Though the news of Michael K. Williams’ passing has undoubtedly been heartbreaking for many—it’s also been heartwarming, thanks to the myriad tributes and fond memories shared by those who knew and loved him.
Wendell Pierce, who starred as Detective Bunk Moreland alongside Williams on the iconic, gritty HBO series The Wire reflected on his time working with and getting to know Williams in a series of tweets, writing:
The depth of my love for this brother can only be matched by the depth of my pain learning of his loss. A[n] immensely talented man with the ability to give voice to the human condition portraying the lives of those whose humanity is seldom elevated until he sings their truth. If you don’t know, you better ask somebody. His name was Michael K. Williams. He shared with me his secret fears then stepped out into his acting with true courage, acting in the face of fear, not in the absence of it. It took me years to learn what Michael had in abundance. He was proud of the artist he had become, asking for my advice long after he had surpassed any insight I could have shared. Always truthful, never inauthentic. The kindest of persons. Like two mischievous kids, we would laugh & joke whenever we would meet. Like Baltimore years ago.
THE WIRE brought us together and immortalized Omar & Bunk in that “scene” on a park bench.But for us we aimed to take that moment in time together and say something about Black men. Our struggle with ourselves, internally, and each other. For me & Mike we had nothing but respect. So to you, my brother Mike, there is a small comfort that I know, you knew how much we loved you. “There is a certain immortality involved in theater, not created by monuments and books, but through the knowledge an actor keeps to his dying day that on a certain afternoon, in an empty and dusty theater, he cast the shadow of a being that was not himself but the distillation of all that he had ever observed; all the unsingable heart song the ordinary man may feel but never utter, he gave voice to. And by that somehow joins the ages. Mike…….you joined the ages. Farewell my friend, Love Wendell.
Another alum of The Wire, Tray Chaney shared a photo of himself and Williams and expressed similar sentiments, writing on social media: “I can’t…I’m crushed. No words. I love you bro. RIP to the legend Michael K Williams aka one of the dopest Actors/Brother in the world. #Omar #TheWIRE FOR LIFE. I’m off the grid for a while, hard to process this one. I love you bro smh damn.”
Spike Lee, who directed Williams in the 2008 film Miracle at St. Anna, followed suit, sharing a picture of himself and Williams courtside at a New York Knicks game on Instagram with the caption:
“Mike And I At Da Garden Cheering On Da Orange And Blue. Photo By James Devaney. Whew Lawd,Dis Is A Tough Day-1st We Lose The Great French Actor JEAN PAUL BELMONDO And Now My Brother MICHAEL K. WILLIAMS. Our Brother Passed Away Today In His Home,Da People’s Republic Of Brooklyn. I’m Shook. Drinking A Bottle Of Italian Red Wine-Brunello Di Montalcino By Myself. Our Greats Are Leaving Us Left And Right. GOD BLESS.”
Lee later added in a second post: “Let’s Celebrate Our Artistic Soldier MICHAEL K. WILLIAMS. We Have Lost Too,Too Many Of Our Sista’s And Brotha’s Too,Too Early. Blessings,Prayers And Condolences To His Family. GOD BLESS.”
Ava DuVernay, who directed Williams in the Emmy award-winning miniseries When They See Us posted a series of photos and a touching tribute:
I remember the times you’d come on set even when you weren’t on the call sheet. Just to share a hug. To cheer us on. Strolling in like the King that you were. For just a flash to give some love - then gone. I remember nights out in NYC that summer and how you were so loved by the folks in your city. I remember our work on the work, always connected and communicating and excavating and building because you were so open and ready to give your all. I remember you sending me a picture of yourself as a young man and sharing with me that the boys whose story we were telling were a reflection of you - and we were going to get it right. I remember you taking the young actors to the beach on your own and talking to them about things I couldn’t - about being a young, Black man in New York at the time - and how grateful I was. I remember the last text you sent me introducing me to your friend “Ava” that you met Day One in your trailer - and me not believing that you kept your start-of-production orchid for three whole years. I remember you speaking of mortality, like you did in your post last year about Kobe. In it, you wonder how you’ll be remembered and what your legacy will be. Maya Angelou once said, your legacy lives on in every life you touch. You, brother, touched many. Through your personal interactions big and small, through your community activism, through your struggles, through your triumphs, through your glorious work. You moved many. You moved me. What you doubted in life, be certain of now, dear brother. Be certain. You were a flash of love - now gone. But never forgotten.
“You were kind. You were gentle and soft spoken. You were funny. You were smooth. You were as real as they came,” wrote When They See Us co-star Jharrell Jerome on Instagram, adding: “You inspired me. You inspired all of us. You were the type of artist that I thought could live forever. But I’m still not wrong, because you WILL live forever. You are a timeless actor Michael. We love you, we will miss you. Rest In Peace. Omar’s still comin 🖤”
Courtney B. Vance also took a moment to touch on his relationship with his fellow Lovecraft Country star, noting: “Michael worked hard in his work and throughout his life. He shared with us all how hard he tried to achieve sustained sobriety. I know Michael, the man, would want his life to serve as an important, teachable lesson for anyone who is in the midst of the very real struggle against addiction. As difficult as this moment is for us all, Michael has found peace. He was a GIANT of a man! Only my faith sustains me in times like these. And Michael LOVED the Lord. I sent him our Scriptures every day and he responded every day. JESUS!!!! Michael, you will always be remembered by so many for your gifts as an actor but even more importantly, you will be remembered for being an amazing, kind man. I love you, my brother. Rest in Peace.”
Kerry Washington, Lance Reddick, Leslie Jones, Colman Domingo, Barry Jenkins and Yvette Nicole Brown also all shared kind words and memorable moments with Williams, as did close friend Tasha Smith, who wrote in part: “You gave us all so much love, wisdom and support!!!!! My Confidant, friend, prayer partner, fellow artist! You loved hard and lived courageously! You encouraged me and inspired me! You will live in my heart, in our hearts forever! I miss you so much. I can’t process this! I know you’re with the Lord resting easy, at peace. But damn this hurts.”
Mariah Carey also posted a throwback picture of the two, captioning the tweet: “A beautiful soul, a beautiful person, I’ll miss you always. Thank you for blessing us with your talent”
Forever in our hearts, rest in peace, Michael K. Williams. His family, friends and loved ones will remain in our prayers.