Sept. 7, 2021 -- Michael K. Williams, known for his acting roles on The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, and Lovecraft Country, was found dead on Monday in his apartment in Brooklyn, NY.
His death is being investigated as a possible drug overdose, New York City police told The Associated Press. The city medical examiner is investigating the cause of death.
Family members found Williams, 54, unresponsive in the dining room of his Williamsburg home with what appeared to be heroin on the kitchen table, according to the New York Post.
A relative spoke to Williams on Friday, and the actor was supposed to attend an event on Saturday but didn’t make it, the news outlet reported. The relative visited his apartment on Monday and called police after finding Williams. It was unclear how long the actor may have been dead.
“No foul play indicated,” a police spokesperson told the Post. “No forced entry, the apartment was in order.”
Williams was a five-time Emmy nominee who started his career as a backup dancer for Madonna and George Michael before pursuing acting with the National Black Theatre in New York City, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Williams appeared in all five seasons of The Wire from 2002 to 2008 as Omar Little, a rogue robber of drug dealers, the AP reported. Williams said most people who saw him on the street called him “Omar,” though he wasn’t like the character.
In recent years, Williams worked with a New Jersey charity to smooth the journey for former prison inmates trying to reenter society, according to the AP. He’s spoken about his rough childhood and previous drug addiction in numerous interviews, saying he used personal experiences to bring depth to his characters.
“I use my job to engage empathy and compassion for people society might stereotype or ostracize,” he told The Guardian in 2015.
“No one wakes up and says, ‘I’m going to become a drug dealer’ or ‘I’m going to become a stickup kid.’ No,” he continued. “There is a series of events that makes them feel this is the only way out. As a Black man growing up in the hood, I bear witness to some of those events.”
Williams also promoted social justice as an ambassador for the American Civil Liberties Union.
“My goal is to end mass incarceration and to have more dialogue about how can we stop the government filing up jails with low-level, nonviolent drug offenders and people with mental illnesses or addictions,” he told The Guardian. “Those are health issues, not criminal ones.”