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Michael K. Williams, 'The Wire' actor, dies at 54

Police said they responded Monday to Williams' Brooklyn apartment, where they found the actor deceased.
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Emmy-nominated actor Michael K. Williams, best known for his role on the Baltimore-based HBO series "The Wire," has died, a New York police spokesperson confirmed Monday. He was 54.

Police said they responded to Williams' apartment in Brooklyn at 2 p.m. Monday and found him dead. His death was first reported by the New York Post.

“The cause and manner of death are pending further studies following the examination,” a spokesperson for the city's chief medical examiner said.

Investigators are looking at whether Williams died by overdose, according to police.

"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," a representative for Williams' family said.

Williams is nominated for an Emmy for his performance as Montrose Freeman in HBO's "Lovecraft County."

Williams, who was born in Brooklyn in November 1966, got his start in entertainment around age 22 as a professional dancer, and he appeared in more than 50 music videos, according to TV Guide.

Williams made his feature film debut in the 1996 movie "Bullet," in which he played High Top. It was the late Tupac Shakur who discovered his talent and cast him, according to Williams' website.

Williams went on to play roles in movies such as Martin Scorsese's "Bringing Out the Dead" and others, including "The Road," "Gone Baby Gone," "Life During Wartime," "I Think I Love My Wife" and "Wonderful World."

But he was perhaps most known for his role as Omar Little on "The Wire," which ran for five seasons.

"The wit and humor that Williams brought to Omar, the whistle-happy, profanity-averse, dealer-robbing stickup man, earned him high praise and made Omar one of television's most memorable characters," Williams' website reads.

President Barack Obama said in 2012 that Williams' portrayal of Omar was his favorite character on "The Wire," adding, "That guy is unbelievable," in reference to Williams' character.

Along with his iconic performance in "The Wire," Williams was praised for his work as Albert "Chalky" White in HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," as well as Jack Gee, the husband of Bessie Smith, in the HBO biopic "Bessie." He also appeared in the Oscar-winning "12 Years a Slave."

He shared a Screen Actors Guild Award with the cast of "Boardwalk Empire" for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series and was nominated for six Primetime Emmy Awards.

Celebrities and fans alike shared their emotional tributes to Williams on social media Monday evening.

"This is utterly devastating. Sweet Michael. You were one of the greatest actors ever. Rest In Peace," the actor Patricia Arquette wrote on Twitter.

Williams' "The Wire" co-star Isiah Whitlock Jr. tweeted that he was shocked.

"Shocked and saddened by the death of Michael K Williams. One of the nicest brothers on the planet with the biggest heart. An amazing actor and soul. May you RIP. God bless," he wrote.

Another "The Wire" co-star, Wendell Pierce, tweeted about his pain.

"The depth of my love for this brother, can only be matched by the depth of my pain learning of his loss. A 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 tweeted.

Brian Koppelman, the showrunner of Showtime's "Billions," tweeted that Williams was a "beautiful soul."

"Michael K Williams was a brilliant film artist. I only had one long in person conversation with him, but I remember it completely. What a beautiful soul. What a gifted human. Transcendent. Rip," he tweeted.

The actor Rosie Perez wrote that she was "destroyed."

"WTF!!!! My friend just died!!! And I get a f------ alert to notify me?! WTF!!! Today is a f----- horrible day! I'm destroyed!" Perez tweeted.

The singer Jason Isbell wrote that he had encountered Williams once in New York City and wished he had taken the opportunity to say hello.

"I crossed paths with Michael K. Williams once in New York and I was too nervous to say hello, so I walked around the block trying to work up the nerve and still couldn't do it. Just loved his work so much. This news is so sad," he wrote.

Writer and director Spike Lee wrote on Instagram that he was "shook" by Williams' death ⁠— and drinking a bottle of Italian red wine by himself.