The Wire, then and now
While it was never quite a smash ratings hit or an awards show darling, The Wire has secured its place in history as one of the greatest television shows of all time (EW put it at the top of our rankings). Throughout its five-season run, the David Simon series showed the inner workings of Baltimore while tackling the world of drugs, unions, politics, public education, and media. Now 10 years after the last episode, the legacy of The Wire continues with the unprecedented success of its sprawling cast, which at the time consisted of mostly relative unknowns. With Wire alums dominating television and film, see the show’s stars then and now.
Dominic West (Jimmy McNulty)
Before he starred as Jimmy McNulty, the charming, but troubled detective, West had minor roles in Spice World (1997) and Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace (1999). Post-Wire, West, who hit the big screen in Chicago and 300, has continued on a successful TV run with Golden Globe-nominated performances on BBC’s The Hour and currently on The Affair as Noah Solloway. He’ll next be seen on the big screen as Lara Croft’s father in Tomb Raider.
Idris Elba (Russell “Stringer” Bell)
Elba had been working steadily in British television for almost a decade before he got his breakthrough role as Stringer Bell, drug kingpin and aspiring legit businessman. After three seasons on The Wire, Elba began to raise his profile with supporting roles in films such as American Gangster (2007), Thor (2011), and Prometheus (2012). He earned a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of a warlord in Beasts of No Nation (2015). Elba has periodically returned (and will again) to his TV roots with his Golden Globe-winning and Emmy-nominated role in BBC’s Luther. He has kept busy in 2017 with turns in The Dark Tower, The Mountain Between Us, Thor: Ragnarok, and Molly’s Game. Next up he’ll get behind the camera for his directorial debut, Yardie.
Michael K. Williams (Omar Little)
Williams was a relative unknown when he was cast as stick-up artist Omar Little. He quickly became a fan favorite, with his character even identified by President Obama as his favorite of the series. Few Wire alums have been busier than Williams since the show ended: He’s been seen in such movies as 12 Years a Slave (2013), RoboCop (2014), and Ghostbusters (2016). He moved from one great HBO drama to another when he played Chalky White on Boardwalk Empire. Williams continued his epic run on HBO with a major role on the buzzed-about miniseries The Night Of. His upcoming projects include season 3 of his Sundance drama Hap and Leonard and starring alongside Chris Evans in The Red Sea Diving Resort.
Michael B. Jordan (Wallace)
Before his turn as the sweet but ill-fated Wallace, Jordan’s few credits included a minor role in the Keanu Reeves film Hardball. Where’s Jordan now? He’s everywhere. He spent a few years on All My Children, but his role as Vince on the last two seasons on Friday Night Lights started his rise to stardom. After FNL, he recurred on Parenthood and starred in the found-footage thriller Chronicle (2012). His big break came with Fruitvale Station (2014), where he was heartbreaking in the true story of a young man’s death at the hands of police. Jordan has gone on to roles in big franchises with Fantastic Four, Creed, and Black Panther. He’ll continue to be busy with his upcoming projects including HBO’s Fahrenheit 451, Creed 2, reteaming with Ryan Coogler for Wrong Answer, and making his directorial debut.
Aiden Gillen (Tommy Carcetti)
Before rising to power on The Wire as Mayor (and eventually Governor) Tommy Carcetti, Gillen came to prominence in the U.K. with his role alongside Charlie Hunnam in Queer as Folk. A few years after The Wire ended, Gillen returned to HBO as the cunning and untrustworthy Littlefinger on Game of Thrones. After landing on the big screen in the Maze Runner franchise and Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur movie, Gillen will next be seen in the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.
Method Man (Melvin “Cheese” Wagstaff)
The rapper came into his role on The Wire as maybe the most notable member of the cast, primarily due to his music career, though he had appeared on Oz and starred in the stoner comedy How High (2001). During his run as Cheese, Method had his own short-lived Fox series titled Method & Red, while making appearances in Garden State (2004) and Soul Plane (2004). He has also released a few new albums over the years and made strong comedic impressions in Trainwreck (2015) and Keanu (2016). And like many of the actors in this gallery, Method Man reunited with David Simon for HBO’s The Deuce.
