Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett and Michael Kenneth Williams star in Lovecraft Country.

HBO

Groundbreaking actor Michael K. Williams, loved for his role as shotgun-wielding antihero Omar Little on HBO’s “The Wire,” has died, a New York police spokesman said.

The 54-year-old actor and activist was found dead on Monday afternoon in his home in Brooklyn, according to the spokesman. The cause of death was not yet known at the time of publication.

HBO mourned the loss of Williams, one of the key actors on the prestigious cable network, as a performer who touched many lives.

“We are devastated to learn of the death of Michael Kenneth Williams, who has been a member of the HBO family for more than 20 years,” said HBO. “Although the world is aware of his immense talents as an artist, we knew Michael as a dear friend, loved by all who have had the privilege to work with him. We send our deepest condolences to his family for this immeasurable loss.”

Williams, a four-time Emmy nominee, began his career as a professional dancer at the age of 22, according to his official biography. He came through Harlem’s famous National Black Theater Company and other prestigious institutions before making his feature film debut in 1996 in “Bullet” alongside Mickey Rourke and Tupac Shakur.

Williams had 111 acting credits according to his IMDb profile. He will play in the upcoming films “892” and “Surrounded”.

In addition to his role on “The Wire,” which ran for five seasons from 2002 to 2008, Williams was known for key roles on other HBO series such as “Boardwalk Empire” and “Lovecraft Country”. He has also appeared in films such as the Oscar-winning “12 Years a Slave”, “The Road” and “Inherent Vice”.

But his role as Omar on “The Wire,” regularly named as a contender for the greatest television series of all time, has cemented him in American cultural immortality.

Clad in trench coats, the openly gay shooter who hunts drug dealers on the mean streets of writer and creator David Simons Baltimore, broke new ground for the on-screen representation of black LGBTQ. Omar announces his presence to his ambush targets by whistling the nursery rhyme “The Farmer in the Dell” and delivering catchy lines such as “Everything in the game, yo” and “A man must have a code”.

Also: “You come to the king, it is best not to miss him.”

And yet, although Williams performed the character with aplomb, he found it difficult to get into the role of Omar.

“Anyone who really knows me … knows this is very far from my character, so I had a hard time finding a believable state of mind to execute the character,” he told NPR in 2018. “I just kept going laughed. “

Williams told the New York Times in 2017 that he learned about a gun from a drug dealer in Brooklyn.

“The best acting lesson I’ve ever had,” the actor told the newspaper.

Williams also founded Making Kids Win, a nonprofit, to provide young men and women with education and opportunities that will keep them safe from dangers, particularly gun violence and incarceration.

Tributes to Williams flocked as news of his death spread.

In a Twitter post, Wendell Pierce, one of Williams’ “Wire” colleagues, praised the late actor as “an immensely talented man with the ability to give voice to the human condition that represents the lives of those whose humanity is seldom enhanced until he sings their truth. “