An actor with a rich, varied career and a notable presence in both drama and comedy, has died. Michael Kenneth Williams was 54.

Born in 1966 in Brooklyn and raised in the Vanderveer Projects in East Flatbush, Williams’ first gigs in entertainment included work as a dancer for the likes of Missy Elliot, Ginuwine, Crystal Waters, George Michael and Madonna. But that wasn’t where his true passion lay, and he pursued acting, participating in several productions of the La MaMA Experimental Theatre, the prestigious National Black Theatre Company and the Theater for a New Generation directed by Mel Williams.

Though he stands as one of the most respected actors of his generation, Williams may be best known for his role as Omar Little in The Wire. An incredibly memorable performance in a show known for them, Williams shined as the enigmatic criminal with a strict model code.

Other TV work included The Sopranos, Alias, Community, Boardwalk Empire, The Night Of, Hap And Leonard, Lovecraft Country and Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us.

On film, he appeared in films such as Gone Baby Gone, The Road, Brooklyn’s Finest, Snitch, 12 Years A Slave, Inherent Vice, Triple 9, Ghostbusters (2016) and Motherless Brooklyn. Williams commanded the screen whenever he was on it, and he was always open and direct about past traumas and struggles with addiction. He was also an activist and deeply involved in helping his community, including prisoners re-entering society, working on a documentary on the subject.

Wendell Pierce, a co-star and friend from his Wire days, paid emotional tribute via Twitter.

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