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Brad William Henke, ‘Orange Is the New Black’ actor, dead at 56

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Brad William Henke in 2017.

  •  His agent, Sheree Cohen, told CNN in a statement that Henke “died peacefully in his sleep” on November 29 at the age of 56.
  • Born in Columbus, Nebraska, and raised in Littleton, Colorado, he earned a football scholarship to the University of Arizona.

Brad William Henke, a veteran character actor known for his
work on “Orange Is the New Black” and other series, has died, according to his
agent and manager.

He was 56.

“Brad Henke 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,” his manager, Matt Delpiano, wrote in a statement shared on Instagram.
“Our thoughts are with his wife and family.”

Henke “died peacefully in his sleep” on November 29, his
agent, Sheree Cohen, told CNN in a statement.

Born in Columbus, Nebraska, and raised in Littleton,
Colorado, he earned a football scholarship to the University of Arizona.

A standout defensive lineman, team captain, and All-Academic
student journalist, Henke was drafted into the National Football League by the
New York Giants in 1989, and eventually made it to the roster for the Denver
Broncos and played in Super Bowl XXIV against the San Francisco 49ers.

Repeated injuries led to his retirement from the NFL in
1994.

Henke moved to Los Angeles hoping to break into coaching and
instead found himself in front of the camera after he attended an open call for
a commercial looking for “big guys.”

He was as swift to find work in Hollywood as he was on the
field and he soon racked up dozens of appearances on television series,
including “ER,” “Silk Stalkings,” “Arli$$” and more.

He also landed supporting roles in films like “Space Jam”
and “Mr Wrong.”

But it was his breakout role in 2017 playing Desi
Piscatella, a gay corrections officer at Litchfield Federal Penitentiary on the
hit Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black,” which earned him a SAG Award for
outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series.

He appeared in more than 40 films including “Bright, Fury,” “Me
and You and Everyone We Know” and “Choke,” the latter of which won a Special
Jury Prize for work by an ensemble cast at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

Henke opened an acting studio in Los Angeles in 2000 where
he helped to guide the careers of other actors.

His outreach to those in his profession also included
producing showcases, helping his students land agents and lending his acting
abilities to up-and-coming filmmakers, including “Short Term 12” and “Willy’s
Wonderland.”

An avid NFL and UFC fan, he was also a devoted family man
who “visited his mother frequently, loved taking his stepson to soccer games
and gymnastics and adored his dog, Ruby” according to his agent.

Henke is survived by his mother Tammy, his sister Annette,
his wife Sonja, his stepson Aaden, his stepdaughter Leasa and his grandchild
Amirah.



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