Seth Gilliam, Deirdre Lovejoy, Michael K. Williams, and more reunite to tell the untold story behind the HBO series.
Since its final season aired nearly a decade ago, The Wire has found its place among the best of HBO’s back catalog of programming, but, as its cast recalls in a series of video interviews with the People/Entertainment Weekly Network, the owners of a house used to shoot a memorable, on-location sex scene have a much different (albeit similarly lasting) impression of those involved with the gritty drama.
“We were doing the scene over and over and [the director] kept screaming ‘Louder! Louder! Climax now!'” Deirdre Lovejoy, who played Asst. State’s Atty. Rhonda Pearlman across 60 episodes, recalls of the particularly steamy moment she shared with Dominic West. “We did that over and over and over. We were never allowed back in that house because the people thought we were shooting porn.”
The ensemble also tells PEN about the powerful experience of watching the show the show evolve from its humble beginnings, morphing into a “bonafide social document,” John Doman, who played William Rawls on The Wire, explains. “As you know, there are college courses being taught using The Wire as an example of where society was at the time.”
Much of the show’s impact is credited to creator David Simon, though the cast — particularly Michael K. Williams — was initially reluctant to embrace his unorthodox techniques.
“Season 1, I was completely ignorant to a lot of things,” Williams admits. “When he came back for season 2 with the docks [storyline], I was very angry. I thought that this white man had taken something that black people had made good and [wanted] to make it a white show.”
Williams’ costar, The Walking Dead‘s Seth Gilliam, says he “called up David Simon to voice [my] frustration” over the alterations, though he “advised [them] to use the frustrations [they] were having” to create compelling performances, and their subsequent commitment to their craft paid off.
“In season 3 when he started to tie in all these storylines, I started to see how he was weaving and connecting these characters,” Williams continues, while Doman praises Simon’s subtle nuances peppered throughout the show, specifically a scene which sees his character, whose career embarks on an upward trajectory within the Baltimore Police Department over the course of the show, getting a drink at a gay bar.
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“I went up to David and I said, ‘David, this gay thing with Rawls, I’m ready for anything. Whatever you want to do.’ He just looked at me, nodded his head, and walked away,” Doman remembers. “We never touched it again, and it was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant, because he just planted the seed in everybody’s head.”
While he brought his stars together in many ways, Doman is also partially responsible for offing several of their characters in the process, as The Wire features some of the most surprising death scenes in television history.
“I go into the production office and I’m like yo, you guys can’t have me kill Snoop. I can’t be the one who does it,” actor Tristan Wilds says about his character, Michael, offing the character played by Felicia Pearson. “It was funny because as soon as I walked out of [producer] Nina Noble’s office, Snoop walked in. I’m like, ‘Sis…’ and she was like ‘I already know, I just read it.'”
Gilliam continues: “The only death that I was shocked by was Michael K. Williams’ character because I thought Omar was invincible.” Williams adds: “It felt like everybody wanted to mourn, but first of all we had a job to do. We had a schedule to adhere to. And I don’t think no one wanted to deal with the reality of the fact that everybody wanted to mourn a fictitious character.”
Watch The Wire cast look back on the show’s legacy above.