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Brad William Henke, ‘Orange Is the New Black’ Actor and Former NFL Lineman, Dies at 56

“Brad was an incredibly kind man of joyous energy,” his manager said in a statement

Brad William Henke, the former Denver Bronco lineman who played prison guard Desi Piscatella on “Orange Is the New Black,” died in his sleep on Tuesday at age 56.

His manager, Matt DelPiano said in a statement released to the media on Thursday, “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.”

A cause of death has not yet been released.


Henke was born on April 1, 1966, in Columbus, Nebraska. He attended the University of Arizona. He was drafted by the New York Giants in the 1989 NFL Draft, but was cut during training camp.

He was picked up by the Denver Broncos and played in Super Bowl XXIV against the San Francisco 49ers in 1990. However, several injuries forced him to retire from professional football in 1994.

He turned to acting, with roles on “ER,” “Nash Bridges,” “Lost,” “Justified,” before landing his best known role as gay corrections officer Desi Piscatella in the fourth season of “Orange is the New Black.” He was part of the cast that won the SAG’s Ensemble in a Comedy Series award for that season.

“Orange is the New Black” casting director Jen Euston tweeted, “This is a shock. Rest well, Brad. Thank you for all the work you contributed on OITNB. You will not be forgotten.”

In Paramount+’s 2020 Stephen King miniseries “The Stand,” he played Tom Cullen in a cast that included Alexander Skarsgard, James Marsden, and Whoopi Goldberg.

His film appearances included, “Word Trade Center,” “In the Valley of Elah,” and “Choke.”

Deadline first reported the news.