Orange Is The New Black Actor And Former NFL Player Brad William Henke Is Dead At 56

Brad William Henke in Orange is the New Black
(Image credit: Netflix)

2022 has seen the deaths of far too many people associated with the entertainment industry, and now another star has passed away. Brad William Henke, known for roles in shows like Orange Is the New Black and The Stand as well as a stint in the NFL, has died. The actor was 56-years-old at the time of his death.

Brad William Henke (born in 1966) died in his sleep on Tuesday, although TMZ reports that the cause of death at the time of writing has not been revealed. The late actor's manager, Matt DelPiano, hasn't shared any further detail, but shared a touching message with the outlet, saying:

Brad was an incredibly kind man of joyous energy. A very talented actor, he loved being a part of this community….and we loved him back. Our thoughts are with his wife and family.

Although Henke was likely most widely recognized in recent years for his roles in television and film, he shot to prominence when he was drafted in the NFL by the New York Giants in 1989, after playing college football at the University of Arizona as a defensive lineman. Variety reports that he played in Super Bowl XXIV for the Denver Broncos against the San Francisco 49ers and remained with the NFL until 1994, when injuries meant he had to retire. He then shifted into acting, with his earliest credit (via IMDb) as the 1996 film Mr. Wrong, headlined by Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Pullman

While he would continue to appear in films over the course of his career after shifting to acting, he was most prolific in television, most recently appearing in an episode of Law & Order: SVU that aired earlier in 2022. His TV credits go back to 1996, with eventual multi-episode appearances in shows like Nash Bridges, Nikki, Going to California, Judging Amy, Dexter, October Road, Lost, Justified, The Bridge, Sneaky Pete, Manhunt, and of course Orange Is the New Black and The Stand. After Dexter, he went on to collaborate with Michael C. Hall again for the film The Trouble with Bliss.

He also appeared in single episodes of shows like ER, MacGyver, and (very memorably) Criminal Minds, to name just a few of many. Of his many roles, Brad William Henke is undoubtedly best known for playing corrections officer Desi Piscatella at the Litchfield Penitentiary in Netflix's Orange Is the New Black. Henke played the role for more than 20 episodes over Seasons 4 and 5. Piscatella was part of one of the show's most controversial twists in Season 4 before being brought back for Season 5. Orange Is the New Black is widely considered one of the best original Netflix TV shows

Brad William Henke was sporadically active on social media, with his most recent tweet in November suggesting that he was trying to make a TV series of his own happen. Our thoughts here at CinemaBlend go out to Henke's family, friends, and loved ones in this difficult time. 

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).