The late actor Michael K. Williams received a larger than life tribute in his hometown Saturday when family and friends unveiled a new mural outside a Brooklyn subway stop.
Painted on a brick wall next to the Fulton Street station in Fort Greene, a jubilant Williams resembles the beloved character actor. In the bottom corner of the mural reads a quote of his from earlier in the year, said
during an interview with his nephew.
"Do me one favor. Don’t be like me. Be better than me. Stand on these shoulders and take it higher."
Williams was found dead in Brooklyn earlier this month; authorities had been investigating his passing as an apparent drug overdose. The NYC medical examiner's office said he died of an acute combination of fentanyl, heroin and cocaine.
A family member conducting a welfare check found Williams, famous for his role as Omar Little in the HBO series "The Wire," unconscious in his Williamsburg apartment along the East River waterfront, officials say.
Two senior NYPD officials told News 4 at the time that drug paraphernalia was discovered in the apartment and that
Williams may have overdosed on fentanyl. Responding emergency personnel pronounced him dead at the scene.
Williams was 54 years old.
Michael K. Williams, 54, was known for his role in "The Wire" and "Boardwalk Empire."
The Brooklyn native first rose to fame playing the notorious robber Omar Little, a robber who terrorized street-level drug dealers in the crime series "The Wire."
He then took on a starring role as Albert "Chalky" White in "Boardwalk Empire" and also appeared in roles in several acclaimed films including "12 Years a Slave." Williams was nominated for three Emmy Awards for his roles in "Bessie," "The Night Of" and "When They See Us."
Williams, who had worked in tiny TV roles and as a backup dancer for hip-hop acts before landing the role, had said that reputation started to stick to him in real life.
“The character of Omar thrust me into the limelight,” he told Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show” in 2016. “I had very low self-esteem growing up, a high need to be accepted, a corny kid from the projects. So all of a sudden, I’m like, Omar, yo, I’m getting respect from people who probably would have took my lunch money as a kid.”
With smoke from his cigarette often wafting through the darkness, the character would whistle the melody known to American children as “The Farmer in the Dell" and British children as “A Hunting We Will Go” to ominously announce his arrival.
And he spoke many of the show's most memorable lines, including, “a man gotta have a code" and “all in the game yo, all in the game.”
The character also broke TV ground as an openly gay man whose sexuality wasn't central to his role.
Williams appeared in all five seasons of “The Wire” from 2002 to 2008, his character growing in prominence with each season.
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Timuel Dixon Black, a prominent Chicago civil rights activist who promoted equal rights and dedicated his life to service and education, has passed away. He was 102.
Willie Garson, famous for his roles in "Sex in the City" and "White Collar" died Sept. 21, 2021. He was 57.
Sarah Dash, who co-founded the all-female singing group LaBelle, best known for their raucous 1974 hit “Lady Marmalade,” died at 76, it was announced Sept. 20, 2021.
Norm Macdonald, an influential comedian known for anchoring the Weekend Update desk on "Saturday Night Live," <a href="https://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/national-international/norm-macdonald-comedian-and-former-snl-cast-member-dies-at-61/2581657/">died</a> Sept. 14, 2021. He was 61. Macdonald had been battling cancer for nearly a decade.
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George Wein, an impresario of 20th century music who helped found the Newport Jazz and Folk festivals and set the template for gatherings everywhere from Woodstock to the south of France, died Monday. He was 95. In this Aug. 3, 2019, file photo, Wein is seen on stage during an acknowledgement ceremony at the 65th edition of the Newport Jazz Festival in Newport, Rhode Island.
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Emmy-winning character actor Michael Constantine, known for his role in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding″ died Aug. 31, 2021 at his Pennsylvania home at the age of 91.
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Terry Brennan, a star halfback on three unbeaten Notre Dame teams who was hailed as a wunderkind when he succeeded Irish coaching great Frank Leahy at just 25 years old, has died. He was 93. In this Nov. 17, 2010, file photo, Brennan poses at his home in Glenview, Ill.
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Actor Michael K. Williams, famous for his role as Omar Little in the HBO series 'The Wire', was found dead in his apartment on Sept. 6, 2021. He was 54. In this photo, he is seen in his award show look for the 27th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on March 31, 2021 in Miami, Florida.
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Sarah Harding, who rose to fame as a member of the pop group Girls Aloud, has died after battling cancer. She was 39. In this Aug. 8, 2015, file photo, she performs on stage at G-A-Y Heaven in London, England.
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Legendary Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, performing here in 2019, died Aug. 24, 2021. Watts joined the Stones early in 1963 and remained over the next 60 years, ranked just behind Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as the group’s longest-lasting and most essential member.
