Mills died Tuesday of an apparent brain aneurysm in New Orleans, where he had been working on the upcoming HBO series “Treme,” the network said Wednesday in a statement.
According to a production release, Mills died at a hospital after he collapsed on the set of the post-Hurricane Katrina drama during filming of a scene at Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter.
"He was an enormous talent," David Simon, a friend and co-executive producer with Mills on "Treme," said in a statement. "He loved words and he loved an argument -- but not in any angry or mean-spirited way. He loved to argue ideas. He delighted in it, and he was confident that something smarter and deeper always came from a good argument."
"Treme," which Mills also co-wrote, is due to premiere April 11. Mills started writing for television in 1993 with an episode of NBC's "Homicide: Life on the Street," spawned by the book written by Simon. The friends teamed up again on the HBO mini-series "The Corner," about Baltimore's drug-plagued neighborhoods, which picked up three Emmys in 2000.
Mills continued his HBO relationship when he wrote an episode for Season 4 of "The Wire" (titled "Soft Eyes") and later returned as a writer for the fifth and final season, a stint that earned him a Writer's Guild of America nomination for Best Dramatic Series in 2009.
His other notable TV credits include writing stints on the hospital drama "ER" and "Picket Fences." He also wrote nine episodes for "NYPD Blue" between 1995 and 1997. And he spent time developing his own shows, although only the short-lived NBC series "Kingpin," about a Mexican drug cartel, made it to air.
Born Nov. 20, 1961, in Washington, D.C., Mills grew up in the northeast section of the city and often explored the dynamics of race, politics and culture in his writing -- whether fiction or nonfiction. Mills, a University of Maryland graduate, started on the path to TV writing with news writing.
He interned for the Wall Street Journal before becoming a reporter for the Washington Times. Then in the early '90s he worked as a features writer for the Washington Post.
It was this news background that played a key role in his storytelling.
"He was very big about the importance of having strong characters," said Elyce Strong, a TV writer who was Mills' assistant for a few years. "And current events played a big role with that. He always said truth and real events made the best stories. Tons of research went into the stuff he wrote. He wanted to keep things honest and as accurate as possible. That was his way. The only way."
And it was the written word he clung to. On his blog , Mills wrote about his affinity for George Clinton and 1970s funk music, among other random musings on TV, movies and social issues.
Mills, who had been living in Glendale, is survived by two sisters, Blanche Carroll of Peoria, Ariz., and Gloria Johnson of Charlotte, N.C.; and a brother, Franklin Mills, of Washington.
Services are pending in Washington.