Amy Ryan (Beatrice “Beadie” Russell)
Prior to playing Beadie Russell, a Port Authority cop and McNulty’s girlfriend, Ryan’s most notable role was on the Téa Leoni sitcom The Naked Truth. In 2007, while still occasionally appearing on The Wire, she was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Gone Baby Gone. Ryan has continued a successful run in film with roles in Birdman (2014), Bridge of Spies (2015), and Central Intelligence (2016), but she’s most known for her time on The Office, in which she ended up playing Mrs. Michael Scott.
Reg E. Cathey (Norman Wilson)
For 20 years, Cathey had steadily been working in the business, including a central role in David Simon’s 2000 miniseries The Corner, before reuniting with Simon on The Wire. After his two-season run as Norman Wilson, Mayor Carcetti’s campaign manager, Cathey eventually starred as Freddy on House of Cards, winning an Emmy award for his role. Cathey died in February 2018, at the age of 59.
Tom McCarthy (Scott Templeton)
As the writer and director of The Station Agent (2003) and The Visitor (2007), McCarthy had a successful behind-the-scenes career before taking on the role of Scott Templeton, season 5’s fabricating reporter. McCarthy hasn’t acted much since The Wire ended, as he’s been focused on his filmmaking. At the 2016 Academy Awards, Spotlight, which he wrote and directed, won Best Original Screenplay. He currently serves as an executive producer and director on Netflix’s hit series 13 Reasons Why.
Lance Reddick (Cedric Daniels)
Reddick was another Oz veteran to land a major role on The Wire, playing Cedric Daniels, the stern but loyal police leader. Once the HBO drama ended, Reddick moved right on to two other successful television shows with a guest arc on Lost and five-season run on Fringe. He currently stars on Amazon’s Bosch and Comedy Central’s Corporate.
Lawrence Gilliard Jr. (D'Angelo Barksdale)
Previously best known for The Waterboy, Gilliard landed his big break with a one-and-a-half season stint as D’Angelo Barksdale, a drug dealer whom you couldn’t help but sympathize with. The Gangs of New York alum had a few short TV guest spots before joining the cast of The Walking Dead, in which he was a series regular for two years. Like many other Wire alums, Gilliard reunited with David Simon on HBO’s The Deuce, this time serving on the other side of the law.
Pablo Schreiber (Nick Sobotka)
His turn as Nick Sobotka was only the second credit for Schreiber, who had previously appeared in Bubble Boy (2001). The actor has become a TV staple since leaving the show, with roles on Lights Out, Weeds, Law & Order: SVU, and Orange Is the New Black. Schreiber recently starred on the big screen in Den of Thieves and currently plays the feisty leprachaun Mad Sweeney on Starz’s American Gods.
Chad L. Coleman (Dennis “Cutty” Wise)
Joining the show in season 3 was a huge break for Coleman, whose most notable role previously had been in the TNT television film Monday Night Mayhem (2002), in which he played O.J. Simpson. After his short but memorable stay as Cutty, he starred in Fox’s I Hate My Teenage Daughter (2010) and had brief roles in Horrible Bosses (2011) and The Green Hornet (2011). Coleman made a big TV comeback with his run as Tyreese on The Walking Dead and Tobias Church on Arrow. He can currently be seen with a lot of makeup on Fox’s sci-fi comedy series Orville.
Seth Gillam (Ellis Carver)
Another Oz alum, Gilliam also appeared in Courage Under Fire (1996) and Starship Troopers (1997) before playing Ellis Carver, an immature-turned-dedicated policeman. He has since played a major recurring role on MTV’s Teen Wolf, and currently stars as Father Gabriel Stokes on The Walking Dead.
Wendell Pierce (William “Bunk” Moreland)
Pierce was a veteran in the industry before landing the role of Bunk, homicide detective and long-suffering partner to McNulty. Soon after The Wire, he was back with David Simon on HBO for the New Orleans-based series Treme. Pierce has had a busy last few years with roles on Suits, Chicago P.D., The Odd Couple, and the upcoming Amazon series Jack Ryan.
