In the wake of Monday’s news that actor Michael K. Williams, known for his role in “The Wire,” “Lovecraft Country” “Boardwalk Empire,” and more had passed away at the age of 54 from a reported drug overdose, the internet was filled with tributes from his film and television contemporaries, along with clips of Williams’ most memorable performances.
One such recent clip showed Williams as part of a live televised tribute to the late DMX during June’s BET Awards, with the Lox and Method Man. Williams’ appearance during the tribute startled many, considering his striking resemblance to the gruff-voiced rapper, who on April 9 also died of an apparent drug overdose, at the age of 50. Wearing DMX’s trademark black tank top, dookie chain and rapping in a gruff grumble, Williams tackled the lyrics from X’s “Slippin’.”
Ahead of the performance, Williams opened up to Variety about paying homage to one of his personal idols.
“X and I were both from the dirty, dirty mean streets of New York City. We survived those streets,” Williams told Variety on the red carpet. “We have a similar background story personally. And I’ve always looked up to him as an artist, as an emcee. He paved the way for me to be honest with you, there was Tupac Shakur and there was DMX. Those two men, what they brought to Hollywood, made it possible for someone like me to be here today.”
Williams said he became involved in the segment after receiving a phone call from iconic choreographer Fatima Robinson.
“When Fatima calls you answer. And when she asks, you say yes,” Williams said, teasing his role in the performance. “My goal is to embody him and to celebrate him and what he bought to the culture.”
Williams, who memorably portrayed Omar Little in “The Wire” and Chalky White in “Boardwalk Empire,” was found dead on Monday at 2 p.m. inside of his Brooklyn residence. He was a regular on many other acclaimed HBO series, including “The Night Of” and “Lovecraft Country,” played Leonard on SundanceTV crime series “Hap and Leonard” and had a recurring role on J.J. Abrams’ “Alias.” He also acted in acclaimed films including “Inherent Vice,” “12 Years a Slave,” “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Road.”
The actor’s work often attracted awards attention, including three Emmy nods for outstanding supporting actor in a limited series or movie for his work in “When They See Us,” “The Night Of” and “Bessie.” He’s currently in Emmy contention for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series for his work on “Lovecraft Country.”
He was also known for his comedy roles, including biology professor Marshall Kane on “Community.” Though he shot a small role in “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” his role was cut after reshoots would have required he cut short filming on the Netflix feature “The Red Sea Diving Resort.”
DMX, whose real name was Earl Simmons, first emerged in the late 1990s, with two enormously successful albums, his debut “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot” and “… And Then There Was X,” both of which went to No. 1. He released seven studio albums and appeared in several films, including “Belly” and “Romeo Must Die,” but his life and career were dogged by substance abuse and run-ins with the law that saw him serving time in prison. DMX was hospitalized a week before his death after suffering a heart attack.
Additional reporting by Angelique Jackson.