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Character actor Michael K. Williams, a person known for his work on prestige television dramas, passed away on Monday, September 6, 2021, at the age of 54. He was found dead by family members in his Brooklyn penthouse. The medical examiner is currently investigating the cause of his death as a possible drug overdose. (It’s something he struggled with and talked openly about over the course of his career.)
If you’ve ever watched the acclaimed show The Wire, you are undoubtedly familiar with the work of Williams. He played Omar Little, a whistling man who robbed the drug dealers and is behind one of the most quotable lines of the entire show: “You come at the king, you best not miss.” Omar was also groundbreaking; he was an openly gay man but his sexuality wasn’t a central part of his character. This representation challenged notions of masculinity, particularly Black masculinity.
After The Wire, Williams created another memorable character in Chalky White in Boardwalk Empire. He also appeared in Lovecraft Country as well as the films 12 Years a Slave and The Road.
Williams was born in Brooklyn and first entered the entertainment industry as a dancer for the likes of George Michael, Missy Elliot, and Madonna. His first big acting break came thanks to rapper Tupac Shakur who saw a photo of Williams and picked him to play his brother in the 1996 film Bullet.
Williams' unexpected death has his colleagues and former co-stars mourning his loss with heartfelt tributes on social media. Wendell Pierce, the actor who played Detective William “Bunk” Moreland on The Wire expressed his grief in a tweet thread. “The depth of my love for this brother, can only be matched by the depth of my pain learning of his loss,” he wrote. “An 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.”
Actor Michael K. Williams died on Monday, September 6, 2021, at the age of 54.
His fans, former co-stars, and colleagues are mourning the loss on social media…
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So heartbroken. @BKBMG thank you for the beauty and joy you brought to the world. Sending love and prayers to your friends, family and everyone who adored you 🙏🏾 me included ❤️ We adore you Sir. pic.twitter.com/R3ER7a8iTi
— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) September 6, 2021
A beautiful soul, a beautiful person, I'll miss you always. Thank you for blessing us with your talent 💔 pic.twitter.com/Mt50HlY9CA
— Mariah Carey (@MariahCarey) September 6, 2021
We have lost another irreplaceable actor. RIP Michael K.Williams. You were too young to leave us- we were looking forward to so many more great performances. Thoughts with family and friends ♥️ pic.twitter.com/DwQaZDfzB7
— Mia Farrow (@MiaFarrow) September 7, 2021
— Joel McHale (@joelmchale) September 6, 2021
Heartbroken to learn of Michael's passing. It was an honor to have had the opportunity to work with such a talented artist and human being. A true force of nature. Rest In Power, my friend. https://t.co/19Gp0yKvsa via @variety
— Dustin Lance Black (@DLanceBlack) September 6, 2021
…particularly those from The Wire, including show creator, David Simon.
Too gutted right now to say all that ought to be said. Michael was a fine man and a rare talent and on our journey together he always deserved the best words. And today those words won't come.
— David Simon (@AoDespair) September 6, 2021
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. pic.twitter.com/EvrESGSK8O
— Wendell Pierce (@WendellPierce) September 6, 2021
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.
— Isiah Whitlock Jr. (@IsiahWhitlockJr) September 6, 2021
— Lance Reddick (@lancereddick) September 7, 2021