Tributes poured in Monday evening for five-time Emmy Award nominee Michael K. Williams, star of “The Wire” and “Lovecraft Country,” as news spread of his death.
Williams, 54, was found dead Monday afternoon at home in Brooklyn, New York police confirmed to USA TODAY. Police told The Associated Press that his death was being investigated as a possible drug overdose.
The actor, famed for his role as Omar Little on HBO’s “The Wire,” the Baltimore-based drama about crime and corruption, starred in a slew of HBO series, among them “Lovecraft Country,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “The Night Of.” His film roles included “12 Years A Slave,” “Gone Baby Gone” and “Inherent Vice.”
Williams didn’t shy away from discussing heavy topics or shedding light on the darkest moments of his life in interviews.
In a 2016 NPR interview with Terry Gross, Williams talked about his drug use — specifically around the time he was working on “The Wire.”
“Around the second — more like third season of ‘The Wire.’ I was on drugs, and I was in jeopardy of destroying everything that I had worked so hard for,” the late actor said.
When asked about why he continued to use drugs in the midst of the success of the HBO show, Williams shared he didn’t “feel worthy of (an) opportunity like that.”
“Then, you know, when I was given this character as Omar, I could’ve used it as a nurturing tool for myself. It could’ve been cathartic for me … Instead of actually doing the work and finding out how I could use this character to make myself feel about better, I just — I used it instead of me. It was… it was like my crutch.”
Fellow Hollywood actors took to social media Monday to share tributes and to remember the iconic Williams for the “beautiful soul” that he was.
Niecy Nash took to Instagram to honor her “When They See Us” co-star, writing, “You were a beautiful soul, a kind spirit & a good time… a talent beyond measure.”
“Thank you for the many times we traded energy and you made me feel like family,” she continued. “You left us too soon… Praying for your loved ones.”
Leslie Jones reflected on working with Williams on 2016’s “Ghostbusters” on Instagram, writing, “Not gonna lie this one (expletive) me up y’all!! Michael K Williams was a solid dude. He was so nice to me when we did ghostbusters and we bonded on many levels!!”
Jones added: “Damn I was just thinking the next time I saw him I was gonna tell him how dope of an actor he is. Damn y’all we lost a good one. Rest in love my brother.”
Spike Lee shared a photo of him and Williams, writing that “it was a tough day.”
“I’m shook,” Lee continued. “Our greats are leaving us left and right. God bless.”
Mariah Carey took to Twitter to share she’ll “always” miss Williams.
“A beautiful soul, a beautiful person, I’ll miss you always,” the singer wrote. “Thank you for blessing us with your talent.”
Ava DuVernay, “When They See Us” director, shared a series of photos of the late actor, some from the set of the Netflix limited series. “I remember the times you’d come on set even when you weren’t on the call sheet. Just to share a hug,” DuVernay wrote.
“To cheer us on. Strolling in like the King that you were. For just a flash to give some love – then gone.”
She continued: “I remember you sending me a picture of yourself as a young man and sharing with me that the boys whose story we were telling were a reflection of you – and we were going to get it right. I remember you taking the young actors to the beach on your own and talking to them about things I couldn’t – about being a young, Black man in New York at the time – and how grateful I was … You moved me. What you doubted in life, be certain of now, dear brother. Be certain. You were a flash of love – now gone. But never forgotten.”
Aisha Tyler remembered Williams as a “beautiful, passionate, expansive soul.”
“I felt so lucky to have known him, and we were all so fortunate to have enjoyed his incredible talent. He burned so very bright. Rest in power, MKW. You will forever be The King,” she wrote.
Camrus Johnson recalled the time he met Williams “about 8 years ago when I was still a background actor and man was he cool.”
“He’s been one of the black actors I’ve been able to look up to ever since, and I can’t believe he’s gone already,” he wrote.
Jay Pharoah expressed on Instagram that hearing news of Williams’ death made his “heart hurt.”
“I can’t believe I’m typing this just saw him a few weeks ago. Did my first movie w/him…one of the nicest, talented, and (most) humble folks you could ever meet…,” he wrote.
Aldis Hodge wrote he couldn’t “even believe this.”
“Rest in power, Mike. You were always a good brother,” the actor wrote. “A fantastic artist and an even better human being. We’ll miss you.”
Giancarlo Esposito wrote on Instagram he had “never met a more loving, caring, beautiful human being” than Williams.
“A true friend and thespian,” he added. “I will forever miss you my dear brother.”
Orlando Jones, who appeared with Williams in “I Think I Love My Wife,” wrote that of the “immense” pain he felt to hear Williams had died.
“Rest in Power Michael K Williams Prayers Up. Spirits shook. Pain immense. Keep your head up family,” We’ll pull through but first let’s give this black man every last one of his (flowers). Hold on to the ones you (love),” Jones tweeted.
Williams’ Omar Little, a “stick-up boy” based on real figures from Baltimore, was probably the most beloved character among devoted fans of “The Wire,” which ran from 2002 to 2008.
And since his character on “The Wire” was a fan favorite, people often conflated the actor and the role he played. “People didn’t even call me Mike, they called me Omar,” he told The (Newark) Star-Ledger in a 2012 interview. “That mixed with my identity crisis and my addiction – and it was not a good mix. I had to stop trying to be Omar and just be Mike.”
Williams’ co-stars from the HBO series also paid tribute to him on social media.
Actor Isiah Whitlock Jr., who played Maryland state senator Clay Davis on the show, expressed he was “shocked and saddened” by Williams’ death.
“One of the nicest brothers on the planet with the biggest heart,” he wrote. “An amazing actor and soul. May you RIP. God bless.”
Tray Chaney, who also starred in “The Wire,” said he was “crushed” to hear of Williams’ death.
“No words. I love you bro. RIP to the legend Michael K Williams aka one of the dopest Actors/Brother in the world,” Chaney tweeted. “#Omar #TheWIRE FOR LIFE. I’m off the grid for a while to process this one. I love you bro.”
Wendell Pierce, who played Detective William “Bunk” Moreland, paid tribute to his former co-star on Twitter, sharing that “the depth of my love for this brother, can only be matched by the depth of my pain learning of his loss.”
He called Williams an “immensely talented man with the ability to give voice to the human condition portraying the lives of those whose humanity is seldom elevated until he sings their truth.”
Pierce added that the HBO show “brought” them together and “immortalized Omar & Bunk in that ‘scene’ on a park bench. But for us, we aimed to take that moment in time together and say something about Black men. Our struggle with ourselves, internally, and each other.”
David Simon, creator of “The Wire,” wrote he was “too gutted right now to say all that ought to be said.”
“Michael was a fine man and a rare talent and on our journey together he always deserved the best words,” Simon added. “And today those words won’t come.”