Actor Michael K. Williams, best known for his work on The Wire and Boardwalk Empire, was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment on Monday, Vulture can confirm. According to the police, Williams was discovered by a family member. “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 insurmountable loss,” Williams’s family said in a statement. He was 54.
Williams’s portrayal of The Wire’s enigmatic Omar Little earned him widespread critical acclaim, and beginning in 2010, he starred as Chalky White on Boardwalk Empire. More recently, his roles in Lovecraft Country, When They See Us, The Night Of, and the HBO biopic Bessie garnered him Emmy nominations. Williams was also active in community outreach in his native New York City, founding a nonprofit called Making Kids Win to combat gun violence and youth incarceration. In 2018, he released an HBO documentary on juvenile incarceration titled Raised in the System. “I believe we have enough resources within our community that we should be able to go back into our cities and take back our kids, the ones that are perpetrating and the ones that are being perpetrated upon — they’re all ours,” Williams told Vulture in 2018.
Tributes to Williams flooded social media in the wake of his death, with James Gunn writing, “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.” The Wire creator David Simon posted a picture of Williams on Twitter, and wrote, “Too gutted right now to say all that ought to be said. 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.” See more tributes to Williams below.
Update, Friday, September 24 at 4:00 p.m.: The New York City medical examiner has released Michael K. Williams’s cause of death, ruling it an accidental drug overdose. Vulture confirmed with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner that his official cause of death was “acute intoxication by the combined effects of fentanyl, p-fluorofentanyl, heroin, and cocaine.” Williams was open about his struggles with addiction over the years, telling the New York Times in 2017, “Addiction doesn’t go away,” he said. “It’s an everyday struggle for me, but I’m fighting.”
With reporting from Victoria Bekiempis.