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Tributes Pour in for Actor Michael K. Williams, Who Died at 54

Actor Michael K. Williams in a suit and blue shirt posed on a balcony

Michael K. Williams, an actor of great skill and heart, has died at age 54. Immediately the outpouring of grief and mourning on social media became a tidal wave and then a flood.

Beyond roles he imbued with deep humanity and played with astonishing power, Williams was committed to social justice, criminal justice reform, and widely hailed as a kind and generous person.

There are in-depth obituaries and tributes to Williams across many media properties; here are just a few:

Many of these pieces highlight Williams’ stand-out performance as Omar Little on HBO’s series The Wire, a role that would bring him to prominence. On social media, people hailed Williams as having played “the greatest character ever on the greatest TV show of all time.”

The Wire’s creator and writer David Simon found himself at a loss for words after news of Williams’ passing broke.

Since The Wire, Williams had an acclaimed career in television and film, with four Emmy acting nominations for his turns in When They See Us, The Night Of, and Bessie.

He was widely tipped to win his first Emmy at the upcoming awards as Best Supporting Actor for Lovecraft Country, where he played Montrose Freeman. Other memorable roles came on Boardwalk Empire, Ghostbusters (2016), When We Rise, and Hap and Leonard.

On Twitter and Instagram, tributes to Williams came fast and furiously from his friends and former co-stars, Hollywood and NYC creatives, and countless members of the public who admired his work. I stopped counting after a dozen stories of gestures of thoughtfulness and generosity Williams had extended to people he just met and total strangers—needless to stay, these accounts are legion.

There was also focus on his continued engagement with his native borough of Brooklyn, NY, where he grew up in East Flatbush. No cause of death for Williams has been disclosed. He leaves behind a son, Elijah.

Here are just a few of the many, many, many, many thoughts and remembrances that went out to Williams and his extraordinary life.

In an Instagram post, director Ava DuVernay wrote movingly of her friend. She directed Williams in the acclaimed drama miniseries When They See Us.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Ava DuVernay (@ava)

It’s impossible to collect the number of tributes that are emerging for Michael K. Williams, but all are testament to the legacy of a remarkable man and one of the finest performers of a generation.

(image: Rodrigo Varela / Stringer / Getty Images)

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Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.