Michael Kenneth Williams (November 22, 1966 – September 6, 2021) was an American actor. He rose to fame in 2002 through his critically acclaimed role as Omar Little on the HBO drama series The Wire. He has been described as a "singular presence, onscreen and off, who made every role his own.” Born in Brooklyn, New York City, to a South Carolinian father and a Bahamian mother, Williams enrolled at the National Black Theater. He left school early to pursue a career as a dancer, which resulted in him working with Kym Sims, George Michael and Madonna, and found work choreographing music videos. His distinctive voice, prominent facial scar and charisma helped him attain acting work, initially alongside Tupac Shakur in the 1996 film Bullet before being cast in The Wire in 2002. The role was widely acclaimed, leading to praise from President Barack Obama and an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series in 2007. Williams also played Albert "Chalky" White on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire from 2010 to 2014. He earned five Primetime Emmy Award nominations for his performances in the HBO television biopic Bessie (2015), the Netflix drama series When They See Us (2019), and the HBO series The Night Of (2016) and Lovecraft Country (2020). He had a recurring role in the NBC sitcom Community from 2011 to 2012. He also had supporting roles in a number of films including Gone Baby Gone (2006), The Road (2009), 12 Years a Slave (2013), Inherent Vice (2014), and Motherless Brooklyn (2019). Williams acknowledged struggles with fame throughout his life, admitting that he had suffered from drug addictions during the height of his success. He continued to live in Brooklyn until his premature death in 2021, after purchasing and using heroin laced with a lethal amount of fentanyl; he was 54 years old. Four men were charged in the aftermath of his death on various charges, including manslaughter.Considered one of the finest American actors of his generation, his portrayal of Omar Little has been called one of the best in the history of television. With The Wire and among other shows such as The Sopranos, Williams was credited with being part of the late 90s and 2000s artistic force changing American television into an art form. In the aftermath of his death, he was subject to tributes and appraisal both in the United States and beyond; the British lecturer and writer Kenan Malik wrote of his "power and nuance, seldom seen on screen".
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