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Brad William Henke, N.F.L. Player Who Turned to Acting, Dies at 56


Brad William Henke, a former N.F.L. player who later turned to acting and have become known for his role as a jail guard on “Orange Is the Latest Black,” died on Tuesday. He was 56.

His death was confirmed by his manager, Matt DelPiano, who said Mr. Henke died in his sleep but didn’t specify the situation. He also didn’t cite a cause, but in May 2021 Mr. Henke posted on Instagram that he had a 90 percent blockage in an artery, and the subsequent month he said he had received two stents in his heart.

Mr. Henke played many roles in film and tv across a 25-year profession, but he was probably best known for his appearance on greater than two dozen episodes of the Netflix series “Orange Is the Latest Black” from 2016 to 2018. His character, Desi Piscatella, a gay corrections officer on the penitentiary where the show was set, was an integral a part of the drama in its fourth and fifth seasons, and in 2017 he shared within the forged’s Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series.

Although “Orange” may very well be considered Mr. Henke’s breakout role, it was removed from his first. His acting profession began in 1996 with the film “Mr. Improper,” which starred Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Pullman and Joan Cusack. Among the many dozens of television shows on which he was seen were “ER,” “Judging Amy,” “Dexter,” “October Road” and “Lost.” His movies included the unique “Space Jam.”

Mr. Henke was born on April 10, 1966, in Columbus, Neb., and raised in Littleton, Colo. He played football for the University of Arizona within the late Eighties. A 6-foot-3, 275-pound defensive lineman, he was drafted by the Latest York Giants in 1989 as but was cut, he told The Tucson Citizen in 1998, He went on to play for the Denver Broncos and was on the team when it lost the 1990 Super Bowl to the San Francisco 49ers.

His football profession led to the early Nineties after several injuries, and he held various jobs, including assistant football coach at a community college in California. An unexpected encounter with Rod Martin, formerly of the Oakland Raiders, set him on a latest path.

“Rod mentioned there was a necessity for actors to play football players for commercials, so I attempted out for it and got one for Pizza Hut,” Mr. Henke told The Citizen. “While I used to be there, a man invited me to attend an acting class. I went and it hit me that that is what I desired to do.”

The depth and sorts of roles Mr. Henke landed progressed with each credit. In a 2021 interview with CGMagazine, Mr. Henke said that in the beginning of his profession he was learning the business and was taking jobs to earn money, but that things modified. “Currently, I’ve just tried to do it for the love of it,” he said. “Just cause I really like creating the characters — determining how they talk, how they stand, all of the physical things and all of the emotional things.”

Mr. Henke told the web site Tell-Tale TV in 2020 that his role as Tom Cullen on the mini-series “The Stand,” probably the most recent adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the identical title, which starred Whoopi Goldberg and Alexander Skarsgard, was difficult yet rewarding.

“It was the perfect experience I’ve had in acting to date in my whole profession,” he said. “I haven’t had very many opportunities in my profession where I even have been offered this job three months before it starts. So again and again, it’s good before it starts. So I had so far more time to work on it and prepare and just give it some thought, dream about it.”

Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

Jesus Jiménez contributed reporting.

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