Robert F. Chew passed away Thursday at the age of 52, The Baltimore Sun reports. According to his sister Clarice Chew, the actor and teacher died of apparent heart failure while asleep in his Baltimore home.
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Though best known for portraying Proposition Joe on The Wire, Chew also appeared on Homicide: Life on the Street and The Corner, both written by The Wire creator David Simon. In addition to acting, Chew was a beloved teacher of young-adult actors at Baltimore's Arena Players, through which he helped 22 of his students land parts on the HBO hit. During The Wire's fourth season, which focused on the Baltimore City School System, Chew mentored the young actors cast alongside him.
"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 e-mail Friday. "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. He understood so much about his craft that it was no surprise at all that we would go to him to coach our young actors in season four. He was the conduit through which they internalized their remarkable performances."
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Regarding Chew's portrayal of Prop Joe, Simon added: "The Wire cast was an embarrassment of riches and it was easy, I think, for outsiders to overlook some of those who were so essential as supporting players. 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."
Chew is survived by his mother and three sisters. Funeral services will be held Thursday, Jan. 24.
His Wire co-star Michael K. Williams, who played the iconic Omar Little, first reported the sad news on his Instagram.
Watch a video of Chew's memorable work with Williams on The Wire below.