Michael K. Williams has died at just 54 years old

Michael K. Williams, one of the best character actors of all time, has died at just 54. Michael is up for an Emmy for his phenomenal performance in Montrose in Lovecraft Country. It is his fifth nomination. He’s known for playing deep, complex characters in The Wire, Boardwalk Empire and When They See Us. So many fans and colleagues are mourning and celebrating the death of this phenomenal man. Tributes are coming from people who worked with him, who knew and loved him, who met him at a party and felt heard, who danced with him, and who were touched by his work. Here is a brief writeup on his passing, from CNN.

Michael K. Williams, an actor best known for his role as Omar Little on HBO’s “The Wire,” has died. He was 54.

Williams was found dead in his New York City apartment Monday afternoon, a law enforcement official told CNN.

Investigators found drug paraphernalia near his body, the official said. The investigation is ongoing, according to another law enforcement source who spoke to CNN.

“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 of Shafran PR told The Hollywood Reporter.

CNN has contacted representatives of Williams for comment.

In a 2017 interview with the New York Times, Williams spoke openly about his struggles with substance abuse.

“Addiction doesn’t go away,” he said at the time. “It’s an everyday struggle for me, but I’m fighting.”

Williams, a Brooklyn native, most recently appeared in HBO’s “Lovecraft Country” and the series “F Is for Family.”

He became an almost iconic figure for many thanks to his role in “The Wire” as Omar Little, a shotgun-wielding character who made his living robbing drug dealers. He followed that up as a mobster in the HBO Prohibition-era mob drama “Boardwalk Empire,” and most recently earned an Emmy nomination for another series on the pay network, the macabre “Lovecraft Country.”
Williams was next slated to co-star in Sony’s George Foreman biopic from George Tillman Jr., who was set to direct.

[From CNN]

Last month I saw a video interview with Williams that was so unlike any celebrity interview I’d seen. He spoke from home with Gold Derby, the awards show podcast, about how playing Montrose in Lovecraft Country made him relive his childhood trauma. He was open and honest about the pain he was going through and said he was in therapy to work on it. It wasn’t like the interviewer was particularly skilled at getting people to open up, it was more like Williams was ready to talk and that he was just a genuinely vulnerable person.

After Williams passed, I learned so much about his life and career. He started out as a dancer in New York City, he was inspired by Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” video to pursue dancing, and he choreographed Crystal Waters’ 1994 video for “100% Pure Love.” He went on to dance for Madonna and George Michael along with trying out for roles in New York. He was eventually discovered by Tupac, who put him in his first acting role in his 1996 film, Bullet.

I’ve never been so upset by a celebrity taken so soon before their time. Michael brought such emotion and depth to his roles that I felt like I knew him. This is a huge loss and our hearts go out to his friends and family.

Here’s an interview with Queen Latifah. Williams and Queen Latifah knew each other before their careers took off and he tells her that she inspired him to become a dancer.

Related stories

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

59 Responses to “Michael K. Williams has died at just 54 years old”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. truthSF says:

    Utter heartbreak!!😫😭😭😭 I’m still so shocked about the lost of this absolute gem!! Rest In power Michael K. Williams!!🙏🏾

  2. OriginalLala says:

    So sad, my husband LOVED him as Omar in The Wire.

    • Rice says:

      Mine too. I’d never heard of it (The Wire) until I met Mr. Rice and he wouldn’t shut up about it. Years later, he wore me down and we watch the entire “The Wire” series and now, I won’t shut up about MKW. Every time he was on our TV, from Law & Order to Lovecraft Country, there was no talking at our house. Omar (home)coming!

  3. Noki says:

    This is very sad i loved him in The Nigh Of… On another note what is happening with all these drug deaths,i read a lot of posts on badly laced drugs being the cause of many deaths,they need to get address this new war on drugs.

    • waitwhat says:

      They are lacing street drugs (cocaine, pills, weed) with fentanyl b/c it’s so highly addictive…repeat customers, more $$. But fentanyl is also deadly. Not saying that is what happened in this case, but it is the culprit in many, many deaths.

      • Size Does Matter says:

        Yes this is happening everywhere. One kid died and another in a coma at my son’s college campus in middle-of-nowhere Texas.

      • Eenie Googles says:

        It’s not that these drugs are being deliberately laced with fentanyl, it’s that dealer who sell both will use the same scales, blades, etc leaving them contaminated. For an inexperienced user this trace contamination of fentanyl will be deadly. I think it does everyone more harm than good to think of dealers as diabolical, Machiavellian bad guys who don’t care who they kill, but the reality is that the increased demand for stronger opioids has simply led to more dealers selling it and doing so carelessly.

