Brad William Henke, who was a defensive end in the NFL before launching an acting career that included recurring parts on Lost, Justified and Orange Is the New Black, has died. He was 56.
Henke’s agent Sheree Cohen told The Hollywood Reporter that the performer died Tuesday in his sleep. The cause of death was not provided.
He played prison guard Desi Piscatella on Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black, which he portrayed over seasons four and five. Henke was among the series’ castmembers to be awarded with the Screen Actors Guild Award for best cast in a comedy in 2016.
Other prominent recurring television roles included Bram on ABC’s Lost, Coover Bennett on FX’s Justified and Brendon on Prime Video’s Sneaky Pete. High-profile film credits included Maggie Gyllenhaal’s brother in Sherrybaby (2006), Sam Rockwell’s best friend in Choke (2008) and a staff sergeant alongside Brad Pitt in Fury (2014).
Born on April 10, 1966, in Columbus, Nebraska, Henke was a defensive lineman for the University of Arizona football team and was drafted into the NFL by the New York Giants in 1989. He was picked up by the Denver Broncos ahead of his rookie year and played in Super Bowl XXIV — he was 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds in his prime — before his football career was cut short due to injuries.
He started as an actor in commercials, thanks to a recommendation from former NFL player Rod Martin. “Rod mentioned there was a need for actors to play football players for commercials, so I tried out for it and got one for Pizza Hut,” Henke told the Tucson Citizen in 1998. ”While I was there, a guy invited me to attend an acting class. I went and it hit me that this is what I wanted to do.”
More to come.