But the fame of The Wire also led to a period of addiction. He said on NPR in 2016, “[When] The Wire and the character of Omar ended”—the HBO series ended in 2008″—”I had zero tools, personally speaking, in how to deal with letting that go. I wasn’t going around robbing people or anything stupid like that, but I definitely wore that dark energy that Omar was — he was a dark soul, a tortured soul — and I just … lived in that and that’s what people was attracted to. … The lines got blurred.”
He would find himself in Newark, NJ, where he would do drugs with others. He told the Star-Ledger in 2012, “I was playing with fire. 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. When I look back on it now, I don’t know how I didn’t end up in a body bag.”
Williams grew up in Flatbush—and took Anthony Bourdain to his old neighborhood for an episode of “No Reservations”:
In February, Williams appeared on All of It to promote his new film, Body Brokers, which deals with drug addiction and for-profit rehab. He said that Hollywood has typically emphasized characters doing drugs and then their sudden recovery. He said of the topic, “I subscribe to the narrative that drugs and alcohol aren’t the problem—it’s really a symptom of the problem. Just because a person puts down their drug of choice, it doesn’t mean all their character defects go away, their skewed moral compass automatically goes back to the balance line. That requires a lot of work, a lot of self-reflection… and the road to recovery is messy, it’s sloppy, people relapse.”
Williams also played bootlegger Chalky White on the Prohibition-era Boardwalk Empire and a prisoner at Rikers in The Night Of. He was just nominated for his fourth Emmy—in the category of Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series— for his recent role in Lovecraft Country; the Emmys take place on September 19th.
His Wire co-star Wendell Pierce wrote a heartfelt tribute to Williams on Twitter, in a thread:
In one Tweet, Pierce wrote, “THE WIRE brought us together and immortalized Omar & Bunk in that “scene” on a park bench.But for us we aimed to take that moment in time together and say something about Black men. Our struggle with ourselves, internally, and each other. For me & Mike we had nothing but respect.”