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Actor Michael K. Williams—a man known for his groundbreaking role as Omar Little in "The Wire"—was found dead in his New York City apartment.
New York City Police Det. Sophia Mason confirmed to Oxygen.com that police found Williams, 54, dead Sunday just before 2 p.m. in the living room of his Brooklyn apartment off Kent Avenue after receiving a 911 call about an unconscious male.
Emergency responders pronounced Williams dead at the scene.
Police are investigating the death as a possible overdose, The New York Times reports.
A police source told The New York Post there was “no foul play indicated” and no signs of forced entry.
Marianna Shafran, Williams’ representative, also confirmed the actor’s death in a statement obtained by The Times calling it an “insurmountable loss” for his family.
Williams is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Omar Little, the sawed-off shotgun-toting stick up man in the Baltimore crime drama “The Wire,” which ran from 2002 to 2008.
Little served as somewhat of an anti-hero in the series as an openly gay man deeply immersed in the world of crime and drugs.
“I saw a lot of homophobia in my community,” Williams told The New York Times in 2019 of his own background growing up in the streets of Brooklyn. “Omar definitely helped soften the blow of homophobia in my community and it opened up a dialogue, definitely.”
The character, who was known for having his own strict moral code, often whistled the melody to “The Farmer in the Dell” to announce his arrival and delivered some of the show’s most memorable lines including “a man gotta have a code” and “all in the game yo, all in the game,” The Associated Press reports.
Williams got one of his first breaks as a guest star in “The Sopranos.” He also portrayed the character Chalky White in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” and appeared in “The Night Of” and “When We Rise.”
He was nominated this year for a Primetime Emmy Award—his fifth nomination during this lengthy career—for his portrayal of Montrose Freeman in HBO’s “Lovecraft Country.”
Williams began his career as backup dancer for music legends including George Michael and Madonna.
He switched to acting after he got a scar that ran the length of his face after a man slashed him with a razor blade during a fight at a Queens bar. He had been out celebrating his 25th birthday.
“Things changed immediately after that,” he told NPR in 2014. “Directors didn’t want me just to dance in the videos any more. They wanted me to act out these thug roles, you know.”
While Williams was praised for his talent on-screen, he was also open about his own struggles with drugs off-camera.
Williams told NJ.com in 2012 that while portraying Little he did drugs “in scary places and with scary people,” often going on days-long benders while still managing to show up to work on time.
“I was playing with fire,” he said at the time. “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.”
Williams’ death has hit the Hollywood community hard as many took to social media to remember one the country’s finest character actors.
“Too gutted right now to say all that ought to be said,” David Simon, creator of “The Wire” wrote on Twitter. “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.”
Wendall Pierce, who shared many scenes with Williams as Detective William “Bunk” Moreland in the HBO series, said in his own Twitter message that the “depth of my love for this brother, can only be matched by the depth of my pain” after learning of Williams’ death.
“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,” he wrote.
Actor John Cusack called Williams’ portrayal of Little “among the greatest performances tv and film has ever seen.”
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