Tributes Pour in for Actor Michael K. Williams, Who Died at 54
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.
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. And today those words won’t come.
— David Simon (@AoDespair) September 6, 2021
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.
It feels like my whole timeline is grieving Michael K Williams. You can feel legitimate loss behind every post/pic/story about him. These aren’t just the polite “thoughts and prayers” posts. There is a real sense of sadness. This says a lot about who he was
— Shanita Hubbard (@msshanitarenee) September 6, 2021
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.
Loved the No Reservations where Bourdain and Michael K. Williams are wandering Brooklyn, MKW knows everyone, they know him, a mutual lovefest between a man and the people of a city, they pick a random restaurant and run into Marlo https://t.co/0MMrklHHF4
— John Frankensteiner (@JFrankensteiner) September 6, 2021
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.
If you don’t know, you better ask somebody. His name was Michael K. Williams. He shared with me his secret fears then stepped out into his acting with true courage, acting in the face of fear, not in the absence of it. It took me years to learn what Michael had in abundance. pic.twitter.com/BIkoPPrPzg
— Wendell Pierce (@WendellPierce) September 6, 2021
God, he was a true gem. I was so lucky to be around him and work with him on “Bessie”. He was one of the kindest humans in all ways. Being in #MichaelKWilliams presence was a gift. A true gift. Thank you #michaelkwilliamsRIP pic.twitter.com/g3C96b58xG
— Tika Sumpter (@iamtikasumpter) September 6, 2021
This is so beautiful. #MichaelKWilliams https://t.co/2Pt5EE158G
— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) September 7, 2021
Michael K. Williams in 2017: “There are so many people here — beautiful and beautifully flawed people — and I want all of their stories to be told.”
A devastating loss in a devastating time. https://t.co/PujH8g1jUC
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) September 6, 2021
Rest in Peace Michael K. Williams. Gone far too soon. A man that taught me so much. Thank you for your wisdom. pic.twitter.com/qoOKxdnErF
— Damson Idris (@DamsonIdris) September 6, 2021
— Jeffrey Wright (@jfreewright) September 7, 2021
Michael K always had on his mind reaching back to pull up others. He carried the struggle w/him wherever he went, in everything he did. Maybe that’s a too heavy load. But he started this org to help. It was in his heart. In his honor, if you feel it, give.https://t.co/MzVqMRNYx3 pic.twitter.com/9AFN9XOCfk
— Jeffrey Wright (@jfreewright) September 7, 2021
Michael K Williams, in addition to being one of the most talented actors around, was also one of the kindest, sweetest, most gentle souls I’ve ever met. This is heartbreaking. My thoughts are with all those who loved him. ❤️
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) September 6, 2021
Michael K Williams was 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. pic.twitter.com/LuFY0tG9NA
— Aisha Tyler (@aishatyler) September 6, 2021
I saw Michael K. Williams in the airport a few months back and made sure to let him know how much I love and appreciated his work. He was so kind to listen to me and he was so grateful for the thanks. Like DEEPLY GRATEFUL. Not the quick thank you gotta go. Celebs usually do.
— Kevín (@KevOnStage) September 6, 2021
Horrible, sad, and unbelievable to think we’ve lost the fantastically talented Michael K. Williams at the age of 54.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) September 6, 2021
I can’t…I’m crushed. no words. I love you bro. RIP to the legend Michael K Williams aka one of the dopest Actors/Brother in the world. #Omar #TheWIRE FOR LIFE. I’m off the grid for a while hard to process this one. I love you bro smh damn ♂️ pic.twitter.com/UNK3F94opM
— Tray Chaney (@traychaney) September 6, 2021
Rest in power, Michael K. Williams pic.twitter.com/wZVv2D4wyq
— Geeks of Color #BlackLivesMatter (@GeeksOfColor) September 6, 2021
I feel punched in gut to learn we’ve lost Michael K Williams. Soul anguished. Getting to work with him was one of the greatest privileges I’ve had in my career. My admiration for his talent was boundless, like so many. If he was in a scene he was the best thing about it. Period.
