Mr. Williams, who additionally starred in “Boardwalk Empire” and also “Lovecraft Country,” was best known because that his duty as Omar small in the David Simon HBO series.

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Michael K. Williams in ~ the Nostrand avenue basketball court in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn in 2017. His work typically examined the intersection the race, masculinity, crime and also institutional failure.Credit...Demetrius Freeman because that The brand-new York Times

Michael K. Williams, the gibbs who brought a hard-edge charisma to his portrayal that Omar Little, the sawed-off-shotgun-wielding stickup male on the pioneering HBO collection “The Wire,” was uncovered dead on Monday in his home in the Williamsburg ar of Brooklyn. He was 54.

His longtime representative, Marianna Shafran, confirmed the fatality in a statement and also said the family members was grappling v “deep sorrow” at “this insurmountable loss.”

Mr. Williams was found around 2 p.m., follow to the brand-new York City Police Department. The death is gift investigated together a feasible drug overdose, the police said, and the city’s clinical examiner was to recognize the cause.


As Omar tiny on “The Wire,” David Simon’s five-season epos on HBO that explored the gritty underworld that corruption, drugs and also the police in Baltimore, Mr. Williams played possibly the many memorable personality in a collection many consider amongst the finest shows in television history.


As a swaggering lone wolf in a story largely characterized by proceeding battles between the police and also various crime bosses and also crews, Omar was one of prime-time’s pre-eminent antiheroes in a TV era identified by them. He was likewise gay and also openly for this reason in the homophobic, coldblooded people of murder and drugs, a groundbreaking portrayal of black masculinity top top television.

“I saw a the majority of homophobia in mine community,” Mr. Williams called The new York time in 2019. “Omar definitely helped soften the punch of homophobia in mine community, and also it opened up up a dialogue, definitely.”

Mr. Williams thrived up in the eastern Flatbush ar of Brooklyn and, he said had never envisioned a life exterior the borough. But before he was 30 he had actually parlayed his love for dance right into dancing roles with the singers George Michael and also Madonna, and choreographed and also performed in the video for crystal Waters’s hit solitary “100% Pure Love.” He landed his first acting opportunity when he captured the eye that the rapper Tupac Shakur.

At 25 years old, Mr. Williams obtained the scar that came to be his signature physics feature and that helped specify him together an actor. He was spending his date of birth at a bar in emperors when a man slashed his challenge with a razor blade during a fight. After that, directors no much longer wanted him together a backup dancer; they wanted him in “thug roles,” he told NPR in 2014.


When Mr. Shakur witnessed a Polaroid photograph of him in a production office, he decided that Mr. Williams was the human to pat his character’s brothers in the 1996 film “Bullet,” in i m sorry Mr. Shakur starred the contrary Mickey Rourke.

After play a drug dealer in young name Scorsese’s 1999 film “Bringing out the Dead,” Mr. Williams landed a small duty in an illustration of “The Sopranos,” playing a love father life in the projects who agrees to aid hide a boy of a deceased mafia boss. V that job, he felt together if he had actually arrived as an actor, he told Vanity same in one interview critical year. It wasn’t shed on him the he was one of the few people of color on the show, the said, and also that commonly those characters ended up “floating with the fishes.” but he perceived it as significant that he had actually played a Black male on the show who was no a “pawn that got killed off.”

Then come “The Wire.” Just before he acquired the role, Mr. Williams had been “lost,” as he put it — in debt and borrowing money from his family to live. He was in the living room city hall television as soon as his episode of “The Sopranos” come on, the said, and also watching himself onscreen, that realized the he to be sitting about wasting his talent.

“I went back to mine mom, and also I said, ‘You understand what, ns think I require to give show business one an ext shot,’” he told Vanity Fair.


Mr. Williams as Omar small in “The Wire,” a groundbreaking portrayal of a gay Black guy on television. Credit...HBO

“The Wire” created him as one of television’s ideal actors, and also he go on come star in acclaimed series like “Boardwalk Empire,” “The Night Of” and also “When us Rise.” that received five Emmy award nominations, consisting of one this year, for outstanding supporting gibbs in a drama series, for his portrayal the Montrose Freeman top top the HBO show “Lovecraft Country.” The Primetime Emmy Awards will certainly be presented this month.


