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The Wire's Michael K. Williams dies at 54

  • The Emmy-nominated actor best known for his role as The Wire's gay Baltimore stick-up man Omar Little, who robs street-level drug dealers, was found dead today in his Brooklyn apartment. He is survived by his mother. “It is with deep sorrow that the family announces the passing of Emmy nominated actor Michael Kenneth Williams. They ask for your privacy while grieving this unsurmountable loss,” his long-time rep Marianna Shafran said in a statement. Michael Kenneth Williams is also best known for starring Boardwalk Empire as Chalky White and last year on Lovecraft Country as Montrose Freeman. Both the New York Post and New York Daily News report that Williams, who has admitted to battling drug addiction at age 19 and who became addicted to cocaine while starring on The Wire, was found with drug paraphernalia inside his apartment. In a 2012 interview with the Newark Star-Ledger, Williams said of his battle with drug addiction: "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. Eventually, I got so sick and tired of this charade. No one who was in my circle, who knew me as Mike, was allowing me to get high. I had to slip away to do drugs. I had to hide it. I’d be gone for days at a time. I was lonely in that part of my life. I was broke, broken and beat up. Exhausted. Empty. I finally said, ‘I can’t do this no more.’ I didn’t want to end up dead." Williams spoke about his addiction struggles in February on The Tamron Hall Show. Williams was supposed to attend this month's Primetime Emmys, where he's nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for Lovecraft Country. In recent years, Williams also starred on F Is for Family, When They See Us, The Night Of and When We Rise. In a 2017 New York Times profile of Williams, Noah Remnick wrote: "In Omar Little, Mr. Williams saw versions of himself and many of his friends, in all their complexities and inner conflicts. The character was at once menacing and jocular, openly gay and privately tortured, a lawless vigilante and regular churchgoer." Williams added: Omar is this dark-skinned outspoken man in the hood who didn’t care what anyone thought of him. He is everything I wished I could be."


    • The Wire creator David Simon is "too gutted" to properly comment on Michael K. Williams' death: "Too gutted right now to say all that ought to be said," he tweeted. "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."
    • The Wire alums and Hollywood pay tribute to Michael K. Williams: "The depth of my love for this brother, can only be matched by the depth of my pain learning of his loss," tweeted Wendell Pierce. "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. If you don’t know, you better ask somebody. His name was Michael K. Williams. He shared with me his secret fears then stepped out into his acting with true courage, acting in the face of fear, not in the absence of it. It took me years to learn what Michael had in abundance. He was proud of the artist he had become, asking for my advice long after he had surpassed any incite I could have shared.Always truthful, never inauthentic. The kindest of persons. Like two mischievous kids, we would laugh & joke whenever we would meet. Like Baltimore years ago. 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. So to you, my brother Mike, there is a small comfort that I know, you knew how much we loved you." Isiah Whitlock Jr. tweeted: "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." Domenick Lombardozzi tweeted: "Michael K Williams I knew was kind. Fair. Gentle. And super f*cking talented. I’ll cherish our talks and I’ll miss him tremendously. My deepest condolences to the Williams family. Rest my friend." 
    • Williams had completed much of the filming on his unscripted Vice TV series Black Market's second season before his death
    • How Michael K. Williams came to understand Lovecraft Country's Montrose Freeman: “At face value, Montrose is just a miserable drunk. Really just mean to his son,” Williams said in a Los Angeles Times interview published two weeks ago. “I subscribe to the narrative that ‘Hurt people hurt people.’ I try my best to look at the ‘Whys’ and not take things personal. Why is he so brutal to his son? What’s up with all the harsh beatings Atticus had to endure in his childhood from his father? When I got to Episode 9, I fully understood it.” He added of Montrose’s brutality toward Atticus: "It was, in a weird way, out of love. He was trying to protect Atticus and toughen him up so that the evils of the world would not affect his son the way they did him.”
    • Omar Little is a Top 10 all-time TV character: "Menacing one moment, cleverly hilarious the next and, at the same time, he's a completely unique form of queer, Black masculinity, driven as much by desire as capitalism," says Daniel Fienberg. "David Simon created Omar, but Michael K. Williams MADE him."

    TOPICS: Michael K. Williams, Vice TV, Black Market, Boardwalk Empire, F Is for Family, Lovecraft Country, The Night Of, When They See Us, When We Rise, The Wire, David Simon, Domenick Lombardozzi, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Wendell Pierce, Obits