Michael Kenneth Williams, the actor best known for his roles as Omar Little on The Wire, Albert “Chalky” White on Boardwalk Empire, and most recently Montrose Freeman on Lovecraft Country, was found dead in his New York City apartment. He was 54. No immediate cause of death has been announced.
“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 unsurmountable loss,” his representative Marianna Shafran confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.
Williams first came to national prominence as Omar Little on the HBO series The Wire. Portraying a gay black drug dealer in the urban areas of Baltimore, Maryland, Little was a stark contrast to the one-dimensional villains of the American Drug War often portrayed in media.
Williams imbued the character with compassion and strong ties to family and religion, contrasting his hardened exterior. The role won Williams praise and became his most well-known character.
After The Wire, Williams went on to appear in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire as Albert “Chalky” White, the leader of Atlantic City’s small contingent of black gangsters. Williams also appeared in the lead roles of shows like Hap & Leonard, Lovecraft Country, and the Viceland reality television series Black Market.
“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,” HBO announced in a statement.
With his distinctive facial scar and wide-ranging acting abilities, Williams was a go-to character actor in a variety of television and film roles for over twenty years. These included roles in Twelve Years a Slave, Inherent Vice, Kill the Messenger, The Land, and Arkansas.
Williams was thrice nominated for Emmy’s for his roles in 2015’s Bessie, 2016’s The Night Of and 2019’s When They See Us.