Robert F. Chew, known to fans of HBO’s acclaimed series The Wire as drug kingpin Proposition Joe, has died, The Baltimore Sun reports. He was 52.
Chew’s sister Clarice told the paper that her brother passed away in his sleep at his home in Northeast Baltimore, Md., on Thursday, Jan. 17. The cause of death appeared to be heart failure.
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As both an actor and a teacher in Maryland, Chew mentored younger artists at Baltimore’s Arena Players, even after he rose to fame on David Simon’s HBO drama. Some of his proteges played students in season four of the show, which focused on Baltimore’s city schools.
"Robert was not only an exceptional actor, he was an essential part of the film and theater community in Baltimore," Simon told the Baltimore Sun in an email. "He could have gone to New York or Los Angeles and commanded a lot more work, but he loved the city as his home and chose to remain here working."
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"Robert’s depiction of Proposition Joe was so fixed and complete — from the very earliest scenes — that the writers took for granted that anything we sent him would be finely executed," he continued, adding that Chew was also a "fine and generous man" offscreen.
Others in the Wire family expressed their condolences via Twitter. "I didn’t want to believe this. RIP Robert F Chew," Marlo Stanfield-portrayer Jamie Hector tweeted. "Prop Joe will always be remembered. Robert Chew will always be loved and missed."
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"To the beloved Robert Chew, a man who was real Bawlmore, and created the iconic character of ‘Prop Joe,’ may you RIP," Wendell Pierce (Detective Bunk Moreland) wrote. "A teacher & friend."
Added Jermaine Crawford, who played Duquan "Dukie" Weems: "RIP to Mr. Robert F. Chew, a.k.a. Proposition Joe. You impacted our lives more than you’ll ever know…love you."