BROOKLYN -- An actor best known for his work on "The Wire" was found dead in his penthouse apartment in Brooklyn on Monday.
Police say the 54-year-old Michael K. Williams, who played the character Omar Little, was discovered by a family member.
Drug paraphernalia was found at the scene, authorities say. The NYPD says his death was being investigated as a possible drug overdose, but the medical examiner will determine the official cause.
His death came as a shock to fans, co-stars and especially his close family.
"He was loved," nephew Arvance Williams said. "Always smiling, always happy, always dancing."
Williams was open about his battle with drug addiction and called it an everyday struggle.
"A lot of people think that when a person puts down the drugs or the alcohol that all the problems go away," he once said. "That couldn't be further from the truth. Drugs and alcohol are not the problem. They are merely symptoms of the problem."
His family was shocked and devastated.
"Mike was the kind of person, he would fall and get back up, he was always trying to do better," Arvance Williams said.
'Wire' actor Michael K. Williams remembered as 'genuine, giving and courageous'
Another nephew, Booker T. Williams, said his uncle "did everything in his power to show love."
"My family loves him," he said. "He loved our family, our community."
Williams appeared in all five seasons of "The Wire" from 2002 to 2008, his character growing in prominence with each season.
As Little, he played a criminal with a strict moral code, known for taking advantage of a reputation for brutality that wasn't always real. The character also broke TV ground as an openly gay man whose sexuality wasn't central to his role.
Reaction started pouring in across social media as news of Williams' death spread.
Williams was raised in East Flatbush at the Vanderveer Estates housing project, now known as Flatbush Gardens. He was the co-founder and an advocate of "We Build the Block."
"He loved the community, he loved Brooklyn, he loved New York," Arvance Williams said.
"Michael K. Williams tried to fix an often broken world," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "He was generous, kind and stood with those fighting for justice. His work, particularly his role in 'The Wire,' was unforgettable and in its own way, life-affirming. We're keeping all who loved him in our hearts tonight."
Williams was also a ubiquitous character actor in other shows and films for more than two decades, including roles on the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire" and "Lovecraft Country," and in the films "12 Years a Slave" and "Assassin's Creed."
He is currently nominated for an Emmy for his role in HBO's "Lovecraft Country." A win at the September 19 ceremony would be his first in five nominations, surprisingly none of them for "The Wire."
HBO released the following statement:
"We are devastated to learn of the passing of Michael Kenneth Williams, a member of the HBO family for more than 20 years. While the world is aware of his immense talents as an artist, we knew Michael as a dear friend who was beloved by all who had the privilege to work with him. We send our deepest condolences to his family for this immeasurable loss."
WATCH | Michael K. Williams interviewed on 'Here and Now'
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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