‘The Wire': Predictions and polls
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‘The Wire': Predictions and polls
Hollywood A-Z: ‘The Wire’
‘The Wire’
‘The Wire’ roundtable

By Matea Gold, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

After spending five seasons exploring urban decay in Baltimore, the HBO series “The Wire” culminates Sunday night. The 90-minute finale reveals whether the exposure of the bogus serial killer scheme concocted by Dets. Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) and Lester Freamon will take down the major drug investigation they surreptitiously financed. But for hard-core fans of the program (which seem to be the only kind), the final plotline is secondary to the larger societal questions raised by the drama’s nuanced storytelling. In January, we sat down with seven actors from the large cast to get their thoughts on hope in the ghetto and other topics. Excerpts from the nearly two-hour conversation with castmembers Clarke Peters (Freamon), Andre Royo (Bubbles), Lance Reddick (Col. Cedric Daniels), Sonja Sohn (Det. Shakima “Kima” Greggs), Jamie Hector (Marlo Stanfield), Michael K. Williams (Omar Little) and Wendell Pierce (Det. William “Bunk” Moreland) follow. (Nicole Rivelli / HBO)
What do you think distinguishes “The Wire” from other television programs?
What do you think distinguishes “The Wire” from other television programs?

Clarke Peters (Freamon): Looking back and reflecting on it over the last five years, you realize that to a certain degree we’ve been actors on a mission, telling a story that’s needed to be told for a long time about inner-city America. People look at “The Wire” and they say, “Ooh, it’s another black show.” I have to say those people are the most ignorant people in the world. There are those that say it constantly depicts black people as being drug addicts and thieves and dysfunctional. If that’s what you want to see, you’ll see that.

Andre Royo (Bubbles): It really shows: “Why do people make these choices? Why do people give up? Why do people keep [expletive] trying to do something against the grain?” Because there are too many things wrong. It’s saying, ‘Yeah, all the pieces matter.’ That was one of my favorite lines of the whole show. Everybody has an involvement and everybody has a purpose in this community, in how it can either rise and flourish or how it can be destroyed.

Lance Reddick (Col. Cedric Daniels): I’m actually surprised that people have said to you, Clarke, that “The Wire” shows black people as . . .

Sonja Sohn (Det. Shakima “Kima” Greggs): You hear that more from black people than anybody!

Royo: The first two seasons, they were, like, “I don’t know what your show is about. Why y’all doin’ the same thing?” I was, like, “For every black drug dealer, there’s a black lieutenant.”

Reddick: That was what I was going to say. For me, one of the distinguishing characteristics of “The Wire,” and why it’s so different from anything that’s been on television, is the richness of the black community. (Nicole Rivelli / HBO)
Do you think there is any kind of message of hope?
A lot of critics talk about how bleak the show is. By the end of the series, do you think there is any kind of message of hope? Is [creator] David Simon offering a solution, or is he just saying our institutions are failed?

Jamie Hector (Marlo Stanfield): I don’t think he’s saying our institutions are failed. I believe he’s saying there is hope through the people in the institutions.

Michael K. Williams (Omar Little): I think David showed a lot of hope in the show through the characters. In Season 1, you had Michael B. Jordan’s character [Wallace, a young drug seller] who was thinking about changing. In Season 2, you had [disillusioned drug crew lieutenant] D’Angelo, played by Larry Gilliard, who represented hope. Season 3, [business-oriented drug captain] Stringer Bell, played by Idris Elba, represented hope.

Sohn: They all got killed!

Williams: That rings very true to anyone who knows the street life. The game will not stand for reform.

Reddick: David said to me once, “I don’t believe that organizations can be reformed; I think individuals can.”

Williams: True that.

Reddick: The organizations, it’s weird, it’s like they’re alive, they have a life of their own. They want to survive. And anything within or outside that seeks to change it . . .

Royo: You get snuffed out. (Nicole Rivellli / HBO)
It seems that he’s suggesting that you, as an individual, could have an idea for reform and change, but the institution is always going to beat you down.
It seems that he’s suggesting that you, as an individual, could have an idea for reform and change, but the institution is always going to beat you down.

Peters: He’s also saying if you change yourself, the world will change. You see it with Bubbles.

Sohn: Bubbles is the only character on the whole show that represents hope, and hope that has succeeded at the end of the series.

Williams: That’s alive, and you see honest change -- you’re right.

Peters: And that’s from the lowest level. So if it can happen there, it can happen everywhere. (Paul Schiraldi / HBO)
Andre, you managed to play a junkie in the most empathetic, human, universal way. Tell me about what it was like portraying him.
Andre, you managed to play a junkie in the most empathetic, human, universal way. Tell me about what it was like portraying him.

Royo: The day I got the call -- “You got this audition to play a junkie named Bubbles on a new show called ‘The Wire’ ” -- I didn’t want to do it. It was, like, are we still doing that? Are we still doing a junkie named Bubbles? And then I had to check myself -- you ain’t got the part. First get it, then you can take it to heart. And when I got the part, it was weird, there was nothing cliché or gimmicky about any of the characters.

Going into the process, I wanted to get the character right. And nobody could tell me what they do; the drug affects everybody differently. So it came out through, “Let me just find the character as I go along.” And I think that was one of the greatest happy accidents that could have happened, because that’s what made everyone relate to the character and kept Bubbles alive -- he was just an honest, just good individual.


Reddick: The last thing you said, about rooting for him -- for me, when I watch the show, I’m not rooting for good guys or bad guys, because you don’t know who they are. You’re rooting for individuals.

