‘Orange Is The New Black’
No one is saddened by the death of Desi Piscatella (Brad William Henke) in “Orange Is the New Black” Season 5. Netflix


  • Brad William Henke passed away in his sleep Tuesday, according to his agent
  • His manager Matt DelPiano said Henke was an "incredibly kind man of joyous energy"
  • Henke was best known for his role as prison guard Desi Piscatella in Netflix's "Orange Is the New Black"

"Orange Is the New Black" actor and former NFL player Brad William Henke has died. He was 56.

Henke's rep confirmed to Variety that he passed away Tuesday. The Screen Actors Guild Award winner died in his sleep, his agent Sheree Cohen told E! News.

"Brad was an incredibly kind man of joyous energy," his manager Matt DelPiano added in a statement to E! News. "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."

His cause of death has not been disclosed.

Henke was born on April 10, 1966, in Columbus, Nebraska. He played college football at the University of Arizona, where he was team captain. In 1990, he played on the defensive line for the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV against the San Francisco 49ers.

He sustained injuries that forced him to retire from professional football in 1994. Following his NFL retirement, he began his acting career and scored guest spots on various TV series, including "Chicago Hope," "Silk Stockings," "ER," "Michael Hayes," "Arli$$" and "The Pretender."

The late actor is best known for playing prison guard Desi Piscatella in Seasons 4 and 5 of Netflix's "Orange Is the New Black," for which he and the rest of the cast won a Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series in 2017.

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

He appeared in several films, including "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."

In an interview with Horror Geek Life in February 2021, Henke reflected on switching careers from football to acting and shared how the former helped him with his Hollywood jobs.

"I didn't know what to do with my life. Luckily, I needed money, so I jumped at being an extra football player in a commercial; they needed football extras in the back of the commercial. After that, someone invited me to an acting class, saw what they were doing there, started going to class, and I just loved it," he said.

He added, "Football helped me learn how to be disciplined, how to take criticism, to always try your best, so you can definitely use some of the same things and that was a big help for me when I started acting."

Henke is survived by his wife Sonja, stepson Aaden, stepdaughter Leasa and grandchild Amirah, according to People.

Orange Is The New Black
Several Litchfield inmates are imprisoned in a new facility in “Orange Is The New Black” Season 6. Pictured [L-R]: Dascha Polanco, Danielle Brooks, Taylor Schilling, Uzo Aduba and Adrienne C. Moore. Netflix