Gone, but not forgotten. The late actor Michael K. Williams was honored at the 2021 Emmy Awards on Sunday, September 19, nearly two weeks after the 54-year-old actor was found dead by a relative in his Brooklyn apartment.
Kerry Washington presented the award on Sunday night, taking a moment to honor the “brilliantly talented actor and a generous human being who has left us far too soon.” The Scandal alum, 44, added, “We know you’re here because you wouldn’t miss this. Your excellence, your artistry will endure. We love you.”
The Boardwalk Empire star’s nephew, Dominic Dupont, was set to accept the award on his late uncle’s behalf if he had won. However, the award went to The Crown‘s Tobias Menzies.
Dupont, 43, was the subject of the Vice documentary Raised in the System, which Williams produced and earned the When They See Us star one of his previous five Emmy nominations. The film focused on Dupont, who spent 20 years in prison for murder before his sentence was commuted by then Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2017.
Dupont, who is the director of programs at Making Kids Win, a nonprofit which Williams founded, considered his uncle to be a mentor. “Michael was instrumental in helping me get through the process of the prison experience,” Dupont recently told The New York Post. He added that Williams “would work really hard to be a mentor to me and encourage me to stay focused on the important things” and was “helping me make a successful transition back into the community.”
The New York native was best known for playing Omar in The Wire and later Chalky White in Boardwalk Empire. However, he was never nominated for those iconic performances. His previous nominations came for his supporting roles in the Netflix limited series When They See Us, the HBO limited series The Night Of and the HBO movie Bessie starring Queen Latifah.
Less than two months before his passing, Williams told Deadline in July that playing Montrose on Lovecraft Country allowed him to get “in touch with [his] deeper trauma.” The role also allowed for a bit of “healing” to happen “in some weird way,” he said, adding, “It makes me feel like someone is acknowledging the fact that there is a lot of pain in my community and in the experience of just being Black.”
There have only been six posthumous performance winners in the Emmys’ 73-year history according to The Hollywood Reporter. Previous posthumous winners include Audrey Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Bewitched actress Marion Lorne and Diana Hyland, whose award was accepted by her then-boyfriend John Travolta.