Dominic Dupont, the nephew of late actor Michael K. Williams, opened up about the death of his uncle during an appearance on “Red Table Talk” Wednesday.
Williams, who struggled with a history of drug abuse, was found dead in his Brooklyn penthouse apartment in September following a fatal overdose of fentanyl-laced heroin. Dupont told “Red Table Talk” co-host Adrienne Banfield-Norris that he didn’t see Williams’ death coming.
“Mike was doing well,” Dupont said. “He was working on a book. It did not appear to me that Mike was sliding back into addiction.”
The Emmy-nominated actor was best known for playing “stick-up boy” Omar Little on the HBO crime drama “The Wire.” Because his character his on “The Wire” was so beloved, people often conflated the actor and the role he played. “People didn’t even call me Mike, they called me Omar,” he told The (Newark) Star-Ledger in a 2012 interview. “That mixed with my identity crisis and my addiction – and it was not a good mix. I had to stop trying to be Omar and just be Mike.”
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Dupont said that while Williams “didn’t appear to be overwhelmed or dealing with any major issues,” he “worked really hard not to have the things that he was going through weigh on other people.”
“He was an actor,” Dupont said. “You can fool people. You can convince people that you’re okay.”
But Dupont insisted he’s “positive” that his uncle “would not have knowingly taken fentanyl.”
He added: “I know that like I know my first name.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, fentanyl is a “powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.” As a medicine, it can be used to treat severe or chronic pain in patients.
Based on a recent analysis of Centers for Disease Control data, fentanyl has become the predominant killer for Americans ages 18 to 45. In the past two years, deaths from fentanyl have significantly exceeded deaths from COVID-19 for this age group. The overdoses cut across gender, race, socioeconomic status and geography.
More than 107,000 Americans died from overdoses last year. This drug is behind most deaths.
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By speaking out about Williams’ death, Dupont said he wants to address how fentanyl is “finding its way into our communities,” in hopes of preventing similar deaths from happening.
“Michael believed we don’t sit back and just look at things fall apart and just become complacent and if we do, we’re complicit,” Dupont said. “We have to work hard to make people aware about what’s happening, so that other people don’t have to feel the type of pain that I felt.”
Dupont revealed that Williams’ openness about his drug use inspired him to stay away from drugs, especially when he found himself struggling with the mental strains of incarceration.
He also recalled a serious conversation he had with Williams when he was a child.
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“Michael looked me right in my eyes and said, ‘Dominic, look at me. Don’t you ever, ever, ever use drugs,’ and then he put his hands on my face. I could feel his breath and he said, ‘Do you hear me?’ ” Dupont said. “When I was in prison and felt like insanity was creeping in on me, I would hear that conversation.”
Dupont said he hopes Williams’ story can serve as a life-saving cautionary tale.
“People are gonna be listening; they’re gonna be watching. They’re gonna be saying to themselves, ‘If this can happen to an amazing human being like him, it can happen to me,’ ” Dupont said. “And if we can prevent that, then we’re doing the right thing. We all win.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357) any time of day or night.
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Contributing: Pamela Avila, USA TODAY; Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Michael K. Williams’ nephew talks Williams’ death on ‘Red Table Talk’