Actor Michael K. Williams, known for his role as Omar Little on “The Wire,” died Monday. Williams was 54. Photo by Howard Schatz.
Actor Michael K. Williams, known for his role as Omar Little on “The Wire,” died Monday. Williams was 54. Photo by Howard Schatz.

Michael K. Williams, who brought life to the character of Baltimore stick-up man Omar Little on the HBO series “The Wire,” died Monday at 54.

Williams’ fans in Baltimore and beyond are remembering the late actor for his outstanding on-screen performances and heartwarming impact on communities off screen.

Recently, Williams portrayed Montrose Freeman, father of main character Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Jonathan Major), in the sci-fi horror HBO show “Lovecraft Country,” a role that earned Williams an Emmy nomination.

Williams was also part of several “best ensemble” award wins and nominations for “12 Years a Slave.”

Some of Williams’ other acclaimed roles included Albert “Chalky” White on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire; Jack Gee, husband of Bessie Smith (Queen Latifah) in the HBO biopic Bessie; LGBTQ activist Ken Jones in the ABC docudrama miniseries When We Rise; and Bobby McCray, father of Antron McCray (Caleel Harris), one of the five Black teenagers wrongly convicted in the 1990 Central Park jogger case, in the Netflix crime drama miniseries When They See Us.

Williams was set to play boxer George Foreman’s trainer and mentor Doc Broadus in Sony’s upcoming Foreman biopic.

Although Williams grew up in Brooklyn, New York, he was beloved by many in Baltimore.

“The Wire” creator David Simon said he was “too gutted” to find the words to honor Williams, but said he was “a fine man and a rare talent.”

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

Author D. Watkins said Williams “showed [love] in the realest way — and birthed so many careers in Baltimore.”

Michael K Williams showed LOVED in the realest way — and birthed so many careers in BALTIMORE..

People act like The Wire was just a show, it was so much more. The Wire was an outlet , a beginning and a WAY OUT and then a WAY BACK IN TO help so many people ??

— D. W A T K I N S (@dwatkinsworld) September 7, 2021

In 2004, Williams met Felicia Pearson in a bar and encouraged her to audition for “The Wire,” The Baltimore Sun reported. Although Pearson was initially written into the show as a minor role, her character Snoop appeared for three seasons until the show ended.

In addition to his acting work, Williams also founded the nonprofit organization Making Kids Win, which builds community centers in urban areas to provide safe spaces for children and reduce gun violence and incarceration among youth.

Williams was also the co-founder of Crew Count, an initiative to educate people about the importance and process of voting, including the organization of voter registration pop-ups in New York City.

Williams was also an ambassador for The Innocence Project, which works to exonerated wrongly convicted people, and was a producer for the VICE documentary Raised in the System about the prison industrial complex.

Michael K. Williams was special

An iconic American actor, @BKBMG was also an @innocence ambassador, founder of Making Kids Win, an org that builds community centers in urban neighborhoods, and producer of Raised in the System, a @VICE doc exposing the prison industrial complex

— abolition is abolition is abolition (@AWKWORDrap) September 6, 2021

I never knew Michael K. Williams personally, but I know a lot of people in Baltimore who did & they always spoke of his kindness, generosity, and dedication to community. A person who was accessible and real. This devastating news is really hard to process.

— Alexandra P. Gelbard (@apgelbard) September 7, 2021

Fans of Williams’ work on “The Wire” expressed how the actor humanized Little’s character, who was inspired in part by former Baltimore gangster Donnie Andrews.

Omar could have been a comic book character, his feats seemed superhuman. Michael K Williams made him real, he gave him humanity, while reminding you that Omar was the baddest man in Baltimore. And now he is gone far too soon.

— Matt Meagher (@mattmeagher) September 7, 2021

While in prison, Andrews provided information about Baltimore crimes to David Simon, who was a Baltimore Sun reporter at the time. Andrews was later named a consultant on “The Wire.”

After he was released from prison in 2005, Andrews started a foundation called Why Murder?, to lead youth away from crime, which he ran until his death in 2012.

Other fans mourned the actor’s death and remembered his impact from Charm City to around the world.

I didn’t have the pleasure to meet or know Michael K. Williams like others in Baltimore have. But I knew his work and his beautiful artistry by the way I would constantly want to watch whatever he was in. So much more reminder the importance of telling people beauty & love often.

— Jocelyn Providence (@JustJocey09) September 7, 2021

Michael K. Williams impacted millions of people through his work on screen.
His work on The Wire will forever be cherished by those of us here in Baltimore.

— Shadeed Q. Eleazer ⌚ | Web3 Intellectual Property (@mrshadeed) September 7, 2021

Us from Baltimore are feeling this loss ? RIP Michael K Williams aka Omar from The Wire

— SUDLER.ETH (@chasesudlah) September 7, 2021

I wanna see a Michael K Williams mural on the side of one of these Baltimore buildings

— Plain Pat, Waddup? (@Glencocolaflare) September 7, 2021

Th BMI joins Baltimore in mourning the loss of actor Michael K. Williams.

Williams, who portrayed Omar Little on the HBO hit series, ‘The Wire’, gave love to Baltimore not only on screen but off screen through community advocacy. #MichaelKWilliams #Baltimore #TheWire

— Balt Museum Industry (@BMIatWork) September 7, 2021

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at