Brad William Henke, ‘Orange Is the New Black’ actor, former NFL player, dead at 56

Actor Brad William Henke, known for his role on the Netflix television series “Orange Is the New Black,” died Tuesday. He was 56.

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Henke’s death was confirmed to Variety by his representative. No cause of death was given. His family told Deadline that Henke died in his sleep.

TMZ also reported the actor’s death.

Henke played the role of gay corrections officer Desi Piscatella in the series, Variety reported. He was the main antagonist at Litchfield Penitentiary during the show’s fourth and fifth seasons, according to the entertainment news site.

He had a lead role in the series “Going to California,” which ran for one season, and also had recurring roles on “Justified,” “Lost,” “October Road,” “Nikki” and “Dexter.”

Born on April 10, 1966, in Columbus, Nebraska, Henke was a defensive lineman at the University of Arizona in 1989, according to College-Sports-Reference. He was selected by the New York Giants in the fourth round of the 1989 NFL draft, according to Pro-Football-Reference.

Henke wound up with the Denver Broncos in 1989 and played nose tackle, appearing in two games.

Injuries ended Henke’s football career in 1994, and he began his acting career, Variety reported.

He had guest roles on television series such as “Chicago Hope,” “Silk Stockings,” “ER,” “Michael Hayes,” “Arli$$” and “The Pretender.”

Henke also appeared in films with roles in “Split,” “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday,” “Pure Love,” “Draft Day,” “Pacific Rim,” “The Frozen Ground,” “Jobs,” “I Am Not a Hipster,” “Magic Valley,” “The Space Between,” “Choke,” “Must Love Dogs” and “The Assassination of Richard Nixon.”

He appeared in 26 episodes of “Orange Is the New Black” from 2016 to 2018, according to He shared a Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series in 2017, Variety reported. The cast was nominated again in 2018.

Henke’s most recent credits include “Law & Order: SVU” and the 2022 films “Block Party” and “Run & Gun,” Deadline reported.