Michael K. Williams’ sister on Thursday mourned the loss of her “best friend,” remembering the late actor’s heart of gold — and determination to “get back up again” on his road to recovery.
Michelle Chambers, a Compton, Calif. city councilwoman, released a statement saying, “Our family has been shaken to the core of the loss of our Mike … I will miss my brother, my best friend, and birthday partner in this realm.”
“I know he will continue to watch over me and our family in heaven as he did on earth.”
Speaking to Fox 11 Los Angeles Wednesday, Chambers, recalled her older brother’s longtime struggle with drug addiction.
“Addiction takes over your mind,” said Chambers, whose birthday is a day apart from Williams’. “There are going to be times when you are going to fall off but get back up again. Mike would say, ‘get back up again.’ Try again, you got this.”
The beloved actor, who died Monday at 54 of a suspected overdose, had been open about his battle with substance abuse over the years, once saying it was “an everyday struggle.”
He had trouble staying clean while playing stick-up man Omar Little, one of his most memorable characters, on HBO’s “The Wire” from 2002 and 2008. The New York Times reported in 2017 that he’d blow most of his cash on cocaine, getting kicked out of his apartment and often spending nights on the floor of a Newark drug house.
Some days, he would show up visibly high to set, but the show’s producers didn’t want to fire him, because, according to series creator David Simon, “we worried that if he lost the work he’d become truly untethered.”
“When I look back on it now, I don’t know how I didn’t end up in a body bag,” Williams told NJ Advance Media in 2012.
He described having to hide his drug use from loved ones during that dark period and feeling “broke, broken and beat up. Exhausted. Empty.”
“I finally said, ‘I can’t do this no more.’ I didn’t want to end up dead,” he told NJ.com.
Williams credited a prominent Irvington, NJ, pastor the Rev. Ronald Christian, who died in 2015, with helping him get clean.
“He never judged me,” Williams recalled. “He always asked, ‘Are you OK?’ He loved me until I could love myself.”
But his fight with drug dependency was a lifelong endeavor, as Williams told the Times, “Addiction doesn’t go away.”
“It’s an everyday struggle for me, but I’m fighting.”
In a 2020 interview with Men’s Health, he spoke frankly about how his upbringing and feelings of inadequacy contributed to thoughts of self-harm and his addiction struggles.
“Pain. In a word, a lot of pain. A lot of trauma early on that I didn’t have the proper tools to deal with. My mom was very strict. The beatings were very severe growing up,” Williams said.
“I was 17. I was lost,” he recalled. “Drugs were there. And I was already self-medicating. And I just got lost. I just remember feeling like, ‘Eh, maybe the world will be better off without me.’ And I took a bottle of pills, woke up to my stomach being pumped.”
Growing up, he and his sister, who is six years younger, were quite close, Fox 11 reported.
Williams took her to the Emmy Awards in 2015, when he received his very first nomination for the movie “Bessie,” the report said. The pair went to church and shopped on Sunset Boulevard together.
“He wasn’t what you would consider Hollywood, you know? Mike was just down to earth,” Chambers told the outlet Wednesday.
The five-time Emmy nominee was set to travel to the West Coast again for the small-screen awards show on Sept. 19, but died before he could attend the ceremony, where he was widely expected to snag his first win for his work in “Lovercraft Country.”
Law enforcement sources have said Williams, who grew up in East Flatbush, was face-down and unresponsive in the dining room of his Williamsburg penthouse with what appeared to be drugs on the table. Investigators are working on identifying the substance, believed to be heroin laced with fentanyl, sources said.
Williams’ politician sister called for stronger legislation against drug dealers in response to his untimely death.
Just months earlier, Williams had revealed on the “Tamron Hall Show” that he was seeking mental health treatment after wrapping up his Emmy-nominated performance in HBO’s “Lovecraft Country.”
Williams, who was promoting the movie “Body Brokers” — about a crooked drug treatment center in Los Angeles — said filming it “quite frankly, made me sick to my stomach” and brought back memories of watching TV commercials for swanky rehab facilities “when I was crying myself to sleep and listening to BeBe and CeCe Winans.”
“Drugs and alcohol are not the problems, they’re merely symptoms of the problem. And once those things go away, the real work begins, you know … working on all the character defects, the moral compass — the skewed moral compass,” Williams said.
“Those are the things that need to be addressed,” he added. “Those are the reasons we got high in the first place, and our inability to deal with life on life’s terms.”