Williams: I cried like a baby when they killed Bodie [a drug crew soldier played by J.D. Williams who was going to give the police information about Marlo]. I knew it was coming. But I was in a room full of dudes and I’m sitting there, like [wiping his eyes].

Royo: The one killing that really shook me up would have to be D’Angelo. I think David Simon even learned something about his storytelling. Because I remember when he killed D’Angelo, off the cuff, his response was, “Hope can’t survive.” That was offensive.

Sohn: He said there’s no hope in the ghetto. And we were all like, “Oh, no!” I love David. I think he’s brilliant, and I think he has a beautiful heart. But we all just got ripped up when we heard that. There’s no hope in the ghetto? It was, like, dude, this cast might not be here if there was no hope in the ghetto!

Royo: You can’t write the story without that. That’s the only thing that keeps the whole thing going -- that we hope it’s going to get better. (Paul Schiraldi / HBO)
Are there institutions that any of you started thinking about differently after being on the show?
Are there institutions that any of you started thinking about differently after being on the show?

Sohn: My mind wasn’t changed about much, except the cops. I knew it was going to be a little challenging for me to play a cop, because I grew up in a neighborhood very similar to that, the one I was policing the first season. But I didn’t know how it was going to affect me. I mean, it really rattled me.

The scene when I’m chasing Bodie, we’re running all through the projects -- that’s when I jumped into the body of a cop, because I had to beat somebody down. Cops historically came into my neighborhood and made things worse. So here I am, in the middle of the scene, getting ready to beat somebody down, and my mind was just reeling. I had to stop and go, “Hold it.” I had to remember some of the research I had done. Prior to doing these scenes, I had rode around with a couple of cops, undercover narcotics detectives. It was the first time I was able to see these are just regular guys. This actually could be my brother. And so I started to see the humanity in police officers. (Nicole Rivelli / HBO)
Clarke, your character is fascinating because in some ways through Seasons 1 through 4 he really is the most principled of all of them.
Clarke, your character is fascinating because in some ways through Seasons 1 through 4 he really is the most principled of all of them. And then we see him do some things in Season 5 that are kind of astounding. What did you make of his trajectory?

Peters: Mmm. I was not happy when I read Episode 3 of this last season. I thought, “No, this isn’t the man. This is not what I signed up for.” But I’ve often said Freamon is the guy I’d like to be when I grow up. And I still want to be him, in spite of all the stuff that went on. Because when it comes down to just your actions and doing the right thing, against everything else, a man has got to do what a man has got to do to get the job done. Even at the expense of losing whatever integrity he has, if the end result is going to be accurate, without harming -- we didn’t harm anyone. So he didn’t go outside his moral compass in that respect.

Williams: But do the ends justify the means?

Reddick: That’s one of the questions that Season 5 really raises. And in yours and McNulty’s minds, you guys have really reached the point where . . . it’s time to do what we think is right. And the thing that’s so interesting to me is that in terms of reasoning, I don’t see how that’s different from Stringer or [drug kingpin] Avon [played by Wood Harris]. To look at it from a human point of view, this is what we’ve got to do to survive or be true to who we are. (Nicole Rivelli / HBO)
Jamie, I wanted to ask you about Marlo. Of all the characters, he has a unique kind of viciousness. Do you see him having any morals?
Jamie, I wanted to ask you about Marlo. Of all the characters, he has a unique kind of viciousness. Do you see him having any morals?

Hector: To those around him. I think his love only goes as far as what makes sense. You know, corporate America looks at everybody like numbers. Marlo looks at everybody the same way, but it’s just on the streets. It’s like, “OK, you drop one of my boys, you got to fall.” Everyone is a number to Marlo, except those who are close to him. Everybody else is basically irrelevant. I don’t think it’s too much about money to him, but he understands money feeds his power. And it’s power that he’s really after. (Paul Schiraldi / HBO)
Wendell, Bunk goes through an interesting journey in this season
Wendell, Bunk goes through an interesting journey in this season.

Wendell Pierce (Det. William “Bunk” Moreland): I think the whole lead-up of this season has been about the moral ambiguity at the center of the dysfunction in urban America, really. It’s why we’re in a place with so many problems: People are in positions of power and are very ambiguous about exercising good moral judgment and self-determination, except in ways that are flawed. That’s what this season is about for Bunk: There’s no more sitting on the fence. If anything, he finds his voice, whereas before, he was very happy to be apathetic. The one thing he is good at is being a cop. And I think that’s the realization he comes to this year. What’s emblematic about Bunk’s change is before we end the run, it’s saying, you can make a choice. You can’t be ambiguous. (Paul Schiraldi / HBO)
One of the things that is so distinctive about the show is that it has such a huge African American cast.
One of the things that is so distinctive about the show is that it has such a huge African American cast. Over the course of the five years it’s been on the air, have you seen opportunities increase in that area? And what is going to be missing when the show is not on the air? Lance, you’re in “Lost” now.

Reddick: “Lost” is unique in that it has an international cast. I’ve had two scenes in two episodes, so we’ll see. I feel that the weapon that the system always uses to show us that things are better is to pull out the exceptions. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t see the industry as changed because of the show.

Pierce: I think it has had an impact on our careers. We made our mark. What happens with a situation like “The Wire” is that it’s a rarity. The anxiety I feel, aside from, OK, we’re unemployed -- I don’t know if any of you guys are feeling this -- but it’s like, this is the high water mark. Will I ever be able to do something like this again?

matea.gold@latimes.com (Paul Schiraldi / HBO)
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