He was a character apart and inescapable of The Wire, almost the spirit of the “best series of all time”. American actor Michael K. Williams, performer of Omar Little and multiple Emmy nominees, was found dead Monday in his apartment in Brooklyn, New York. He was 54 years old.
“It is with deep sadness that his family announces the passing of Michael Kenneth Williams. She asks you to respect her privacy during the grief linked to this insurmountable loss, ”said the actor’s family via his agent. “He died in an apartment in Brooklyn,” said Lieutenant John Grimpel, of the New York police, who gave no details, while several media have advanced the thesis of an overdose, in citing police sources.
Multiple Emmy nominees
During his career, Michael K. Williams, born in Brooklyn where he grew up in an African-American family, was nominated several times at the Emmy Awards, for his appearances in Bessie in 2015, The Night Ofin 2016 or When They See Us in 2019. His role in Lovecraft Country still earned him a nomination at the next ceremony.
But it is by playing Omar, one of the most atypical and successful characters of The Wire, which the actor whose face was crossed out with a long scar became widely known and appreciated. As of the announcement of his death, the tributes did not delay in the middle of the series and the cinema, but also beyond. “Horrible, sad and unbelievable to think that we lost the fantastic and talented Michael K. Williams at the age of 54”, tweeted Stephen King.
“I had not sufficiently differentiated the character of the actor”
For many, the series The Wire by David Simon is one of the most successful stories in history. Aired in five seasons on HBO in the 2000s, it follows the rivalries of small groups of drug dealers at the foot of sometimes dilapidated buildings and the work of police investigators, but season after season, David Simon is interested in a keen eye for detail in local politics, media, education or the affairs of a dockworkers union.
In this often dark painting, Omar Little, one of the most violent and feared criminals, walks the streets of Baltimore, wrapped in a large coat, gun in hand. Michael K. Williams’ portrayal of this lonely homosexual criminal, with his own moral code and principles, has received critical acclaim. The actor had also never hidden to what extent the character echoed his life, his addictions, his demons, as during our interview with CanneSeries in 2018: “I had not sufficiently differentiated the character of the actor, I got so involved, immersed in this role – and that’s what all actors should do in my opinion – that I got a little lost in it. I didn’t start pointing at people either, but its darkness resurfaced on me, I carried it within me ”.
Michal K. Williams had also played the role of Chalky White, a smuggler during the prohibition era, in Boardwalk Empire, or that of a powerful inmate in the famous New York prison of Rikers Island, in The Night Of. In the cinema, he had notably had a role in Twelve Years a Slave from Steve McQueen or Gone Baby Gone by Ben Affleck. The actor was soon to play Doc Broadus, George Foreman’s first trainer and mentor in a biopic on the great American boxer.