Michael K Williams, an actor best known for his role as Omar Little in The Wire, has been found dead today (September 6) at the age of 54.
According to the New York Post, the actor was found in his apartment in Brooklyn after an apparent drug overdose but this has not yet been confirmed by his representatives or family while investigations into the death are pending.
A prolific actor with roles in The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, and Lovecraft Country, for which he receive an Emmy, Michael has had a long and tragic history with drugs.
Speaking to the New Jersey Star-Ledger in the past, Williams explained that playing Omar in The Wire contributed to a serious drug addiction that he had already struggled from a young age.
In 2004, two years after he began starring on The Wire, Michael regularly smoked cannabis and was addicted to cocaine and would essentially become a “method actor” by adopting the persona of his character, which he says had “dark energy”.
He said: “I was playing with fire. It was just a matter of time before I got caught and my business ended up on the cover of a tabloid or I went to jail or, worse, I ended up dead. When I look back on it now, I don’t know how I didn’t end up in a body bag.”
Michael would often disappear for days on coke binges and continually hid his problems from his friends and family.
He eventually kicked his drug habit after leaving The Wire in 2008. Michael added: “I suffered from a huge identity crisis. I was more comfortable with Omar’s skin than my own.”
Michael has been open about his drug abuse and relapsed multiple times in his life.
He told Men’s Health previously: “There were certain things that I normalised [growing up]; the violence and the murder and how much [police] criminalise adolescent behaviour.
“My issues went another way and that took me down the road of chronic abuse. I can’t say I came out of the neighbourhood unscathed. You’re either using or selling. I was a user.”
Despite his struggles with addiction, Michael had an extensive acting career.
One of his first acting roles was in the film Bullet with rapper Tupac Shakur, before going on to appear in The Wire, Boardwalk Empire as Chalky White, Bessie as Jack Gee, Lovecraft Country as Montrose Freeman, Ghostbusters, and many more.
Michael also appeared on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver in a special about Opioids as well as filming a report on incarceration in the US for Vice News.
He recently finished filming Surrounded and 892, which also stars John Boyega, both due for release next year.
Michael’s family have asked for “privacy” while they grieve his death.
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