Actor Robert Chew, who played Proposition Joe on the iconic HBO show "The Wire," has passed away. Chew died in his sleep on Thursday in his home in Northwest Baltimore. He was 52.

Chew is best known for his role in “The Wire,” widely regarded as one of the best television shows of all time for its realistic, unsparing depiction of Baltimore’s war on drugs. The show, which ran for five seasons between 2002 and 2008, followed both the gangsters in the streets and the police charged with trying to stop them.

Proposition Joe -- played by Chew -- was a pivotal character whose mission was to link feuding drug dealers and bring a semblance of peace to gangland. He was among the show's central characters, and he appeared in each of the show’s five seasons, in no small part because of Chew’s lauded performance.

“Robert was not only an exceptional actor, he was an essential part of the film and theater community in Baltimore,” show creator David Simon told Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik. “He could have gone to New York or Los Angeles and commanded a lot more work, but he loved the city as his home and chose to remain here working. He understood so much about his craft that it was no surprise at all that we would go to him to coach our young actors in season four. He was the conduit through which they internalized their remarkable performances.”

Chew also appeared in such TV shows as “The Corner” and “Homicide,” but by all accounts, his impact stretched beyond the acting world. He worked with the Baltimore theater community for much of his life -- most notably Playworks USA, the oldest African-American-operated theater in the United States.