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Actor Michael K. Williams, star of The Wire, found dead in his apartment in NYC

The Brooklyn-born actor, who also starred in Lovecraft Country, Boardwalk Empire and When They See Us, has been confirmed dead at the age of 54.

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Actor Michael K. Williams, star of The Wire, found dead in his apartment in NYC
RODRIGO VARELA AFP

The actor Michael K. Williams, star of The Wire and Boardwalk Empire, has been found dead in his New York apartment at the age of 54.

Williams, who is currently a 2021 Emmy Award nominee for his role in Lovecraft Country, is perhaps best known for his iconic portrayal of Omar Little in the HBO series The Wire. After growing up in Brooklyn, New York he became a vocal advocate for many social causes, as well as co-founding the community-led We Build The Block initiative.

In the past Williams has spoken about problems with addiction and it has been reported that drug paraphernalia was found in his apartment.

“No foul play indicated,” a police source told the New York Post. “No forced entry, the apartment was in order.”

Williams shot to prominence for his role in The Wire

After spending years searching for a break in acting, some of which featured stints of homelessness, Williams gained national recognition for his portrayal of Omar Little in The Wire.

He received the part after just a single audition and his nuanced performance of the ‘stick-up artist’ was so powerful that it reportedly convinced the show’s creators not to kill the character off in the first season, as they had initially intended.

Across the show’s five seasons Williams drew innumerable plaudits for his portrayal and USA Today listed his performance as one their ‘10 Reasons We Still Love TV’, saying: “Williams brought life to a character who is unlike any we've ever seen before. And considering how many crime dramas we've seen on TV, that's saying something.”

There was even greater praise to come from then-President Barrack Obama, who praised Williams’ Omar as one of the greatest television characters ever created. When asked to name his favourite character on the show which he cited as one of the best of all time, he said: “It's got to be Omar, right? I mean, that guy is unbelievable, right?”

“What a combination,” the President said of Omar Little, the homosexual thief who robbed from drug dealers and followed his own, unflinching moral code.

Depth of his characters was both a strength and weakness

Williams received award nominations for his roles in Bessie (2015), The Night Of (2016) and When They See Us (2019) and also starred in the Emmy Award-winning drama Boardwalk Empire as Albert ‘Chalky’ White.

Throughout his career he was praised for the emotional depth of the morally ambiguous, often violent characters that he portrayed. Speaking to Fresh Air in 2016, he spoke of the toll that such involving work had had on his personal life.

"When I wear these characters to the extent that I wear them to, that [energy's] gotta go somewhere," he said. "I definitely wore that dark energy that Omar was — he was a dark soul, a tortured soul — and I just ... lived in that and that's what people was attracted to. ... The lines got blurred."