Hollywood actor Michael K. Williams, who brought a hard-edge charisma to his portrayal of Omar little in the HBO series The Wire, was found dead at 54 in his home in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn on September 6.
Williams’s representative, Marianna Shafran, announced his death in a statement which read that the family was grappling with “deep sorrow” at “this insurmountable loss.” According to the New York City Police Department, Williams was found at about 2 p.m. and the cause of the death is possibly being investigated as drug overdose. However, city’s medical examiner will determine the cause.
At age 25, Williams got the scar that became his signature physical feature and that helped to define him as an actor. He was spending his birthday at a bar in Queens when a man slashed his face with a razor blade during a fight. In the 1996 film Bullet, Williams starred as Tupac’s character’s brother. After playing a drug dealer in Martin Scorsese’s 1999 film Bringing out the Dead, Williams landed a small role in an episode of The Sopranos, playing a loving father living in the projects who agrees to help hide a son of a deceased mafia boss.
But his most loved performance or the work for which he is known for is his role in the sawed-off-shotgun-wielding stickup man on the pioneering HBO’s five-season series, The Wire. As Omar little that explored the gritty underworld of corruption, drugs and the police in Baltimore, Williams played perhaps the most memorable character on a series many consider among the best shows in television history. As a swaggering lone wolf in a story largely defined by continuing battles between the police and various crime bosses and crews, Omar was one of prime-time’s pre-eminent antiheroes in a TV era defined by them.
The Wire established Williams as one of television’s finest actors, following the actor to star in acclaimed series like Boardwalk Empire, The Night Of and When We Rise including number of films, including 12 Years a Slave and The Road. He had recently been cast in a biopic of George Foreman as Doc Broadus, the boxer’s trainer and mentor. He received five Emmy Award nominations, including one in the upcoming Primetime Emmy Awards. He was also nominated this year for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series ‘Lovecraft Country’.
Writer and director of The Wire David Simon posted Williams’ photograph on Twitter on Monday and said he was “too gutted” to say more about “a fine man and a rare talent” who “always deserved the best words.”
— David Simon (@AoDespair) September 6, 2021
Williams used his celebrity status to advocate several causes, most notably criminal justice reform, both in the United States and in the Bahamas, and he was the ACLU’s ambassador for ending mass incarceration, appearing in a related ad campaign along with his engagement in discussions about systemic racism amid the Black Lives Matter movement both on and off screen. However, he discussed openly in interviews about his battle against drug addiction due to which Williams struggled at times.
Williams is survived by his mother, Paula Williams, his brother, Paul Carey, and his nephew, Dominic Dupont.
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