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Don Everly (right), one-half of the pioneering rock ‘n’ roll Everly Brothers whose harmonizing country rock hits impacted a generation of rock music, has died. Don Everly was 84. A family spokesperson said Everly died at his home in Nashville, Tennessee on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. In this July 31, 1964, file photo, The Everly Brothers, Phil, left, and Don perform on stage.
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Japanese actor Sonny Chiba, who wowed the world with his martial arts skills in more than 100 films, including “Kill Bill,” has died of COVID-19 complications. He was 82. In this Feb. 6, 2016, file photo, Chiba attends the Paris Manga & Sci-Fi Show at Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles in Paris, France.
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Maki Kaji, a creator of the popular numbers puzzle Sudoku whose life's work was spreading the joy of puzzles, has died, his Japanese company said Tuesday, Aug. 17. He was 69 and had bile duct cancer. He poses here in 2012 for a picture during the Sudoku first national competition in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
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Former ambassador and philanthropist James C. Hormel, seen here in 2016 in San Francisco, died at 88 on Aug. 13, 2021. Hormel was the country's first openly gay ambassador.
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File
Grammy-winning folk singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith, whose literary songs like “Love at the Five and Dime” celebrated the South died Aug. 13, 2021 at the age of 68.
Una Stubbs, the actress known for her role as Mrs. Hudson on "Sherlock," died Aug. 12, 2021 at the age of 84 at her home in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Bobby Bowden, the Hall of Fame coach who built Florida State into an unprecedented college football dynasty, seen here in 2006, died Aug. 8, 2021 at the age of 91.
Actress Markie Post, known for her roles in "Night Court" and "The Fall Guy" among many others, died at 70 on Aug. 7, 2021, after a long battle with cancer.
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Dusty Hill performs with American rock band ZZ Top during the Sweden Rock Festival in 2019. Hill died at his home in Houston, Texas Wednesday, just days after leaving the road over a hip issue. Hill was 72.
P Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, Pool
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld <a href="https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/national-international/former-defense-secretary-donald-rumsfeld-dies-at-88/3133382/">died</a> Wednesday, June 30, 2021, according to his family. He was 88. Rumsfeld served under Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush and oversaw the Iraq War.
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Veteran character actor Charlie Robinson, best known for his role as the court clerk on the classic sitcom “Night Court,” died July 11, 2021 in Los Angeles.
AP Photo/Liu Heung Shing, File
In this May 30, 1983 file photo the cast of the television series “The Love Boat,” at the Great Wall near Beijing, China. <a href="/news/local/gavin-macleod-love-boat-captain-dies-at-90" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Gavin MacLeod, fourth from left, died early Saturday, May 29, 2021</a>.
<a href="/news/local/mark-eaton-shot-blocking-king-and-jazz-legend-dies-at-64" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">NBA legend Mark Eaton died on May 29, 2021, at age 64</a>. In this file photo, Eaton, #53 of the Utah Jazz, stands next to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar #33 of the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA game at The Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1989.
EMPTY_CAPTION"I Just Can’t Help Believing,” “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” and “Hooked on a Feeling,” singer B.J. Thomas arrives at the SeriousFun Children’s Network event at the Dolby Theatre on Thursday, May 14, 2015, in Los Angeles. <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="/news/local/hooked-on-a-feeling-singer-b-j-thomas-dies-at-78" target="_blank">He died on May 29, 2021, at age 78 after announcing he was diagnosed with lung cancer in March.</a>
Michael Collins, an American astronaut, piloted the spacecraft for the Apollo 11 mission that allowed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to make their historic first steps on the moon in 1969. Collins <a href="https://www.nbcboston.com/news/national-international/astronaut-michael-collins-apollo-11-pilot-dies-at-90/2366590/">died</a> Wednesday of cancer, his family said. He was 90.
Walter Mondale, a liberal icon and former Vice President to Jimmy Carter, <a href="https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/national-international/walter-mondale-carters-vice-president-dies-at-93/2522813/">died</a> Apr. 19, 2021. Mondale was a major figure in national politics for two decades, running for president in 1984 but losing to Ronald Reagan. He was 93.
DMX, the Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist and legendary rapper who produced hit songs “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” and “Party Up (Up in Here)” <a href="https://www.nbcboston.com/entertainment/entertainment-news/rapper-dmx-dead-at-50-after-heart-attack-family-confirms/2350884/">died</a> Apr. 9, 2021. He was 50 years old.
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Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, poses for a portrait at home in Buckingham Palace in December 1958 in London, England. Philip, who was the longest-serving consort in Britain’s history as Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, <a href="/news/national-international/prince-philip-husband-of-britains-queen-elizabeth-ii-dies-at-99/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">died at the age of 99 on April 9th.</a>
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British actor Paul Ritter, known for roles in the “Harry Potter” series and the James Bond film “Quantum of Solace,” among many others, died March 5, 2021 after battling a brain tumor.
