Williams was found dead at his home in Brooklyn on Monday, police in New York said. No cause of death was given.
A representative confirmed the news, describing the death of Williams as an “insurmountable loss”.
Tributes have flooded in for Williams, who as well as his role as Omar Little on The Wire earned fame and plaudits for playing Albert “Chalky” White on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire.
Oscar-winning filmmaker Spike Lee, 64, who like Williams grew up in Brooklyn, shared a picture of himself and “my brother” together.
Lee wrote on Instagram: “Our Brother Passed Away Today In His Home, Da People’s Republic Of Brooklyn. I’m Shook. Drinking A Bottle Of Italian Red Wine-Brunello Di Montalcino By Myself. Our Greats Are Leaving Us Left And Right. GOD BLESS.”
Wendell Pierce, 57, starred alongside Williams on The Wire, playing Detective Bunk Moreland.
He wrote a moving Twitter thread and said: “The depth of my love for this brother, can only be matched by the depth of my pain learning of his loss. A 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.”
The depth of my love for this brother, can only be matched by the depth of my pain learning of his loss. A immensel… https://t.co/uQ2293Edxl
David Simon, creator of The Wire, also paid tribute to Williams.
He posted a picture of the actor to Twitter and wrote: “Too gutted right now to say all that ought to be said. Michael was a fine man and a rare talent and on our journey together he always deserved the best words. And today those words won’t come.”
Too gutted right now to say all that ought to be said. Michael was a fine man and a rare talent and on our journey… https://t.co/CGFYOYIJ2j
Williams, who had a distinctive facial scar from a bar fight on his 25th birthday, was a four-time Emmy nominee for Bessie, The Night Of, When They See Us and Lovecraft Country.
His other film roles included The Road, Inherent Vice and 12 Years A Slave.
Williams had a small part in The Sopranos – a show alongside The Wire perennially discussed as being the best ever – before he appeared as Omar – the gay, morally ambiguous criminal who frequently targets drug dealers – in 2002.
He starred in The Wire for all five seasons until 2008, with his character growing in prominence throughout.
Last week, it was announced Williams had joined the cast of Sony’s untitled biopic of famed world heavyweight champion George Foreman. He was set to play Doc Broadus, who was Foreman’s trainer and mentor.