— Edward Norton (@EdwardNorton) September 6, 2021
One of Michael K Williams’ greatest gifts as an actor was his ability to make you root for the villain. He made you care about stereotypically ‘bad’ characters because he knew how to tap into that complexity. That we are all more than just one thing. TV is better because of him.
— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) September 6, 2021
Michael K Williams ran towards the expériences that shaped him, not away from them, and it reflected powerfully in his art.
And all of it – from ballroom, to dance, to acting – came with an innate understanding of his body, presence, and how to use it in whichever medium.
— Comorienne (@_ShamGod) September 7, 2021
“I thought, ‘Why me? Why did I get spared?’ I should’ve been dead. I have the scars. I’ve stuck my head in the lion’s mouth. Obviously, God saved me for a purpose. So, I decided to get clean and then come clean. I’m hoping I can reach that one person.” https://t.co/vxRkVC5nNf
— Wesley (@WesleyLowery) September 6, 2021
For those who didn’t know; Michael K Williams was actively involved in criminal justice reform, not only in the US, but also in The Bahamas. Had the privilege of sitting down and speaking with him and his lovely Bahamian mother. RIP Mike. pic.twitter.com/Ocrx6vWEj2
— Denzel. 🇧🇸 (@Dembazell) September 6, 2021
This is my fave video of Michael K. Williams 💕
originally posted during quarantine.
it’s when I found out he was a respected dancer/choreographer before he became an actor pic.twitter.com/gCsVVVB5n3
— Hot Commodity Jay (@JayElleWoods) September 6, 2021
We’re heartbroken to hear that truly singular performer Michael K. Williams has passed away.
We’re remembering him and his galvanizing spirit by revisiting his trip to our films closet back in March 2011. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/c3MWIVMPgN
— Criterion Collection (@Criterion) September 7, 2021
THE WIRE (2002)
Cinematography by Uta Briesewitz
Directed by Clement Virgo
From the episode “Old Cases”
RIP Michael K. Williams pic.twitter.com/1L5IcX2F4z
— One Perfect Shot (@OnePerfectShot) September 6, 2021
my favorite interview with michael k. williams was on latifah’s show (they’ve been friends since they were 17) and he discussed how janet jackson’s “rhythm nation” video made him get into showbiz, then latifah pulled a clip from his days as a backup dancer pic.twitter.com/fwvmJaJcSQ
— Marlow Stern (@MarlowNYC) September 6, 2021
Here is the repost of my amazing talk with Michael K. Williams from February. Sad day. RIP https://t.co/tCP2cNVPVy
— marc maron (@marcmaron) September 7, 2021
Nigel Parry’s portrait of Michael K. Williams is one of the best portraits ever made. It’s been in my big folder of inspo stuff for a long time. pic.twitter.com/HycaJiK0kr
— elicia donze (@eliciadonze) September 7, 2021
Michael K. Williams for the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (2010) pic.twitter.com/PmaZolSXs9
— zellie (@zellieimani) September 7, 2021
Before Michael K. Williams became an actor, he was a backup dancer in the 90s for Madonna, Crystal Waters, George Michael, Ginuwine, Missy Elliott, & other artists. He even said that Janet Jackson’s RN 1814 album changed his life & inspired him to be a dancer. R.I.P to a legend.
— (@MJFINESSELOVER) September 6, 2021
Celebrating the life and joy of Michael K. Williams today pic.twitter.com/NSkE8fFW2G
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) September 7, 2021
While we mourn his loss, let’s remember happiness and joy Michael K Williams exuded in this video. You will be missed. pic.twitter.com/IMXUwXkzrE
— ♿️TEE FRANKLIN HARLEY QUINN WRITER (@MizTeeFranklin) September 6, 2021
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
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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