Trivia / The Wire

"All the pieces matter."
Lester Freamon

  • Actor-Shared Background: Richard De Angelis really did have cancer and died due to complications from it after season 4. When it was confirmed that his cancer was terminal, his character Colonel Raymond Forester also developed cancer, died from it during the course of season 4, and was given a wake at Kavanaugh's Pub.
  • The Character Died with Him: Producer Robert F. Colesberry died from surgery complications and his character, Detective Ray Cole, passes away while working out in the gym in Season 3. Richard DeAngelis who played relatively unimportant Major Raymond Foerster, died of cancer during Season 4. Both receive an In Memoriam wake at Kavanaugh's Pub. Cole's one is the first of the series.
  • Creator Breakdown:
    • Michael Kenneth Williams secretly struggled with a cocaine addiction during the third season. He never missed a day of work nor was he ever late. He also suffered with an identity crisis due to his popularity as Omar.
    • During the first season, Sonja Sohn had much trouble remembering her lines causing numerous delays. She says it was due to childhood trauma of growing up in a ghetto and witnessing police brutality. Because of this she was uncomfortable in the neighborhood while filming took place and had issues with portraying a police officer.
    • Andre Royo, who played Bubbles, had a difficult time with his role at certain points, just because everything Bubbles went through was so heartbreaking, depressing, and repetitive that it left him with depression as well, which he dealt with by drinking heavily. In the end he needed substance abuse help to deal with the drinking problem he developed.
      By the third season I was drinking. I was depressed. Iíd look at scripts like: what am I doing today? Getting high or pushing that f*cking cart?
  • The Danza:
    • Felicia "Snoop" Pearson.
    • Real Life Baltimore drug kingpin "Little Melvin" Williams plays the Deacon, whose first name is apparently "Melvin".
    • Officer Bobby Brown is played by Bobby J. Brown.
  • Dawson Casting:
    • Marla Daniels is clearly supposed to be around the same age as Cedric, but Maria Broom has a solid 12 or so years on Lance Reddick, and is noticeably older.
    • D'Angelo Barksdale is another adult example. Prison records seen in season three indicate that he was approximately 23. He's played by Larry Gilliard Jr., who was 31 years old in season 1, making him two years younger than Wood Harris (Avon) and one year older than Idris Elba (Stringer).
    • J.D. Williams is older than the teenage Bodie by eight years.
  • Directed by Cast Member: "Took" was directed by Dominic West (McNulty). Clark Johnson also directed several episodes (notably "The Target"), even before he joined the cast as Gus Haynes. He also directed the finale.
  • Disabled Character, Disabled Actor: Blind Butchie's actor S. Robert Morgan actually is blind (though as a result of macular degeneration rather than a gunshot wound).
  • Doing It for the Art: The entire point of the show was to make the most realistic, intelligent, and well-researched Police Procedural ever seen, knowing full well that the show's brutal honesty and steadfast refusal to talk down to viewers would turn many away. Even as HBO grew restless with the low viewership of the series, the showrunners remained committed to their vision, ratings be damned.
  • Fake American:
    • Jimmy McNulty and Stringer Bell are played by Brits Dominic West and Idris Elba.
    • Italian-American Tommy Carcetti is played by Irishman Aidan Gillen.
  • Fake Nationality:
    • "The Greek" (who is not actually from Greece but is clearly not American and may be of Greek ethnicity) is played by American actor Bill Raymond.
    • Spiros either is Greek or pretends to be one (he has many identities), but he is played by the American Paul Ben-Victor.
    • Subverted, after a fashion, with McNulty: although Landsman makes numerous jokes about McNulty's "negligible Irish ancestry," Dominic West, although born in Yorkshire and identifying as English, actually is of primarily Irish ancestry.
  • Fake Russian: Ukrainian Sergei Malatov is played by American Chris Ashworth.
  • I Am Not Spock: Defied by Wendell Pierce: "If you see me on the street, feel free for the rest of my life to call me Bunk."
  • Irony as She Is Cast:
    • The Deacon is played by reformed criminal and basis for Avon Barksdale Melvin Williams. The show alludes to the fact that the Deacon wasn't always a choir boy when he shows skill as a pool shark.
    • The proudly Irish-American Catholic Jimmy McNulty, who sneers at Bushmills as "Protestant whiskey" and makes other references to pro-Irish and anti-English sentiments, is played by English actor Dominic West. There's also a scene where he gets to do a hilarious impression of an American doing a bad English accent.
  • Only Barely Renewed: Both the fourth and fifth seasons barely happened. The fifth possibly only because the creator wrapped up the series and delivered a shorter season.
  • Real-Life Relative:
    • Wire Producer Nina Kostroff Noble is the real life sister of Michael Kostroff, who plays Maurice Levy.
    • Michelle Paress (Alma Gutierrez) is married in real life to Larry Gilliard Jr. (D'Angelo Barksdale).
  • Star-Making Role: For Idris Elba, Dominic West, Aidan Gillen, Lance Reddick (coupled with Fringe), Andre Royo and Chad L. Coleman (coupled with The Walking Dead'').
  • Throw It In!: Senator Clay Davis' catchprase "Sheeeeee-it" didn't appear in the script. Isaiah Whitlock Jr. added it in.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: It can be pretty amusing seeing the characters marvel over what was cutting-edge technology at the time, but of course is not so much anymore. Nick Sobotka is amazed that you can "ask a question" to a computer and get answers. Text messages are also presented as cutting edge and the surveillance of pagers and payphones plays a key role.
    • This was not entirely unintentional. It's mentioned in-show that the Barksdales running a pager-based network is considered dated.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Ray Winstone was offered the role of Jimmy McNulty, but turned it down. Winstone liked the show but did not want to be away from his family for seven months of the year, which was the filming schedule.
    • The writers discussed having a season dedicated to immigration and the large influx of Hispanic immigrants in Baltimore, but the amount of time that would have been needed to do the research required and HBO having enough with the show's low ratings scuttled it.
      David Simon: We were considering a season on the topic of immigration, it was debated in the writersí room, but itís like, by the time we do the research, learn the Spanish, the trainís already rolling along and you canít stop it. We were just begging HBO to give us another season.
    • During season 3 the idea was floated of spinning off the political subplots into a separate show called The Hall. Instead the political side was folded into subsequent seasons. Ostensibly because the heads of HBO were like "No, we only want one show that nobody is watching in Baltimore, not two!"
    • Kima was supposed to die in the first season. HBO executive Carolyn Strauss urged David Simon not to kill off Greggs, telling him it would be a mistake. This and other changed details, which include D'Angelo testifying at the end of season 1, can be read in an early draft of the show, The Wire Bible.
    • Jimmy McNulty's original last name was McArdle. This was alluded to in season 2 where one of the white drug dealers is a guy named "White Mike" McArdle.
    • John C. Reilly was Simon's first choice to play McNulty, implying his original idea for the character was very different from what we ended up with.
  • The Wiki Rule: Has a wiki here.
  • Word of Gay: Rawls's sexual orientation is strongly hinted at in the show (especially with his appearance in a gay bar where Lamar is looking for Omar), but David Simon has confirmed it in interviews.
  • Word of God: David Simon has spoken on a number of points over the years, (including the sexual orientation of Bill Rawls, as mentioned above, or confirming that Chris Partlow was also molested as a child) but perhaps the most interesting case regards the newspaper storyline from Season 5. This plot arc is widely criticized for being simplistic and obvious compared to the depth and complexity of other stories, however Simon has claimed that the critics are missing the true point of the arc, and it isn't really about the evils of the newspaper business or holding Gus Haynes and a few other writers up as paragons of virtue, but about how the newspaper (even the good people who still work in it) has completely lost touch with the lives of the people in its city.
    Hereís what happened in season five of The Wire when almost no one ó among the working press, at least ó was looking: our newspaper missed every major story. The mayor, who came in promising reform, is instead forcing his police department to once again cook the stats to create the illusion that crime is going down. Uncovered. The school system has been teaching test questions to improve No Child Left Behind scores, and to protect the mayor politically and to validate a system that is failing to properly educate city children. No expose published. Key investigations and prosecutions are undercut or abandoned by the political machinations of police officials, prosecutors and political figures. Departmental priorities make high-level drug investigation prohibitive. Not the news thatís fit to print. Drug wars, territorial disputes, and the assassination of the cityís largest drug importer manage to produce a brief inside the metro section that refers only to the slaying of a second-hand appliance store owner. Par for the course.