Wood Harris (Avon Barksdale)
Harris’ first credit was a supporting role in the Tupac-led film Above the Rim, but his most noteworthy pre-Wire work was as Julius in Remember the Titans. After his three seasons playing cold-blooded drug kingpin Avon Barksdale, Harris appeared on Justified, alongside his brother Steve, and had supporting roles in Ant-Man (2015) and Creed (2015), while also costarring with fellow Wire alum Tristan “Mack” Wilds on VH1’s The Breaks. Most recently, Harris had a small role in Blade Runner 2049.
Andre Royo (Reginald “Bubbles” Cousins)
With only small roles like one-episode guest spots on Third Watch and Law & Order to his name, the role of Bubbles, the loveable drug addict, was a breakthrough for Royo. Post-Wire, he appeared on Fringe and was one of many Wire alums in the George Lucas-directed Red Tails (2012). Royo has found recent success on TV with roles on Amazon’s Hand of God and the Fox hit Empire.
Chris Bauer (Frank Sobotka)
A veteran of TV and movies, with roles in Third Watch, The Devil’s Advocate (1997), and Face/Off (1998), Bauer delivered an important performance in season 2 as Frank Sobotka, who turns to crime to help keep the Baltimore docks afloat. He has continued to steadily work on TV, including a return to HBO for a seven-season run on True Blood. Bauer popped up as a detective on American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson before reuniting with David Simon on HBO’s The Deuce.
Clarke Peters (Lester Freamon)
Peters was another The Corner cast member whom Simon brought to The Wire, playing veteran detective Lester Freamon. Once The Wire wrapped, Simon recruited Peters to his next series, Treme. Over the last few years, he has made appearances on Jessica Jones, Underground, Show Me a Hero, and The Deuce, his fifth Simon project on HBO. On the big screen, he recently starred in the Academy Award-nominated Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Tristan “Mack” Wilds (Michael Lee)
Wilds had only two credits to his name before being cast as Michael, one of the students that season 4 focused on. Immediately after The Wire, Wilds left the mean streets of Baltimore for the wealthy houses of Beverly Hills with a series regular role on the CW’s 90210 reboot. On the big screen, he starred in George Lucas’ Red Tails (2012), which featured multiple Wire alums. Wilds tried his hand at music with his own album, and notably appeared in Adele’s “Hello” video. More recently, he costarred with fellow Wire alum Wood Harris on VH1’s short-lived series The Breaks.
John Doman (William Rawls)
Doman, a seasoned TV actor whose work included guest arcs on ER and Oz, got his first long-term gig with his role as the stern Deputy Rawls. He has continued his successful television career with roles on Damages, Borgia, and Gotham. Doman can currently be seen on Showtime’s The Affair, in which he continues to disapprove of Dominic West.
Sonja Sohn (Shakima “Kima” Greggs)
Before playing Kima Greggs, Sohn’s few credits included writing and starring in the independent film Slam. After playing the dedicated detective and McNulty protégé, she moved on to a series regular role on Body of Proof and recurring parts on Brothers & Sisters, Burn Notice and The Originals. She currently stars as a grieving mother on Showtime’s The Chi.
Domenick Lombardozzi (Thomas “Herc” Hauk)
His first role was in Robert De Niro’s A Bronx Tale, but the role of Herc was a big break for Lombardozzi. He stayed in the HBO family with recurring gigs on Entourage as the group’s long lost pal Dom, and Boardwalk Empire as Al Capone’s brother, Ralph. For two seasons each, he starred on A&E’s Breakout Kings and Fox’s Rosewood. Next up is a role in Martin Scorsese’s highly anticipated mob film The Irishman.
J.D. Williams (Preston “Bodie” Broadus)
Williams was no stranger to HBO before his turn as the tough and loyal drug dealer Bodie, as he had a multiseason arc on Oz and had appeared on The Sopranos. Since moving on from The Wire, Williams had a major role in the Spike miniseries Kill Point and popped up on The Good Wife as a lieutenant for Lemond Bishop. He returned to HBO in 2016 with a supporting role on The Night Of.
