Emmy Nominated Actor and Star of ‘The Wire’ Michael K. Williams Dies at 54

Michael K Williams death

In tragic news for the entertainment industry, actor Michael K. Williams has passed away at the age of just 54.

The talented performer came to prominence as Omar in the hit television series The Wire from 2002 to 2008, a character that was groundbreaking for an openly gay man.

According to Lieutenant John Grimpel of the New York City Police Department, Williams was found dead in his Williamsburg, Brooklyn home after a call was made to emergency services at around 2pm on Monday, September 6.

The NYPD has said his death is being investigated as a possible drug overdose and it has been reported that drug paraphernalia was found at the scene. The exact cause of death will be determined by the New York City medical examiner.

In addition to his iconic role in The Wire, Williams also starred in Boardwalk Empire and the critically acclaimed series Lovecraft Country — receiving a 2021 Emmy nomination for the latter. Williams also appeared in Ava DuVernay‘s When They See Us and had a main role in the HBO series The Night Of. 

He also starred in feature films such as 12 Years a Slave and Assassin’s Creed.

“We are devastated to learn of the passing of Michael Kenneth Williams, a member of the HBO family for more than 20 years,” read a statement from HBO about his death.

“While the world is aware of his immense talents as an artist, we knew Michael as a dear friend who was beloved by all who had the privilege to work with him.

“We send our deepest condolences to his family for this immeasurable loss.”

Tributes for the late actor have also flooded social media with people, including Williams’ former co-stars, taking to Twitter to express their grief at his passing.

“This is heartbreaking,” one user wrote. “Michael K. Williams’ portrayal of Omar in The Wire was a tour de force, and his was one of the first unapologetically gay, Black characters I saw depicted on screen. Rest in Power, King.”

“My heart is in so much pain,” wrote another. “Of course there was Omar but there was also Chalky and Bobby and Jack and Montrose. Michael K. Williams portrayed characters that were frequently charismatic, often conflicted and always complex. His performances provoked reflection and dialogue.” 

Isiah Whitlock Jr, who played Maryland State Senator in The Wire, wrote: “Shocked and saddened by the death of Michael K Williams. One of the nicest brothers on the planet with the biggest heart. An amazing actor and soul. May you RIP. God bless.”

And Wendell Pierce, who played Detective Bunk Moreland in the groundbreaking series wrote, “The depth of my love for this brother, can only be matched by the depth of my pain learning of his loss. A 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.”

And, in a lengthy tribute posted to her Instagram, Ava DuVernay spoke of the legacy Williams leaves behind, writing, “Maya Angelou once said, your legacy lives on in every life you touch. You, brother, touched many. Through your personal interactions big and small, through your community activism, through your struggles, through your triumphs, through your glorious work.

You moved many. You moved me. What you doubted in life, be certain of now, dear brother. Be certain. You were a flash of love – now gone. But never forgotten. Promise.”

Read more stories from The Latch and subscribe to our email newsletter