The cast of The Wire had a whole lot of fun during Thursday’s reunion panel at New York’s Paley Center for Media.
Show co-creator David Simon, executive producer Nina Noble, cast members Michael Kenneth Williams, Wendell Pierce, Sonja Sohn, Seth Gilliam, Jim True-Frost, John Doman, Lawrence Gilliard Jr, and Jamie Hector took the stage, while surprise guests and cast members Tristan Wilds, J.D. Williams, Bob Wisdom, and Michelle Paress took seats in the audience. The show’s Brits, Dominic West and Idris Elba, were both unable to make the panel, but popped their heads in (quite literally) with video messages. HitFix TV critic Alan Sepinwall moderated the event.
The panel delved into a variety of topics Wire obsessives were frothing at the mouth to discuss, including the show’s low ratings and high acclaim—which frustrated the cast and crew—and the show’s increasingly perilous livelihood every season. The talk also covered whether Simon is interested in continuing the series, which beloved character wasn’t supposed to make it past the first season, and Williams’ initial reluctance at the focus on the dock workers in season two. Here are a few things that EW heard and saw throughout the night.
If he hadn’t played Omar Little, Williams would have loved to play struggling drug addict Bubbles (Andre Royo).
“Just his compassion and his pain that he struggled with, I identify with. What Andre Royo did with the character, I thought was beautiful,” Williams told EW.
At first, Williams wasn’t too thrilled about season two’s focus.
The show’s sophomore season shifted focus from Baltimore’s streets to the docks in order to tell the city’s story with a grand, all-encompassing scale. At first, Williams was a little hesitant to go along with the shift, explaining, ”I got real bitter about that. I was the angry black man. I approached David in my ignorance, I was like, ‘How come when we make the show hot, you want to give it to the white people!?'”
Over time, Williams realized that Baltimore’s story shouldn’t be confined to one character or segment of the city. “This isn’t about me…this is not about my career. Instead of being arrogant and ignorant, I became very humble and grateful to be a small part of this huge picture,” the actor added.
Simon and Gilliard hugged it out for killing D’Angelo Barksdale so early in the series.
Gilliard’s D’Angelo Barksdale met an untimely end in season two, with his death ordered by Stringer Bell (Elba). “I feel really bad, killing you in the second season,’ Simon said during the panel. The two then embraced to a smattering of “aww”s from panelists and the audience.
Sohn, Pierce, and Royo didn’t think the show was going to make it.
Sohn recounted how the three watched the pilot together. They were a little worried about the show’s slow pace: ”It was like, ‘Oh lord savior, this ain’t going nowhere,”’ Pierce said, also joking that he told his agent he’d be free in a couple weeks—so ”call Law & Order.”
Gilliam wanted to quit the show.
Like Williams, Gilliam says he was also disappointed at the lack of street-cop focus in season two, as well as his character and Herc’s (Domenick Lombardozzi) futile surveillance efforts. What Gilliam didn’t understand was that Simon was channeling their frustration at a lack of screen time into the the cops felt at not being able to catch the gangs in action.
”I’ll quit! F— you! I don’t need this show! Y’all are wasting me!” Gilliam joked of his past frustration, while also doing a great Lombardozzi impression.
Pierce met the real Bunk in real life.
Pierce met Rick Requer, the man that his character was based on—and he gave his television counterpart a serious stare-down. ”I’ll never forget the first day we were shooting, he came in his Caddy, with his big cigar, drove up and parked in the distance, got out as the Bunk and looked at me, hopped back in his car, and drove off,” Pierce said. ”I didn’t talk to him for five years.”
At the time, season five seemed like it wasn’t going to happen.
Noble explained that every season finale was treated like a series finale, since the producers never really knew if the show would be back the next year. But it was the delayed renewal of season five that made it feel like the show was really going to get prematurely axed.
“They [HBO] delayed the decision on whether we were ever coming back till after the actors’ contracts lapsed, meaning we were not holding anybody,” Simon explained. Luckily, every actor came back.
Kima Greggs wasn’t supposed to outlive season one.
In season one, Greggs (Sohn) survived being shot by Barksdale’s crew—but the original storyline ended in her death. Understandably, Sohn wasn’t thrilled about that. ”David and I had a little conversation,” she said at the panel. “David has one of these moments where he talks about the importance of it, it’s going to resonate some larger theme, she’s the moral center of the police department. Whatever. I really don’t give a sh– at this point.” According to Simon, it was HBO executive Carolyn Strauss who urged him not to kill off Greggs, telling him it would be a mistake.
Doman was totally invested in exploring the William Rawls gay storyline.
In season three, Doman’s Rawls was seen in a brief scene at a gay bar, fueling speculation about the hard-nosed boss’ sexuality. Doman said he pulled Simon aside and told him, ”I don’t know what your plans are for this gay thing, but I’m open for anything. David just looked at me like [Doman does a quiet nod] and walked away,” Doman said.
Simon has some words on continuing the series.
Simon pretty much put a kibosh on continuing the series on television. ”Stories work if they have a beginning, a middle and an end. We really did plan the end. The end had to be the end,” Simon said. “Sustaining the franchise is the great disease of American television.”
Catch these moments and more on PaleyFest’s livestream at Yahoo! Live.