Michael K. Williams Reflected on 'How Fragile Life Is' in Instagram Post 1 Year Before His Death
In the year prior to his death, Michael K. Williams had been thinking deeply about his legacy.
The actor, known for his roles in The Wire and Lovecraft Country, was found dead on Sept. 6 at age 54. In an emotional Instagram post published in February 2020, Williams said he'd recently lost multiple influential figures in his life. Along with watching his own mother age, Williams wrote that the deaths had been prompting him to think about the fragility of his own life — as well as what he wanted to leave behind.
"I've been thinking about my own mortality lately," he began. "I don't know if it's the recent death of my first love and first heartbreak or watching my hero, my rock, my mom get older every day knowing that at 93 her time here won't be as long as it's been maybe all of the above. It all has me wondering how will I go? Will I die alone? How will I be remembered and what will be my legacy."
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Williams' post came just days after the tragic helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others in Calabasas, California. Referencing the former Lakers legend in his caption, the Boardwalk Empire actor added that the accident had made him look at life differently.
"I may not have known every nook and cranny of Kobe's career but the two things I did learn from watching him is that we are not what we do for [a] living and that focus, hard work and dedication are the seeds of success," he continued. "Most Importantly his untimely passing has reminded me of how fragile life is. I believe I read somewhere in a Chinese proverb 'whenever u have the chance to watch the sunset' take it, it might be ur last' I do this because it reminds me how fast time goes, if u don't believe me just watch the last 60 seconds of one."
"I'm tired of wasting time worrying about what people think of me, self doubt and fear, I'd rather trade all that in for a purpose driven life cause from where I sat in the bleachers that's exactly what it looked like he had," Williams concluded.
The Emmy Award nominee — he received his fifth Emmy nomination in July — was found dead Monday afternoon at around 2 p.m. in his Brooklyn penthouse apartment, a source from the NYPD confirmed to PEOPLE. Williams' nephew discovered his body in the living room.
"It is with deep sorrow that the family announces the passing of Emmy nominated actor Michael Kenneth Williams," a rep for Williams told PEOPLE. "They ask for your privacy while grieving this unsurmountable loss."
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Although the cause of death has not yet been determined, drug paraphernalia was found in the apartment, according to the New York Post. A separate law enforcement source told PEOPLE that Williams died of a suspected overdose and that officials believe he may have had heroin laced with fentanyl.
Williams has been open about his struggles with drug dependency in the past. Raised in the Vanderveer Projects of the East Flatbush neighborhood in Brooklyn, he was exposed to crime at an early age and developed a drug addiction in his teens.
He told The New York Times in 2017 that although he'd had treatment for his addiction, he'd relapsed multiple times during his storied career. "Addiction doesn't go away," he said. "It's an everyday struggle for me, but I'm fighting."
Following his death, Williams was memorialized across social media. Friends, fans, and collaborators posted tributes to the beloved actor, and Williams' The Wire costar Wendell Pierce penned an emotional tribute.
"The depth of my love for this brother, can only be matched by the depth of my pain learning of his loss. A[n] 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," wrote Pierce, with whom Williams also starred in I Think I Love My Wife (2007).
He added, "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."