Gbenga Akinnagbe (Chris Partlow)
The role of Chris Partlow, Marlo Stanfield’s top lieutenant and ruthless hitman, was the first screen credit for Akinnagbe. Since his time on The Wire, he has showed up for arcs on The Good Wife, 24: Live Another Day, Nurse Jackie, and Damages. Like many other Wire alums, Akinnagbe has recently reunited with Simon for HBO’s The Deuce.
Paul Ben-Victor (Spiros Vondas)
Prior to playing the mysterious Spiros in season 2, Ben-Victor had a central role on Syfy’s The Invisible Man, and also small roles in True Romance (1993) and Tombstone (1993). He transitioned to a series regular role on USA’s In Plain Sight, but has remained a fixture on HBO with roles on Entourage, John from Cincinnati, and Vinyl. He has also recently popped up on Fox’s The Mick and AMC’s Preacher.
Jamie Hector (Marlo Stanfield)
The role of chilling drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield was Hector’s breakthrough. Immediately after The Wire ended, he joined Heroes for an 11-episode arc. Hector has been busy recently with recurring roles on The Strain and Power, plus a series regular gig on Bosch alongside fellow Wire alum Lance Reddick. On the big screen, he appeared in 2017’s Tupac Shakur biopic All Eyez on Me, playing the late rapper’s stepfather.
Robert Wisdom (Howard “Bunny” Colvin)
The character of Bunny Colvin was one of the most high-profile roles to date for the veteran actor, who had been seen in such movies as Face/Off (1997) and Mighty Joe Young (1998). Wisdom has been busy post-Wire with central arcs on TV shows including Prison Break, Burn Notice, and Nashville. He’s back on HBO with a recurring role on Ballers as Ricky’s absentee father, while also currently starring on TNT’s The Alienist.
Maestro Harrell (Randy Wagstaff)
Harrell was the most experienced of his young season 4 counterparts, having portrayed a young Cassius Clay in Ali (2001) and starred in the UPN sitcom Guys Like Us. After his 14-episode stint on The Wire as the vulnerable Randy Wagstaff, he landed a recurring role as Malik on ABC’s Suburgatory. Since then, he’s had a two-episode guest spot on Fear the Walking Dead and recurred on the last season of House of Lies.
Frankie Faison (Ervin Burrell)
A Hannibal Lecter film franchise alum, Faison starred for all five seasons as Police Commissioner Ervin Burrell. He continued his TV work once the show ended with roles on One Life to Live and Banshee. More recently, Faison guest-starred on Netflix’s Luke Cage and CBS’ The Good Fight.
James Ransone (Chester “Ziggy” Sobotka)
He may have only been on The Wire for one season, but Ransone’s performance as the loose cannon Ziggy Sobotka was a highlight of season 2. He reunited with creator David Simon for the Iraq war miniseries Generation Kill and Treme, and later joined his former Wire costars Lance Reddick and Jamie Hector on Amazon’s Bosch. Ransone was most recently part of the main cast for Steven Soderbergh’s HBO series Mosaic.
Deirdre Lovejoy (Rhonda Pearlman)
Appearing as Assistant State Attorney Rhonda Pearlman was one of the first major roles for Lovejoy, who previously had a few television credits and minor big-screen gigs. Lovejoy, one of the few actors to be with the series from the beginning to the end, has continued to consistently work in TV, with appearances on Girls, Orange Is the New Black, and The Blacklist. Lovejoy was also recently seen in a small role in Steven Spielberg’s The Post.
Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Clay Davis)
Before his five-season run as the corrupt State Senator Clay Davis, the Goodfellas actor had appeared in multiple episodes of Law & Order and Law & Order: SVU. In his time since The Wire ended, Whitlock has been busy on television with series regular roles on short-lived dramas Lucky 7 and The Mist, while also recurring on HBO’s Veep. He can currently be seen as Donald Glover’s dad on FX’s Atlanta.
Jim True-Frost (Roland “Prez” Pryzbylewski)
The actor had a few small roles in films such as The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) and Affliction (1997) before being cast as Roland Pryzbylewski, a clumsy cop turned dedicated teacher. True-Frost was one of many Wire alums to appear on Treme, and also worked on the one-and-done dramas Hostages and American Odyssey.