The Wire actor Michael K. Williams dies at 54

Michael K Williams
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Michael K. Williams, the Emmy-nominated actor best known for playing Omar Little on The Wire, has died aged 54.

Williams representative Marianna Shafran confirmed the actor's death in a statement, reading: "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."

Law enforcement sources told The New York Post that the actor was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment on Monday, September 6. No cause of death has been given as of writing but police said there was "no foul play indicated".

Williams was a decorated screen star, having been nominated for three Emmys across his career – for his performances in the Bessie, The Night Of, and When They See Us – and with one Emmy still pending for his role in Lovecraft Country.

However, it was Williams' role in The Wire that brought him to international attention. He appeared in 41 episodes as Baltimore legend Omar Little, with his performance being so widely loved that Barack Obama once called Omar his favorite character in his favorite TV show. "That's not an endorsement [of Omar]," Obama said at the time. "He's not my favorite person, but he's a fascinating character."

Following The Wire, Williams portrayed Chalky White on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, winning further acclaim. In fact, there has barely been a show in contention for the title of "best TV show ever" that hasn't featured Williams, with the actor having even had a minor role in The Sopranos back in 2001, as well as brief parts in Alias, Community, and Law & Order.

Williams' career also spanned movies. The actor appeared in the Best Picture winner 12 Years A Slave, the video-game adaptation Assassins Creed, the recent Ghostbusters remake, and The Road. Before his death, Williams completed filming on the upcoming movies 892, starring alongside John Boyega, and Surrounded, co-starring Jamie Bell and Letitia Wright. He's also set to voice a character in the upcoming game Battlefield 2042.

Wendell Pierce, who played Detective Bunk Moreland on The Wire, paid tribute on Twitter. "The depth of my love for this brother, can only be matched by the depth of my pain learning of his loss," he wrote. "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."

Ghostbusters director Paul Feige wrote on Twitter: "This is devastating. Michael was the greatest guy. We had so much fun together on Ghostbusters. Just a lovely human being. My heart goes out to his family and friends. RIP Michael. You were awesome."

The Suicide Squad filmmaker James Gunn also paid tribute: "Michael K Williams, in addition to being one of the most talented actors around, was also one of the kindest, sweetest, most gentle souls I’ve ever met. This is heartbreaking. My thoughts are with all those who loved him."

Jack Shepherd
Freelance Journalist

Jack Shepherd is the former Senior Entertainment Editor of GamesRadar. Jack used to work at The Independent as a general culture writer before specializing in TV and film for the likes of GR+, Total Film, SFX, and others. You can now find Jack working as a freelance journalist and editor.