He also appeared in a number of films, including “12 years a Slave” and “The Road.” He had actually recently been actors in a biopic that George Foreman together Doc Broadus, the boxer’s trainer and also mentor.

Off camera, however, Mr. Williams struggled at times through drug addiction, i m sorry he debated openly in interviews. That spent much of his income from “The Wire” top top drugs, a bottom spiral that had him living out of a suitcase on the floor the a house in Newark, an endure he described with candor in an write-up that showed up on nj.com in 2012.

He finished filming the series with assistance from his church in Newark, however the drug usage persisted. In 2008, he had actually a minute of clarity in ~ a presidential rally because that Barack Obama in Pennsylvania. V Mr. Williams in the crowd v his mother, Mr. Obama remarked the “The Wire” to be the best show on television and also that Omar little was his favorite character.

They met afterward, yet Mr. Williams, who was high in ~ the time, might barely speak. “Hearing my surname come out of his mouth wake up me up,” Mr. Williams said The time in 2017. “I realized the my work could actually do a difference.”


Michael Kenneth Williams was born ~ above Nov. 22, 1966. His mother had immigrated native the Bahamas, worked as a seamstress and also later activate a day care center out of the Vanderveer Estates, the housing complex now known as Flatbush Gardens, whereby the family lived. His parents separated when he was young.


When Mr. Williams was actors as Omar in “The Wire,” he went back to Vanderveer chateaus to hone his role, drawing on the people and experiences he had actually grown up with.

“The method a most us indigenous the ar see it, Mike is favor the prophet of the projects,” Darrel Wilds, 50, who flourished up with Mr. Williams in Vanderveer, called The Times. “He’s representing the human being of this neighborhood to the world.”

Mr. Williams offered his celebrity status to promote several causes, many notably criminal justice reform, both in the joined States and in the Bahamas. He to be the American civil Liberties Union’s ambassador for ending mass incarceration, appearing in an advertisement campaign.

He told The new Yorker in 2014, “Arresting people, or destroying people’s resides for a small, nonviolent charge, favor marijuana, medicine addiction or psychological illness, is not the means to go.” he added: “Those are health issues, no criminal issues.”

On and also off screen, Mr. Williams engaged in discussions around systemic racism amid the black Lives matter movement. He plied the heritage of America’s background of racism together he studied because that his roles, consisting of as the dad of Antron McCray, one of the teenagers wrongfully convicted of raping a woman in main Park, for Ava DuVernay’s mini-series “When They see Us.”

The history was not remote come him: In 1989, when the prosecution of the five men — then adolescents — who came to be known together the main Park 5 began, Mr. Williams was in his 20s, fear of what that would typical for him as a Black guy living in brand-new York City.


“You, brother, touch many,” Ms. DuVernay composed in one Instagram short article on Monday. “Through your personal interactions big and small, through your ar activism, v your struggles, with your triumphs, v your glorious work. You relocated many. You relocated me.”

Mr. Simon, who wrote and also directed “The Wire,” posted Mr. Williams’s photograph on Twitter top top Monday and also said he to be “too gutted” come say much more about “a fine man and a rarely talent” that “always deserved the ideal words.”

Mr. Williams is survived by his mother, Paula Williams; his brother, Paul Carey; and a nephew, Dominic Dupont.

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To the end, Mr. Williams deferred come his characters, insisting that they had their own power, just as they had actually their very own personalities.

“He didn’t care what everyone thought around him,” Mr. Williams said of Omar, native “The Wire,” in an interview with GQ in 2020. “He had actually a huge moral compass, and he wasn’t afraid to express it. Ns was the finish polar opposite. Ns was frightened a most times farming up. I had actually a an extremely low me esteem and a vast need to be accepted. The only thing ns knew the I mutual with Omar to be his sensitivity and also his capacity to love, and also his capability to love deep. I knew the I had actually that in me.”