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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 over seasons four and five. Henke was among the series’ co-stars to be awarded with the Screen Actors Guild Award for best cast in a comedy in 2016.
After his character was killed at the end of the fifth season, Henke told THR that it was “such a gift and an honor” to portray the villainous part. “I really appreciate the job because the character was so great and complicated and layered and the actors are so into it and great to work with,” he continued. “It’s one of the most special jobs of my life.”
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.”
This led to him to a successful career with countless credits, including recurring ones on Nash Bridges, Judging Amy, Dexter and The Bridge, and a series-regular gig on ABC’s October Road. Additionally, he appeared on such prominent shows as ER, Law & Order, Shameless, The Office and Hawaii Five-0.
Henke’s other films included Must Love Dogs (2005), World Trade Center (2006), Hollywoodland (2006), Jobs (2013), Split (2016) and Bright (2017). He was also in a number of sports-themed projects, namely the 1996 movies Space Jam and The Fan and 2014’s Draft Day.
He continued landing work in recent years with 2020 miniseries The Stand and a 2022 episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, plus the comedy film Block Party that was released in June.
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Robert De Niro