Viola Davis and Spike Lee respond to “tragic murder” of actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd

Several Hollywood stars, including Viola Davis and Spike Lee, have shared tributes on social media after learning of Thomas Jefferson Byrd’s death. 

Thomas Jefferson Byrd, who has starred in multiple films and TV shows, was killed in Atlanta over the weekend.

“Upon arrival, officers located Byrd lying unresponsive at the location,” the Atlanta Police Department revealed in a statement to Variety.

“Emergency medical services responded to the scene, identified Byrd and pronounced him dead from multiple gunshot wounds to the back. 

“Homicide detectives are working to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident, and the investigation is currently ongoing.”

Upon hearing the news, Spike Lee – who worked with Byrd on multiple projects, including Chi-Raq and Clockers – penned a tribute to the actor and shared it via his Instagram.

“I’m so sad to announce the tragic murder of our beloved brother Thomas Jefferson Byrd last night in Atlanta, Georgia,” the acclaimed director began his post.

Lee then went on to list the many films and TV shows he had worked with the late actor on, before writing: “May we all wish condolences and blessings to his family.

“Rest in peace Brother Byrd.”

Elsewhere, Viola Davis expressed shock over Byrd’s death.

“Oh no!!! 2020! Whaaattt!!!” she wrote on Twitter. 

“Loved working with you Byrd. What a fine actor you were.”

Davis added: “So sorry your life ended this way. Praying for your family. So very sorry.”

Wendell Pierce, meanwhile, tweeted: “Thomas Jefferson Byrd, was an actor in the unofficial repertory company of Spike Lee movies. What Joseph Cotton was to Orson Welles, Byrd was for Spike. The ‘everyman’ character actor.

“He was a part of the Black Arts Renaissance of Fort Greene in the 80s.”

Pierce went on to note that he had the “honour” of sharing the screen with Byrd in Get On The Bus and Ray.

“Byrd was brave, funny, creative, country, smooth, expressive, and a joy to be around,” he added.

“He will be remembered for those iconic moments in films that make up a unique canon in American cinema. Another soulful brother gone.”

And comedian Jay Washington was also among those honouring the late actor on social media.

“Rest in peace to the legendary Thomas Jefferson Byrd seen here with me and the iconic Spike Lee,” Washington wrote alongside a photo of himself and Byrd standing with Lee.

“I had the honour of working with Mr. Byrd in Chi-Raq but enjoyed much of his work.”

As mentioned already, Byrd was a frequent collaborator with Lee, appearing in eight of his films including Clockers, Get on the Bus, Girl 6, He Got Game, Bamboozled, Red Hook Summer, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus and Chi-Raq. He also appeared in the Netflix series adaptation of Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It.

His film credits also include the 1996 crime drama Set It Off, as well as the Oscar-winning pic Ray.

However, as a graduate of Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Byrd made his acting debut on Broadway in the revival of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, in which he starred alongside Whoopi Goldberg, Carl Gordon, Charles S. Dutton and Stephen McKinley Henderson.

He earned a Tony nomination for his standout performance in the play.

Images: Getty

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