Emmy Award-winning actress Jessica Walter <a href="https://www.nbcbayarea.com/entertainment/entertainment-news/arrested-development-actress-jessica-walter-dies-at-80/2502624/">died</a> at age 80 in New York City on March 24, 2021. Walter's career spanned six decades in film and television, including popular roles on series "Arrested Development" and "Archer," as well as films such as Clint Eastwood's 1971 "Play Misty for Me."
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George Segal, an American actor and musician known for his roles in "The Goldbergs," "Look Who's Talking," and "Just Shoot Me!" <a href="https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/george-segal-dies-87-actor-goldbergs/2557542/">died</a> at age 87 on March 23, 2021. Segal rose to popularity in the '60s and '70s, earning an 1967 Oscar nomination for the film "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
AP Photo/Reed Saxon
NBA great and Lakers legend Elgin Baylor <a href="https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/lakers-legend-nba-hall-of-fame-elgin-baylor/2585953/">died</a> Mar. 22, 2021, at age 86. Considered the star of his era, Baylor was inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977.
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Sabine Schmitz, the first and only female race car driver to win the annual 24-hour race on the famed Nürburgring circuit and a renowned TV personality, <a href="https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/sports/sabine-schmitz-pioneering-german-race-driver-and-top-gear-regular-dies-at-51/2552457/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">died March 16, 2020</a>. She was 51. Schmitz had been ill with cancer since 2017 and continued racing until 2019. The 24-hour race's organizers said she died Tuesday following “a years-long battle with her disease.”
Lionel Cironneau/AP Photo
American professional boxer <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="/news/sports/marvin-hagler-middleweight-boxing-great-dies-at-66" target="_blank">"Marvelous" Marvin Hagler died on March 13, 2021, at 66</a>. Quiet with a brooding public persona, Hagler fought 67 times over 14 years as a pro out of Brockton, Massachusetts, finishing 62-3-2 with 52 knockouts.
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Rush Limbaugh, a conservative radio host and one of the most influential voices of American right-wing politics, <a href="https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/rush-limbaugh-dead-at-70-due-to-lung-cancer-complications/2469995/">died</a> Feb. 17, 2021, at age 70. Limbaugh had been battling advanced lung cancer after he announced his diagnosis in January 2020. His radio show ran for more than three decades.
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Larry Flynt, the controversial publisher who founded “Hustler” magazine, <a href="https://www.nbcbayarea.com/entertainment/entertainment-news/larry-flynt-hustler-magazine-founder-dies-at-78/2464931/">died</a> on Feb. 10, 2021, at the age of 78. Flynt launched “Hustler” in the 1970s, a print extension of his adult club of the same name that featured nude hostesses.
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In this Nov. 18, 2015, file photo, singer Mary Wilson performs at Amoeba Records in Los Angeles, California. <a href="/entertainment/entertainment-news/mary-wilson-founding-member-of-the-supremes-dies-at-76" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Wilson, one of the founders of Motown group The Supremes, died on Feb. 8, 2021, at age 76</a>.
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U.S. Rep. Ron Wright, R-Texas, died on Feb. 7, 2021, after contracting COVID-19 while fighting a prolonged <a href="https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/politics/us-rep-ron-wright-out-of-hospital-after-cancer-treatment/2449369/">battle against lung cancer</a>. <a href="/news/national-international/u-s-rep-ron-wright-of-arlington-dies-after-contracting-covid-10" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">The 67-year-old became the first sitting member of Congress to die after contracting COVID-19</a>.
Millie Hughes-Fulford, a trailblazing astronaut and scientist who became the first female payload specialist to fly in space for NASA, died following a years-long battle with cancer, her family said. <a href="/news/national-international/millie-hughes-fulford-trailblazing-astronaut-dies-at-75" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">She died on Feb. 2, 2021, at 75</a>.
Photographed here with then-President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush, then-Secretary of State George P. Shultz walks along the White House Colonnade in Washington D.C., on Jan. 9, 1985. <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="/news/politics/reagans-longtime-secretary-of-state-george-p-shultz-dies/" target="_blank">Shultz, a titan of American academia, business and diplomacy</a>,<a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="/news/politics/reagans-longtime-secretary-of-state-george-p-shultz-dies/" target="_blank"> died on Feb. 6, 2021, at age 100</a>.
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Hall of Famer Leon Spinks, pictured here at the Boxing Hall of Fame parade in Canastota, New York, in 2011, <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="/news/sports/former-heavyweight-champion-leon-spinks-jr-dies-at-67" target="_blank">died on Feb. 5, 2021</a>. The 67-year-old, who once beat Muhammad Ali to become the heavyweight champion, had been diagnosed with several forms of cancer.
