Robert F. Chew, best known for playing Joseph “Proposition Joe” Stewart on HBO’s The Wire, died in his sleep of apparent heart failure at his Baltimore home, his sister Clarice told the Baltimore Sun. He was 52.
Chew, who died Thursday, appeared in all five seasons (2004-08) of David Simon‘s acclaimed drama series. His character, based in part on a real-life Baltimore resident, was a drug kingpin who earned his nickname from his trademark phrase “I’ve got a proposition for you.”
“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,” Simon told the Sun in an email Friday. “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.”
Jamie Hector, who played Marlo Stanfield on The Wire, also remembered his former co-star on Twitter.
“I didn’t want to believe this #RIP Robert F Chew, Prop Joe will always be remembered Robert Chew will always be loved and missed!” he wrote.
Chew got his start as an actor in 1997 with a multi-episode arc on Homicide: Life on the Street, which Simon produced. He then went on to work with Simon again on the 2000 HBO miniseries The Corner.
His brief resume also includes the 2004 HBO movie Something the Lord Made and a role opposite Mary-Louise Parker and James Woods in the upcoming film Jamesy Boy, based on the true story of a teen street-gang member who ends up in maximum-security prison, where he turns his life around.
Chew, a Baltimore native who sang in the Morgan State University choir, also taught and mentored children and young adults in acting at Baltimore’s Arena Players and helped 22 of his students land roles in The Wire.
Services will be held Thursday in Baltimore.