Friends and costars are paying tribute to actor Michael K. Williams — known for his roles in acclaimed projects such as The Wire, When They See Us, Lovecraft Country, and 12 Years a Slave — who, on the afternoon of September 6, was found dead in his Brooklyn home at age 54.
“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 insurmountable loss,” Marianna Shafran, the Brooklyn native’s longtime rep, said in a statement per The Hollywood Reporter.
After news of Williams’s passing broke, Jharrel Jerome, with whom the actor starred in Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us, took to social media to remember his legacy. “You were kind. You were gentle and soft spoken. You were funny. You were smooth. You were as real as they came. You inspired me. You inspired all of us. You were the type of artist that I thought could live forever. But I’m still not wrong, because you WILL live forever. You are a timeless actor Michael. We love you, we will miss you. Rest In Peace. Omar’s still comin,” the 23-year-old actor from the Bronx wrote on Instagram, referring to Williams’s The Wire character.
DuVernay also took to Instagram to pen a lengthy tribute to the actor, which she accompanied with various pictures of Williams, reminiscing about their times together. “I remember the times you’d come on set even when you weren’t on the call sheet. Just to share a hug. To cheer us on. Strolling in like the King that you were. For just a flash to give some love – then gone. I remember nights out in NYC that summer and how you were so loved by the folks in your city,” DuVernay’s post starts. “I remember you speaking of mortality, like you did in your post last year about Kobe. In it, you wonder how you’ll be remembered and what your legacy will be. Maya Angelou once said, your legacy lives on in every life you touch. You, brother, touched many. Through your personal interactions big and small, through your community activism, through your struggles, through your triumphs, through your glorious work. You moved many. 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.”
Fellow When They See Us alum Storm Reid chose to share a throwback picture of herself and Michael K. Williams, seemingly from when they both were cast for 12 Years a Slave, with a heartfelt note. “This was taken right after breakfast. The breakfast where you welcomed my mom and me with open arms as we were nervous in a new city and on my first big film set. You made us feel like family. We may not have seen each other often, but every time we did, it was always a lovefest,” Storm wrote. “Grateful to have been in two of the same projects with you. Grateful to have experienced your brilliance as an artist early on because my mom’s favorite show was The Wire. Grateful for your existence. Out of all of the things I can say, saying thank you seems the most comforting. so thank you. I’ll never forget that breakfast. We’ll never forget you or your light.”
Since Williams was known for his many roles on HBO projects, the network also paid tribute to the star upon news of his passing. “We are devastated to learn of the passing of Michael Kenneth Williams, a member of the HBO family for more than 20 years. While the world is aware of his immense talents as an artist, we knew Michael as a dear friend who was beloved by all who had the privilege to work with him. We send our deepest condolences to his family for this immeasurable loss,” the network said in a statement, per THR. The Wire creator David Simon, Zendaya, Spike Lee, Mariah Carey, Taraji P. Henson, Edward Norton, Viola Davis, Kerry Washington, and Idris Elba are among the stars who also paid tribute to the actor via social media.
Williams is currently nominated for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series at the 2021 Emmy Awards for his performance as Montrose Freeman on HBO’s Lovecraft Country. The awards are slated to take place later this month, on September 19.
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