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02nd Dec 2022

Orange Is The New Black actor William Henke dead aged 56

Steve Hopkins

‘Brad was an incredibly kind man of joyous energy’

Brad William Henke, a former pro football player who went on to star in Orange Is The New Black, had died aged 56.

His manager, Matt DelPiano, confirmed to The New York Post that Henke died in his sleep on Tuesday, but did not give details about his cause of death.

DelPiano said in a statement: “Brad was an incredibly kind man of joyous energy. A very talented actor, he loved being a part of this community … and we loved him back. Our thoughts are with his wife and family.”

Henke’s most famous role came when he portrayed gay corrections officer Desi Piscatella in the Netflix hit “Orange Is the New Black.” The role earned him and the cast a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series in 2016.

The role, the Post noted, also gained him notoriety in the bear community – a sub-section of the gay community that loves a larger and hairier man.

Henke embraced the recognition, telling Out in 2016: “I mean, I feel honored. I feel awesome. It’s such a compliment. Who wouldn’t want people to find them attractive? Piscatella is kind of a bad character in some ways but the response that I’ve gotten is that they like the fact that he’s real.”

Henke, who was born in Columbus, Nebraska, played college football at the University of Arizona and was drafted by the New York Giants in 1989. He later played on the defensive line for the Denver Broncos, including at 1990’s Super Bowl XXIV versus that year’s winner, the San Francisco 49ers.

Henke retired in 1994 due in an injury and moved to LA to pursue coaching, but became an actor instead.

His first job was a commercial as a football player.

Henke told told Looper in 2021: “I booked the first commercial I ever went out for.

“It was for Hungry Hunter restaurants. I booked this thing and I shot it and it took half a day. I thought, ‘Oh, that’s easy.’ But when I was walking in, I saw this older man that I had seen at the callback, so I guess they had hired us both in case I crashed and burned. I was so oblivious.”

In an interview with The Tuscon Citizen in 1998, Henke said that he regretted not starting acting sooner.

“But I think my life experiences before I found my calling have really helped me. I’m building my career by myself, on my own merits, not for what I did on the football field.”

Henke appeared in several movies during his career, including The Assassination of Richard Nixon, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Must Love Dogs, The Zodiac, North Country, World Trade Center and Hollywoodland.

This year’s movie, Black Party, was Henke’s last acting credit.

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