Spike Lee, Wendell Pierce, Joel McHale and More Mourn Michael K. Williams: ‘An Actor for the Ages’

Michael K. Williams
Michael Buckner/PMC

As the news broke on Monday that Michael K. Williams had died at age 54 after being found in his Brooklyn residence, stars took to social media to remember the actor who made an impact in shows like “The Wire,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “The Night Of.”

Director Spike Lee paid tribute to Williams in an Instagram post, featuring a photo of him and Williams cheering on the New York Knicks. “Whew Lawd,Dis Is A Tough Day-1st We Lose The Great French Actor JEAN PAUL BELMONDO And Now My Brother MICHAEL K. WILLIAMS,” Lee wrote. “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.”

“The Night Of” star Riz Ahmed paid tribute to Williams’ generosity on set in a statement shared with Variety:

“This is a devastating loss. Michael K. Williams gave us some of TV’s most iconic characters. He had a strength and sensitivity that rarely go together, all wrapped up in a style uniquely his own, both on and off set. His talent was only matched by the size of his heart – he was incredibly generous. He looked out for me in many ways when we worked together. His work is already timeless, and it will live on.

“Once during a tough week of shooting, he finds he has an afternoon off. But I still have to shoot, and I’m struggling. I return to my trailer at the end of the day to find he’s spent his time off at a store, buying me the nicest and probably most expensive jacket I own to this day. Little hand written note, made no big deal of it, he did it just to give me a boost and show love.

“Another time I go to his apartment to rehearse. I’m analyzing the hell out of the scenes. He tells me ‘stop thinking about it, try dreaming about it.’ Took me years to even understand. He brought heart to the art.”

Director James Gunn posted on Twitter, calling Williams one of the most talented actors around. “Michael K. Williams, in addition to being one of the most talented actors around, was also one of the kindest, sweetest, most gentle souls I’ve ever met,” Gunn wrote. “This is heartbreaking. My thoughts are with all those who loved him.”

Kerry Washington posted Williams to her Instagram and spoke of the late star’s beauty. “So heartbroken. @bkbmg thank you for the beauty and joy you brought to the world. Sending love and prayers to your friends, family and everyone who adored you me included. We adore you, Sir.”

Leslie Jones took to Instagram and spoke of her experience with Williams on “Ghostbusters.” “Not gonna lie this one fucked me up y’all!! Michael K. Williams was a solid dude. He was so nice to me when we did ghostbusters and we bonded on many levels!! Damn I was just thinking the next time I saw him I was gonna tell him how dope of an actor he is. Damn y’all we lost a good one. Rest in love my brother.”

Director Ava DuVernay posted a long, heartfelt tribute on Instagram. “Maya Angelou once said, your legacy lives on in every life you touch. You, brother, touched many,” she wrote. “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.”

Courtney B. Vance also penned a remembrance of Williams, writing: “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.”

Stephen King called Williams fantastically talented. “Horrible, sad, and unbelievable to think we’ve lost the fantastically talented Michael K. Williams at the age of 54.”

Colman Domingo reflected on Williams’ acting skills. “Truly gutted on hearing the passing of Michael K. Williams,” he wrote. “A tremendous actor.”

Williams’ “The Wire” co-star Wendell Pierce paid tribute to the actor in a heartfelt thread. “The depth of my love for this brother, can only be matched by the depth of my pain learning of his loss,” Pierce wrote. “A 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.”

Jamie Hector, another “The Wire” co-star, remembered Williams in a statement to Variety. “I can’t believe that Mike is gone, I don’t want to believe it. I just spoke to him last week, and we planned to meet at a new restaurant in Harlem this week,” Hector said. “He was amazingly talented, extremely generous, and a really, really good friend. Mike tried to take care of everyone. He tried to help everyone. I’m really going to miss him. My condolences to his family.”

Joel McHale, who acted alongside Williams on “Community,” said: “Damn. Just damn. Mr. Williams was such a Good, kind, wonderful man. He was so funny on Community and, of course, an actor for the ages.”

Yvette Nicole Brown, who also acted alongside Williams on “Community,” said: “The thing about @BKBMG is that as fierce and foreboding as his characters often were, he as a man couldn’t have been more easy-going and lovely. He was a good, kind man and so fun to work with. I am sorry to hear of his passing and of how.”

Director Barry Jenkins simply wrote: “This can’t be true.”

Tray Chaney, who played Poot in “The Wire” alongside Williams, said the news is crushing. “I can’t… I’m crushed. No words. I love you bro,” Chaney wrote. “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.”

John Cusack called Williams’ acting on “The Wire” “among the greatest performances tv and film has ever seen.”

Actor and comedian David Alan Grier wrote: “Damn! Such a loss! This man was an amazing actor and a beautiful artist gone too soon.”

Aisha Tyler, director, actor and writer, said she was lucky to know the late star. “Michael K. Williams was a beautiful, passionate, expansive soul. I felt so lucky to have known him, and we were all so fortunate to have enjoyed his incredible talent,” Tyler wrote. “He burned so very bright. Rest in power, MKW. You will forever be The King.”

April Reign, creator of the #OscarsSoWhite movement, said Williams was special. “There was something special about him. A quiet intensity. He was SO good in every single role. He studied his craft. He also expanded the view of what a same gender loving man looked like in the roles he played. Michael K. Williams will be deeply missed.”

See more tributes below.