    • Ana170 says:

      I read some time ago that people who’ve been “clean” for a while are at greater risk for OD’ing than a continuous user. They don’t realize that their bodies can no longer tolerate the same amount of drugs they were taking when they stopped so they take too much. I’ve always thought this was what happened to Corey Monteith and Philip Seymour Hoffman. It may be the same with Michael.

  4. tempest prognosticator says:

    Rest In Peace. You will be missed.

  5. LightPurple says:

    This sent me reeling. I always knew that if he was in a production, it was worth watching. I started watching clips immediately when I saw this news yesterday. And then half an hour later, I got news that one of my dearest friends had just succumbed to cancer. I’m wrecked today. May they both rest in peace. They both left way too soon.

  6. Merricat says:

    Such a loss. We grieve with his friends and family.

  7. MellyMel says:

    What a talented man gone too soon. RIP

  8. LaUnicaAngelina says:

    Nooooooo damn it. No. I love him and he’s a phenomenal actor. I can’t with this news. Addiction is a terrible disease. My hearts goes out to his family and friends.

  9. Melly says:

    I gasped when I first read this news. Michael was simply brilliant. No lie I fell in love with him when I first watched him as Omar Little in The Wire. Menacing, erudite, vulnerable and such a captivating performance.

    If you can try and watch the Vice Series Black Market. Michael is so raw and compassionate as he meets people who are often looked down on. This man had so many demons. Raped as a child, struggles with substance abuse. But yet so kind and philanthropic and honest. I’m just a member of the public but I’m truly heartbroken at Michael’s passing.

    Rest In Peace beautiful brother.

    • Amelia says:

      I agree—not only was he an amazing actor but also an incredible philanthropist. I was stunned to hear this sad, horrible news. RIP Michael, you died way too young.

  10. Becks1 says:

    So so sad. He was an incredible actor

  11. Nev says:

    Amazing brilliant talent. See him in The Night If. Spellbinding.

  12. Stacy Dresden says:

    A terrible loss that cannot be replaced. He brought such talent and nuance to his roles.

  13. Kristen says:

    This is incredibly sad. He was an amazing actor, and it sounds like an even more amazing human. Rest In Peace.

  14. Laura-Lee MacDonald says:

    Awful news. My heart goes out to his loved ones, who are clearly large in number. I often re-watch the works I love from an artist I enjoyed when they have passed away, but I think I may just skip to his parts in Community, as I don’t think I can put myself through the tension of Lovecraft or The Wire right now. Oh yeah, I never did watch Boardwalk Empire. Guess it’s time.

  15. lemontwist says:

    This is so sad.
    He was the best character on The Wire by far. The dialogue on that show was great but *he* delivered it into the stratosphere.
    He was a giving soul and I’m so sorry for his friends and family.
    Rest in peace.

  16. Onemoretime says:

    Such a loss from all the tributes he seemed liked a great person He was in so many great shows someone on Twitter called him Mr. HBO, from the Sopranos to his latest LoveCraft County. I was touched HBO twitted their love for Mr. Williams. Of course he was great outside of HBO, he was the reason I watched Hap & Leonard. This one hit me just as hard as Kobe & GeeGee.

  17. Common sense says:

    This is so sad. He was a really good actor.

  18. Lemons says:

    Cried when I read this before bed. I only recently learned that he choreographed 100% Pure Love and I am obsessed with this song. Watched the video so many times. This man was so talented. It just feels like these past 2 years have been SET on taking the best from us too soon.

  19. LaraW” says:

    Rest in power, Michael.

    I know that circumstances of his death and Chadwick Boseman’s are completely different, but to me it’s just another reminder of the fact that a black man’s average life expectancy in the US is around 65.

  20. Keekey says:

    Such a huge loss. He was also terrific co-starring in Hap and Leonard with James Purefoy. It is a three-season series available on Netflix. I never hear much about it, but it was very good and well worth checking out if you’re a fan of his work.

    • Lightpurple says:

      How did I miss a series with Michael K. Williams AND James Purefoy? Will have to check that out.

      • Deering24 says:

        He was a hoot in Hap and Leonard, which ran on AMC or TNT. (The book series it’s based on is a trip, too.) And “Omar’s coming” is one of my fav YouTube videos. What a loss. 😪😪

    • Linda says:

      I loved Hap & Leonard. Such a good show and the interviews they gave were super cute.

    • Laura says:

      Hap and Leonard was where I lfirst saw him. Loved that series, it had depth, comedy, drama. The premise on the surface is unpromising, a gay black vet in the 1960′s and his best friend, a white activist ex con. But together they spark.
      I hoped for a season 4 but it’s never to be. RIP Leonard.