    That was the critique. With the exception of the good journalism that bookended the story arc ó which is, of course, representative of the fact that there are still newspaper folk in Baltimore and elsewhere struggling mightily to do the job ó the season amounted to ten hours of a newspaper that is no longer intimately aware of its city. ... A good newspaper covers its city and acquires not just the quantitative account of a dayís events, but the qualitative truth and meaning behind those events. A great newspaper does this routinely on a multitude of issues, across its entire region. Such a newspaper was not chronicled on The Wire. There were still good journalists in our make-believe newsroom, and they did some good work ó just as there are still such souls in Baltimore and every city laboring in similar fashion and to similar result. But there used to be more of them. And they covered more ground, and they knew the terrain in a way that they no longer do.
  • Write What You Know:
    • Prez's experiences as a teacher are based on those of Ed Burns, who became a Baltimore middle school teacher when he retired from the Police.
    • Word of God confirms Freamon is inspired by Harry Edgerton, Ed Burns' former partner in the Baltimore homicide unit; Edgerton was also the inspiration for Frank Pembleton.
  • Written-In Infirmity: The scars on both Michael K. Williams and Jamie Hector's faces are real.
  • You Look Familiar: Given the size of the cast, it's not uncommon to observe cases where casting unintentionally brought in an actor in an early season who returns playing a much different role later on in the show.
    • One of the cops in the courtroom in "Old Cases" is clearly played by Gbenga Akinnagbe, two seasons before he was cast as Marlo Stanfield's chief enforcer Chris Partlow.
    • The woman Bunk drunkenly sleeps with in "Lessons" is played by Denise Hart, who would later play Randy Wagstaff's stepmother in season 4.

...all the pieces matter.