Michael K. Williams passed away September 6, at the age of 54.
As reported by multiple news sources, Williams was found unresponsive in his luxury New York apartment with investigators reporting that drug paraphernalia was found near his body. At the time of filing, an investigation was ongoing.
On camera, millions were mesmerized by the versatile actor who is best known for his iconic role as Omar Little, a shotgun-wielding character who made his living robbing drug dealers on HBO’s grounding breaking HBO series “The Wire.”
Williams has the visual distinction of sporting a deep, distinctive scar that ran down his face, the result of a “ballroom brawl.”
The son of a mother from Nassau, Bahamas, and a father from South Carolina, Williams was raised in the Vanderveer Projects in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, and went to George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School.
His first foray into entertainment, at the age of 22, was as a dancer for artists including Missy Elliot, Ginuwine, Crystal Waters and Technotronic, and he appeared in more than 50 music videos, according to TV Guide. Williams made his film debut in the movie “Bullet,” playing the character High Top. It was the late Tupac Shakur who discovered his talent and cast him, according to Williams’ website. Williams went on to play roles in movies such as Martin Scorsese’s “Bringing Out the Dead,” “The Road,” “Gone Baby Gone,” “Inherent Vice,” “Life During Wartime,” “12 Years a Slave,” “I Think I Love My Wife” and “Wonderful World.”
Williams amassed a number of accolades during his career, earning five Emmy nominations. His first was in 2015 for his portrayal of Jack Gee, the husband of Bessie Smith, in the HBO biopic “Bessie,” and another followed two years later for his part in “The Night Of.”
He shared a Screen Actors Guild Award for best ensemble with the cast of the HBO Prohibition-era mob drama as mobster Albert “Chalky” in “Boardwalk Empire.”
Williams most recently appeared in the series “F Is for Family” and HBO’s “Lovecraft Country.” Of his iconic performance in “The Wire,” President Barack Obama said in 2012 that Williams’ portrayal of Omar was his favorite character on “The Wire,” (2002-2008) adding, “That guy is unbelievable,” in reference to Williams’ character.
Mr. Williams is on record about his past struggles with drug addiction and I’ve spoken with him about my recovery journey. While the media speculates about his cause of death, I don’t care. What pains me is that Michael K. Williams has left this earth, and I feel a certain way about it. I mean—I feel this loss, and I am not the only one.
Hollywood has responded via social media. Academy Award winning actress Lupita Nyongo remembered being drawn to Williams because of his “kind eyes,” and Riz Ahmed thanked him for “being a rare talent, unique soul, so generous, humble, badass, and so unapologetically yourself.”
Screenwriter/producer Art Shrian offers this: “Michael was an encouraging human being who would check in periodically. We talked about me writing roles for him. I’m devastated that he’s gone. Rest in power.”
Williams is nominated for an Emmy for his performance as Montrose Freeman in HBO’s “Lovecraft County.”
The Emmy Awards 2021 are live, Sunday, Sept. 19 with host Cedric The Entertainer.