On Thursday night, the Paley Center hosted a reunion of the cast and creators of the acclaimed HBO show The Wire.
The panel — a live stream of which can be viewed below — included co-creator David Simon, executive producer Nina Noble, as well as cast members Wendell Pierce, Sonja Sohn, Michael Kenneth Williams, Seth Gilliam, Jim True-Frost, John Doman, Lawrence Gilliard Jr, and Jamie Hector. Two of the show’s British stars who were unable to attend, Dominic West and Idris Elba, participated in the panel via video feeds.
When asked about the show’s relationship with the city of Baltimore, producer Nina Noble said that it was initially supportive, but became increasingly wary after the second season. In particular, then mayor and future governor Martin O’Malley believed that the character “Thomas Carcetti” — played by Aidan Gillen, now better known as “Littlefinger” on Game of Thrones — was based on him, and when he became governor and had to slash the budget, one of the first cuts he made was to film incentives in Baltimore.
“If you know how the film industry works,” Simon said, “you know that a lot of film business left Maryland, and I couldn’t help but think that was such a bad decision…but he was extremely emotional about The Wire. He’s running for president, so you’ll all have a chance to engage with him.”
Wendell Pierce, who played “William ‘Bunk’ Morehead” on the show, talked about how much he loved living in Baltimore. He said he would dress up as “Bunk” and go to a bar called Choices, where people would assume he was, in the parlance of the show, “real police.”
“I’d go in, and it was full of real ‘Avon Barkdales’ and ‘Omars,'” he said, “and they’d come up to me and say, ‘Bunk, Bunk, you real police? I’d take you out!'”
The panel also discussed many of the death scenes on the show, in particular, that of J.D. William’s “Bodie.” After Williams described what it was like to read the scene, Simon jumped in.
“J.D. guessed it,” Simon said. “He told me, ‘Once characters start raisin’ up and having respect for each other, that’s when the bullet comes,'” in reference to a scene in which Bodie sat down with Dominic West’s “James McNulty” in a sandwich shop.
“If you tell an actor a few episodes in advance” that their character was going to die, Simon said, “then all the lines in the scripts, like ‘Pass the potatoes,’ it might be the last time [the character] ever tastes potatoes. Even for trained actors, measuring everything against the moment of [their character’s] death, it’s just — so I had a lot of days going into guy’s trailers with new scripts and saying, ‘I’ve got some good news and bad news.'”
Sonja Sohn, who played “Kima Greggs,” then discussed how she learned that she was going to die at the end of the first season.
“David and I had a whole confrontation about this, and he was telling me about how ‘she’s the moral center of the police department'” and had to die, “but I was coming off two years on unemployment, and I was like, ‘Fuck, now what am I gonna do?'”
Simon then informed her that he had planned to kill her, but was talked out of doing so by an executive at HBO. “Don’t be killing ‘Kima,'” the executive said, “Do you want a show?”
Later, Simon discussed the possibility of doing a sequel to the show — of exploring where the characters were years later. He said that the show played out its narrative arc — it had a beginning, middle, and an end — and that that end had to be final. To do anything more would amount to “sustaining the franchise,” which he said would be a violation of the very thing that made the audience revere it in the first place.
Watch the entire 90 minute panel at the Paley Center below.