CAUSE OF DEATH: 'Orange Is the New Black' star, Brad William Henke, has died KossyDerrickBlog KossyDerrickEnt

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Thursday, December 1, 2022

CAUSE OF DEATH: 'Orange Is the New Black' star, Brad William Henke, has died

Moving to L.A., Henke initially sought work as a coach, but an open casting call for a commercial seeking "big guys" led the 6'4 Henke into acting. Starting in 1996, Henke racked up a number of bit parts, appearing in Space Jam, The Fan, and episodes of Chicago Hope, Nash Bridges, Arli$$, and E.R., among many others.

In 2006, Henke played Maggie Gyllenhaal's brother in not one but two films, World Trade Center and Sherrybaby. Throughout his career, Henke amassed nearly 100 acting credits to his name, though his most prominent role was as Desi Piscatella, the openly gay, brutal corrections officer in seasons four and five of Orange Is the New Black.

Henke, along with the rest of the cast, received a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series in 2017. Most recently, he appeared in the films Run & Gun and Block Party, as well as an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and the limited series The Stand.

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

Born in Nebraska, Henke played football for the University Of Arizona before being drafted by the New York Giants in 1989, before eventually making his way over to the Denver Broncos. A series of injuries ended his football career in 1992, but opened the way to acting, after a chance encounter with a fellow former player led to him getting cast in a football player-focused Pizza Hut commercial. Henke swiftly caught the acting bug, and continued pursuing a career as a performer for the next 25 years. And while his early career was mostly filled with smaller, single-episode turns, they were single episodes of big shows: ER, Sports Night, and CSI all dot his early resume. (As well as a single-season starring role in Showtime’s short-lived road trip comedy Going To California.)

Henke’s career only improved as the 2000s gave way to the 2010s; in 2009, he had a multi-episode part on one of the final seasons of Lost, as one of the henchpeople of the mysterious Jacob, and later booked a role as one of the malevolent Bennett siblings during the second season of Justified. (He was also the guy who defaces Pam’s mural in The Office, setting off part of the whole “Brian the boom mic guy” subplot, but no one can really blame him for that.) Henke’s most prominent role came in 2016, though, when he was cast as Piscatella in Orange Is The New Black. As the cruel new face of the guards at Litchfield Penitentiary, Henke was integral to many of the most dramatic moments of the show’s later seasons—from the death of Samira Wiley’s Poussey, to the ensuing riots and his standoff with Danielle Brooks’ Taystee, to his own sudden death at the hands of the indifferent authorities. The part—which won Henke, along with the rest of the Netflix series’ cast, a Best Performance By An Ensemble Award from the Screen Actors Guild—allowed him to play a character who was often monstrous, but who was still occasionally allowed to show some fleeting sparks of humanity.

Henke, who also was in films such as Pacific Rim and World Trade Center, played college football at the University of Arizona and went on to be drafted by the New York Giants and play for the Denver Broncos. 

Henke was born April 10, 1966 in Columbus, Nebraska, and grew up in Littleton, Colorado. Following his retirement from professional football in 1994, he moved to Los Angeles to further his coaching career, and began auditioning for acting roles.

He went on to act in more than 100 parts, initially appearing on TV shows including ER, Chicago Hope, Silk Stockings and Nash Bridges.

Henke's first recurring role was on the WB series Nikki, starring Nikki Cox, from 2000-2002, in which he played the role of Thor. Henke then went on to play the role of Henry 'Hank' Ungalow on the Showtime program Going to California from 2001-2002.

He went on to appear on shows such as CSI, Crossing Jordan and Judging Amy, and in films including The Assassination of Richard Nixon, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Must Love Dogs, The Zodiac, North Country, World Trade Center and Hollywoodland.

He went on to appear on the ABC show October Road in 2007. Henke made guest appearances on shows including CSI: Miami, Law & Order and Life on Mars ahead of receiving the role of Bram on the ABC series Lost, in which he appeared in six episodes of between 2009-2010.

Henke played the role of Desi Piscatella, a gay corrections officer, on 26 episodes of Orange Is the New Black from 2016-18. In 2017 and 2018, he had shared a cast SAG Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. 


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