American actor Michael K. Williams, best known for playing Omar Little in the hit crime drama television series, The Wire, passed away on Monday at 2 p.m. at his apartment in Brooklyn, New York. He was 54. The news of his death was confirmed by the New York Police Department (NYPD), who said in a statement that he was discovered dead by a family member. Representatives of the actor said it was, "with deep sorrow that the family announces the passing of Emmy nominated actor Michael Kenneth Williams." The statement further read, "They ask for your privacy while grieving this." The news of Williams' unexpected passing away has left many fans and celebrities in a state of shock, who have paid their tributes and condolences on social media.
Releasing a statement on Williams' death, HBO said, "We are devastated to learn of the passing of Michael Kenneth Williams, a member of the HBO family for more than 20 years. 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. We send our deepest condolences to his family for this immeasurable loss." Known also for playing Chalky White in Boardwalk Empire, Williams was praised by many in Hollywood for his charismatic performances. Outside of his work on The Wire and Boardwalk Empire, Williams has also appeared on shows like The Night Of, Lovecraft Country, including a recurring role on J.J.Abrams' Alias, while playing the character Leonard on the SundanceTV crime series Hap and Leonard. He has also starred in acclaimed films like 12 Years a Slave, Inherent Vice, The Road and Gone Baby Gone to name a notable few.
Currently in contention for an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in Lovecraft Country, Michael K. Williams has consistently attracted awards attention, including being nominated for the Emmys on four previous occasions. Some of his other memorable performances include appearing as biology professor Marshall Kane on the hit sitcom Community, while also landing a role in Solo: A Star Wars Story, which eventually got cut short after reshoots.
Born in Brooklyn, Michael K. Williams' mother was from the Bahamas and his father from South Carolina. The actor had initially developed a drug problem during his teen years when he was raised in the Vanderveer housing projects in East Flatbush. On his 25th birthday, Williams was slashed on his face by a knife when he tried to intervene in a fight outside a bar, which left him with a big scar. He first began as a dancer on music videos for George Michael and Madonna before landing his first role as Tupac Shakur’s brother in the 1996 film, Bullet.
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