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Christopher Plummer, the <a href="/entertainment/entertainment-news/oscar-winner-sound-of-music-star-christopher-plummer-dies" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">prolific actor who first came into prominence as Captain von Trapp in the film "The Sound of Music,"</a> has died at 91. Plummer remained active in Hollywood for over five decades, having played notable parts in recent films like "Knives Out," "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," and even as the voice of the villain in "Up."
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Hal Holbrook holds his Emmy Awards at The 26th Emmy Awards on May 28, 1974, at Pantages Theatre, Los Angeles, California. The <a href="http://entertainment/entertainment-news/hal-holbrook-mark-twain-tv-film-stage-actor" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">five-time Emmy awards winner</a>, best known for his portrayals as Mark Twain and the Watergate whistleblower "Deep Throat," died at the age of 95 on Feb. 2, 2021.
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<a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="/entertainment/entertainment-news/saved-by-the-bell-star-dustin-diamond-dead-at-44/" target="_blank">Dustin Diamond</a>, best known for playing Screech on the hit ’90s sitcom "Saved by the Bell," died at age 44 from stage four lung cancer on Feb. 1, 2021.
Pioneering actor Cicely Tyson earned a reputation for portraying strong Black women in a career that spanned more than seven decades. She earned an Oscar nomination for her role in “Sounder” (1972) and a Tony Award in 2013 at age 88. Tyson died Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. She was 96.<br>
Cloris Leachman, known for playing Phyllis Lindstrom on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and her own spinoff, <a href="https://www.nbcboston.com/entertainment/entertainment-news/cloris-leachman-oscar-and-emmy-winner-dies-at-94/2287656/">died</a> Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, of natural causes in Encinitas, California, according to a representative. Leachman won a best-supporting actress Oscar for "The Last Picture Show" and multiple Emmys. She was 94.
Atlanta Braves' Hank Aaron, seen here during spring training with the Braves in 1967, had died at the age of 86 on Jan. 22. <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="/news/national-international/baseball-legend-hank-aaron-dies-at-86/" target="_blank">The 25-time All-Star Hall of Famer</a> led the Braves to a World Series pennant in 1957, and after retiring as a player, served the same organization as an executive in 1986.
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In this 2006 photo, John Reilly attends NBC's "Days of Our Lives" and "Passions" pre-Emmy party. <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="/entertainment/entertainment-news/general-hospital-and-beverly-hills-90210-star-john-reilly-dead-at-84" target="_blank">Reilly, known for his roles in "General Hospital" and "Beverly Hills, 90210," died at age 84</a>, his daughter announced on Instagram on Jan. 10, 2021.
Tommy Lasorda poses during a 1980 photo portrait session at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Lasorda, who had spent seven decades with the Dodgers as a player, scout, manager and executive, <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="/news/national-international/former-dodgers-manager-tommy-lasorda/" target="_blank">is most known for his time managing the team from 1976 to 1996,</a> leading them to two World Series wins and two World Series losses. He died at 93, according to the Dodgers.
Instantly recognizable with a distinctive scar that ran the length of his face, Williams said most people who saw him on the street called him “Omar,” but he never really resembled the character.
“I could never be Omar,” he told Colbert with a laugh. “I didn't have the balls that dude had.”
His “Wire” co-stars, and many others, paid him tribute after his passing.
“The depth of my love for this brother, can only be matched by the depth of my pain learning of his loss,”
Wendell Pierce, who played Detective William “Bunk” Moreland and had many memorable scenes with Williams, said on Twitter. “An 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.”
David Simon, who created the show and Williams' character, said on Twitter that he was “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.”
Isiah Whitlock Jr., who played crooked politician Clay Davis on “The Wire," tweeted that Williams was “One of the nicest brothers on the planet with the biggest heart. An amazing actor and soul.”
Actor John Cusack tweeted that his portrayal of Little was “Among the greatest performances tv and film has ever seen.”
Williams was born in 1966 in Brooklyn, the son of a mother from Nassau, Bahamas, and a father from South Carolina. He was raised in the Vanderveer Projects in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, and went to George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School.
His first forays into entertainment were as a dancer for artists including Missy Elliot, Ginuwine, Crystal Waters and Technotronic.
“I was angry and I had a lot of energy," he told The Associated Press in 2018. “It was such an outlet. I was not the best dancer, you know, by far, but I was definitely the most passionate. I always had this energy. You always felt me whether I was in sync or not with the other guys.”
Williams had been working with a New Jersey charity to smooth the journey for former prison inmates seeking to reenter society, and was working on a documentary on the subject.
Gov. Phil Murphy offered his condolences via Twitter late Monday.
He spoke in an Associated Press story in 2020 of his rough time growing up, and said he had struggled with drug addiction, which he had spoken frankly about
in interviews in recent years.
“This Hollywood thing that you see me in, I’m passing through,” he said. “Because I believe this is where my passion, my purpose is supposed to be.”