Football pro turned actor Brad William Henke “died peacefully in his sleep” on November 29, as per his agent Sheree Cohen. No cause of death has been announced as yet.
Henke got his first taste of the limelight as captain of the University of Arizona’s college football team. His NFL career began in 1989 when the New York Giants drafted him. He later played as a defensive line for the Denver Broncos, with the team facing off against the San Francisco 49ers in the 2016 Super Bowl.
As football is a grueling sport, injuries prompted Henke to retire from the game in 1994. He moved to Los Angeles to pursue coaching, but an open casting call changed his career path. Replying to a posting that sought out “big guys” to film a commercial resulted in the commencement of Brad William Henke’s nearly 100 acting credits.
Shortly after he attended the casting call, Henke landed guest roles on popular TV shows like Silk Stockings, Chicago Hope, ER, Arli$$, and Nash Bridges. Henke continued to work at a steady pace until 2022. His first leading role was on the WB Network comedy Nikki which aired from 2000–2002. He was cast as the opposite lead from Sam Trammell in Showtime’s series Going to California, which only lasted for one season.
In the early 2000s, Henke landed minor roles in several feature films. These included Must Love Dogs, North Country, Hollywoodland, and World Trade Center. His film appearances were followed by a recurring role on Showtime’s hit series Dexter. Henke portrayed Tony Tucci in four episodes and then was cast in his second regular role for 2007’s October Road. The ABC drama was short-lived, but Henke’s career kept moving.
He was cast in another recurring role on ABC’s wildly popular Lost. Between 2009 and 2010, Henke appeared as the character Bram in six episodes. The actor landed his most significant role on Netflix’s acclaimed Orange is the New Black. From 2016–2018, Henke appeared in over two dozen episodes. He portrayed Desi Piscatella, a gay corrections officer at the women’s prison that serves as the primary setting of the series.
He shared a 2017 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series with the rest of the cast.
Brad William Henke is survived by his mother, sister, wife, stepchildren, and one grandchild.