Williams was found unresponsive yesterday (September 6th) in his Brooklyn, New York home. No cause of death has been revealed and that it was his nephew who discovered the actor’s body.
Survived by his Mother, the Williams’ family released the following statement:
“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.”
A native of Brooklyn’s East Flatbush section, Williams attended the George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School.
He first worked as a dancer and model, appearing in a Crystal Waters music video and on tour with Madonna and George Michael.
In 1996, Michael appeared in the Tupac Shakur film Bullet before acting in Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out The Dead. On television, the actor made appearances in Law & Order and The Sopranos.
The 2000s marked a breakthrough period for Williams. David Simon’s The Wire gave the actor a prominent role as stick-up boy Omar Little.
The iconic character was a highlight on the award-winning series, and Williams was involved with 41 episodes over 5 seasons.
The character also broke TV ground as an openly gay man whose sexuality wasn’t central to his role.
Speaking about playing Omar, Williams told Stephen Colbert on The Late Show in 2016:
“The character of Omar thrusted me into the limelight,”
“I had very low self-esteem growing up, a high need to be accepted, a corny kid from the projects. So all of a sudden, I’m like, Omar, yo, I’m getting respect from people who probably would have took my lunch money as a kid.”
Williams was also a ubiquitous character actor in other shows and films for more than two decades, creating another classic character as Chalky White in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire from 2010 to 2014.
During the 2010s, his film work accelerated to include roles in 12 Years A Slave, Inherent Vice, and The Gambler, among others. He then hosted a VICE documentary series, Black Market With Michael K. Williams.
More recently, Williams starred in HBO’s Lovecraft Country.
The news of his death has shocked the world, and whether it was an overdose of drugs or something else, we have lost an actor who could deliver with flawless smoothness a dialogue that most in Hollywood would overdo.
Sleep tight, yo.
Wendell Pierce on Michael K Williams as Omar Little and Chalky White: pic.twitter.com/frxcUW0HbY
— Aneesh Ramaswamy (@aneeshswamy) September 6, 2021