  21. girl_ninja says:

    His death has really f**ked me up. I’ve had a difficult childhood and sometimes all you want to do is run from it. I didn’t turn to drugs, I retreated into myself and escaped through my imagination. But shit is hard and even when you are “doing well” and thriving. I pray for comfort for his family and friends.

  22. Han says:

    Thank u for ur lovely words u summed up a lot of my feelings. I remember first watching Micheal in broadwalk empire in my school IT room , I was supposed to do my coursework but I was too transfixed by his acting. Watched a couple of interviews and he came across as a generous and thoughtful man.His work speaks for itself truly one of the greats .Micheal passing feels like a personal loss and I just can’t shake it . God bless his family and friends , may he rest in peace and rise in power.

  23. Willow says:

    He is the same age as me! Too young. I hope his family and loved ones will be okay.

  24. sunny says:

    What a loss! He was a tremendous talent but more than that when you hear stories about him, he seemed like such a kind, thoughtful, smart man.

    This news bummed me out. I’m still sad about Chadwick.

  25. Rosalee says:

    Michael K. Williams was a sublime human being. There are certain actors who bring a element to a movie or television series that elevates the quality of the writing. He was one of those actors. For example will watch anything with Olivia Coleman in the credits or Nicola Walker, Michael K. Williams was added to my list after his performance in the Wire. In interviews he was open and sincere in describing his struggles with addiction, his passionate love of acting, dance and poetry. He gave of himself, his voice and financial support he was an advocate for those who lived in the margins. My heart goes out to his family and friends. I am a fan who simply thought he was a incredibly talented actor and a beautiful human being.

  26. Riverandtree says:

    This is so tragic and such an immense loss in many ways. He was such a talented, almost hypnotic actor. I work industry adjacent and met him a couple of times and he was the nicest, most humble man. I got to watch him interact with teens and you could tell he really cared. I’m so sad about his passing. May he rest in peace. My heart goes out to his loved ones.

  27. lucy2 says:

    What a tragic loss. I’m so sad for his loved ones.

  28. NotSoSocialButterfly says:

    I feel the same way about Michael’s death as I did of PSH and Amy Winehouse. Tremendous talent ripped away. And so senselessly.

  29. Busybody says:

    That “Typecast” clip is amazing. May he Rest In Peace.

  30. SuSuSusio says:

    Best Actor of his generation.

    In his honor, if you have issues with addiction – or know someone who does — know that while it can be impossibly hard, there is help and support.

    You’re not alone.

  31. Anna says:

    Heartbreaking RIP Michael K. Williams

  32. Trillion says:

    noooooooooo! makes a person wonder what they could be doing for their addicted friends and family members.

  33. psl says:

    I could not breathe when I first saw the news. If I did not have a baby sleeping on me, I would have screamed.

    Omar Little is one of my favorite characters of all time, and that is because of Michael K Williams.
    He made everything he was in, a better show or movie. Phenomenal talent.

    If he wins the Emmy, I will sob. He deserves to be there.

  34. Sunday says:

    I was absolutely shocked when I heard. Other than Chadwick Boseman I think this is the only celebrity I’ve actually cried over their passing. He was such an incredible actor, dancer, and human. He should have been an Emmy winner many times over, should have had his choice of roles for decades to come. It’s just so sad. Rest in peace.

  35. smcollins says:

    I was so shocked and saddened yesterday when I heard the news. I absolutely loved him as Chalky on Boardwalk Empire. He brought so much depth to that character, just phenomenal. His funny, brief appearance in the Ghostbusters remake showed he had some comedic chops as well since he was usually associated with more serious roles. What a sad loss. RIP Michael 😔

  36. Eve says:

    This is so sad…he was a fantastic actor.

    His small role in The Road had me confused, angry and sad but ultimately in tears.

  37. Mimi says:

    I absolutely fell in love with him as Omar and am completely heartbroken at this news. So very sad, such a great loss. RIP

  38. Mimi says:

    What Wendell said was spot on. Such an iconic, amazing actor

  39. CoffeChamp says:

    What a great talent and a gem of a human being. May he Rest In Peace.

  40. The Recluse says:

    So incredibly tragic. Last year we lost Boseman and now this.

  41. Justjj says:

    Heartbreaking. If you get the chance to go back and listen, he gave an absolutely brilliant interview on Fresh Air a few years back discussing ‘The Night Of’ and ‘The Wire’. His radiant soul is just so real throughout. He’s authentic, vulnerable, thoughtful, generous, realized; so much strength and toughness in that sure, quiet, resonant, voice-such a beautiful person. Rest In Power.