Michael K. Williams Dies: ‘The Wire’ and ‘Boardwalk Empire’ Actor Was 54

Michael K Williams (Credit: Shutterstock)

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

Williams was found dead of a suspected drug overdose in his New York City apartment on Monday afternoon, according to multiple published reports.

The New York Post, which was the first media outlet to report the actor’s death, said his nephew found him unresponsive around 2 p.m. Police sources told the paper investigators found drug paraphernalia near Williams’ body. An investigation is pending.

“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,” the actor’s longtime rep Marianna Shafran of Shafran PR told The Hollywood Reporter.

Related Story: Comedian Fuquan Johnson and Two Others Die After Apparently Overdosing at LA Party

Michael K. Williams as Omar Little in 'The Wire.' (Credit: HBO)
Michael K. Williams as Omar Little in ‘The Wire.’ (Credit: HBO)

Williams rose to prominence on The Wire as Omar, an openly gay robber who targeted drug dealers. He instilled fear in the neighborhood by whistling as he walked down the street with a shotgun. Williams often delivered memorable one-liners like, “You come at the king, you best not miss.” He appeared on the series from 2002 to 2008, until his character met an untimely death on the streets of Baltimore.

The actor also won praise for his role as Albert “Chalky” White, a powerful African-American gangster, on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire from 2010-2014. The series won a best ensemble Screen Actors Guild Award in 2012.

Among his other credits were roles in the HBO biopic Bessie, and in Ava DuVernay’s Netflix miniseries When They See Us. He also had supporting roles in the films Gone Baby Gone (2012) and best picture Oscar winner 12 Years a Slave (2014).

Williams had been open about his struggles with substance abuse and discussed the issue in interviews.

“Addiction doesn’t go away,” he told the New York Times in 2017. “It’s an everyday struggle for me, but I’m fighting.”

Williams was born in Brooklyn in 1966, and grew up in a housing project in the East Flatbush neighborhood.

The actor most recently appeared in HBO’s Lovecraft Country. He received a 2021 Emmy nomination for his role as Montrose Freeman on the series, but passed away before the Sept. 19 ceremony.