Craig Grant, the actor and poet best known for his work on the HBO drama Oz and who went by “muMs da Schemer” in slam-poetry competitions, has died at 52. He passed away on Wednesday, according to his representative Pam Ellis-Evenas. A cause of death has not yet been determined.
Born and raised in New York City in 1968, Grant fell in love with poetry in his youth and was a well-known poet in the local scene by the time he left Mount St. Michael Academy High School. As part of the acclaimed Nuyorican Poetry Slam team, he was featured in the 1998 documentary SlamNation and on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam series, both of which propelled Grant’s career and positioned him as an inspiration to aspiring poets.
Grant’s breakout moment in Hollywood came courtesy of his featured role as Poet, a heroin addict imprisoned for armed robbery and attempted murder, in Oz. He acted in 49 episodes across all six seasons, which aired from 1997 to 2003, and quickly turned heads for his ability to deliver a nuanced performance.
After landing scattered gigs on shows like The Sopranos and Boston Legal, Grant soon began to score roles in feature films by some of the biggest names in the business. Spike Lee took an interest in Grant, casting him in his 2000 movie Bamboozled and his 2017 series She’s Gotta Have It, as did Steven Soderbergh, who gave him roles in 2013’s Side Effects and his upcoming drama No Sudden Move alongside John Hamm and Don Cheadle. Grant also appeared in the Safdie Brothers’ Good Time, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman, and Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out the Dead.
Grant was still regularly active in the entertainment industry up until his death. Earlier this year, he was shooting a recurring role in the Starz series Hightown in Wilmington, North Carolina. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Grant was scheduled to travel to Atlanta, Georgia on Monday to wrap up his recurring arc on the BET series All the Queen’s Men, too.
Additionally, Craig was in talks with the National Black Theatre and The Public to stage A Sucker Emcee — Grant’s autobiographical one-man show detailing his coming of age in the Bronx and his time at the LAByrinth Theater Company, where he workshopped his acting skills alongside the late Philip Seymour Hoffman — in open-air venues this summer.
“We are heartbroken over the loss of one of the most genuine, caring, loving souls we have ever had the pleasure of representing,” his agency said in a statement. “Craig was more than our client; he was our dear friend. We all just lost a phenomenal man.”
Following the news of Grant’s passing, several fellow actors and poets have taken to social media to honor to the late star. Find those tributes below.
Craig “muMs da Schemer” Grant
has passed away.
My brother from OZ,
I spent too much time with this man onset. Too many amazing stories.
An incredible poet.❤️
This is heartbreaking.
— Kirk Acevedo🇺🇸 (@kirkacevedo) March 25, 2021
I am just speechless right now. Any of us who came up in New York poetry/spoken word scene of 1990s or 2000s know name Craig “Mums” Grant. Got word this morning he passed while making a film or tv project in ATL. Mums was mad gifted with words, and acting, and more. HUGE LOSS. pic.twitter.com/UXDRAxFi9y
— Kevin Powell (@kevin_powell) March 25, 2021
I remember the day you first shared this poem. And how afterward we’d always beg you to read it. Thank you for being such a true brother, great friend, and inspiration.
RIP muMs da Schemer 💙💙💙
– “Roach Motels” https://t.co/R6dRmkXPc3 via @YouTube
— Saul Williams (@SaulWilliams) March 25, 2021
R.I.P. to laureate extraordinaire Craig “Mums the Schemer” Grant. It was an honor to get to have SO many great conversations with you. To see you perform your poetry. And to share your energy. My heart goes out to your family. Rest in Peace and Respect my brother. 😔🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/6BHIrCx4LU
— JD Williams (@JDWilliamsEnt) March 25, 2021