The Wire star Michael K Williams dead at 54

Black actor who starred in the iconic role of a gay Baltimore armed robber Omar Little was found dead in his New York apartment.

Williams had spoken openly of his past struggles with drug addiction, and had told US media that he had spent much of his earnings from The Wire on narcotics [File: Caitlin Ochs/Reuters]

American actor Michael K Williams, one of television’s most memorable stars of recent years for his role in crime drama The Wire, has been found dead in a New York apartment, according to New York City police.

News of the 54-year-old’s death triggered an outpouring of grief among fans and former colleagues when the news broke out on Monday afternoon. Williams won widespread acclaim as Omar Little, a gay Baltimore armed robber, in The Wire and also appeared in dramas and film including Boardwalk Empire, 12 Years a Slave and Lovecraft Country.

He received multiple Emmy nominations, the top television awards in the United States.

The actor’s representative said it was “with deep sorrow that the family announces the passing of Emmy-nominated actor Michael Kenneth Williams.”

The New York Police Department told the AFP news agency that Williams had been found dead in an apartment in Brooklyn on Monday.

The Wire became one of the most popular shows on television and ran for five seasons from 2002 until 2008.

Williams was also well-known for the role of Albert “Chalky” White on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire.

He was nominated for an Emmy for his turn in Lovecraft Country as well as for his work playing the husband of blues singer Bessie Smith in the 2015 film Bessie.

He was additionally a nominee for 2016’s The Night Of and for When They See US in 2019, about a group of young Black men wrongly accused of rape in Central Park in the 1980s.

“While the world is aware of his immense talents as an artist, we knew Michael as a dear friend who was beloved by all who had the privilege to work with him,” HBO said in a statement.

No official cause of death was given, but several US media quoted law enforcement sources as saying they suspected a possible drug overdose.


Williams had spoken openly of his past struggles with addiction and had told US media that he had spent much of his earnings from The Wire on narcotics.

News of his death was met with grief among fans, many of whom considered him one of the most talented actors of his generation.

Bestselling horror writer Stephen King tweeted: “Horrible, sad, and unbelievable to think we’ve lost the fantastically talented Michael K. Williams at the age of 54.”

His first big onscreen break came when rapper Tupac Shakur was filming a movie in New York and cast Williams as his little brother after seeing a Polaroid picture of him.

He was then cast as a drug dealer in Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out the Dead, before landing the role that would make his career in The Wire.

Source: AFP, Reuters