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Wendell Pierce honors Michael K. Williams’ gift ‘to give voice to the human condition’

A split image of a man wearing a black jacket and another man wearing a blue jacket
Actor Wendell Pierce, right, has paid tribute to Michael K. Williams, his late costar on “The Wire.”
(Richard Shotwell / Invision / Associated Press, left; Rich Polk / Getty Images for IMDb)

Waves of shock and despair reverberated through social media Monday after revered actor Michael K. Williams was found dead at age 54 in his Brooklyn apartment.

Among the many who paid heartbroken tribute to the Emmy-nominated performer on Twitter was Wendell Pierce, who acted opposite Williams in HBO’s crime drama “The Wire.”

The series, which ran from 2002 to 2008, starred Pierce as Baltimore homicide detective Bunk Moreland. And Williams earned acclaim for his trailblazing portrayal of Omar Little, an openly gay and gold-hearted street thief.

The beloved star of “The Wire” and “Lovecraft Country” graciously sat for portraits revealing the range of emotion — and the honesty — fans loved.

“The depth of my love for this brother, can only be matched by the depth of my pain learning of his loss,” Pierce wrote Monday in a lengthy thread. “[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.

“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.”

Pierce, also known for his work in “Suits” and “Chicago P.D.,” detailed his behind-the-scenes relationship with Williams, which was built on “nothing but respect.”

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“He was proud of the artist he had become, asking for my advice long after he had surpassed any [insight] I could have shared,” he continued. “Always truthful, never inauthentic. The kindest of persons. Like two mischievous kids, we would laugh & joke whenever we would meet. Like Baltimore years ago.

Michael K. Williams, known for “The Wire” and “Boardwalk Empire,” was a sentimental Emmy favorite for his work on HBO’s “Lovecraft Country.”

“THE WIRE brought us together and immortalized Omar & Bunk in that ‘scene’ on a park bench. But ... we aimed to take that moment in time together and say something about Black men. Our struggle with ourselves, internally, and each other.”

At the end of his moving eulogy, Pierce cited a quote by playwright Arthur Miller, about a “certain immortality involved in theater” unlocked by the exceptional actor who gives voice to “all the unsingable heart song the ordinary man may feel but never utter ... And by that somehow joins the ages.”

“So to you, my brother Mike, there is a small comfort that I know, you knew how much we loved you,” Pierce wrote. “Mike…….you joined the ages. Farewell my friend.”

Pierce was also one of the thousands who shared a viral clip of himself singing the praises of his beloved costar during a TV industry event “years ago,” tweeting, “I said it then, and it must be said now.”

‘The Wire’ and ‘Boardwalk Empire’ star acknowledged the pain he brought to his roles. But in his work he also found a respite.

“Michael has contributed two of the most iconic characters in the history of American television with Omar and with Chalky White” of “Boardwalk Empire,” Pierce said at the time.

“In his young career ... giving voice and giving flesh to characters that most people would have never given the same humanity to — opening a window to a world of men that we pass by or don’t know about — is one of the most innovative portrayals on television in our generation.”

With a silent Williams by his side, the veteran actor heaped more words of admiration upon his colleague in a poignant salute collectively amplified, cosigned and viewed by millions in the wake of the TV great’s death.

“It was an honor for me to even share the screen with him,” Pierce added. “The greatest moments I’ve ever had in my career was the scenes that I did with Michael. He’s a very special man, very special artist.

“He has opened up a window of reflection to people ... that [others] would have never given humanity to. That he has made people think twice and give humanity to these men ... that’s classic American television history right there.”

The actor’s character, Montrose, suffered his own traumas before inflicting them on his son.

Isiah Whitlock Jr., who portrayed Maryland Senator Clay Davis on “The Wire,” remembered Williams as “one of the nicest brothers on the planet with the biggest heart,” as well as “an amazing actor and soul.”

And Lance Reddick, who starred in the Emmy-nominated series as Baltimore police leader Cedric Daniels, posted a video hailing Williams as “one of the kindest, gentlest, most genuine, giving and courageous souls I’ve ever met.”

Before his death, Williams was poised to win his first Emmy for his portrayal of the brutal Montrose Freeman in HBO’s “Lovecraft Country.”

See how more of his industry peers honored him below.


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