Monday, 31 January 2011

Life After "The Wire:" What the Stars did Next

What more can be said about The Wire? A slow burner and never a ratings powerhouse, it was a show that gradually grained more and more respect and a loyal group of fans. Now, nearly 3 years after the show concluded it is more popular than ever, with many critics hailing it as the greatest TV series ever made.

You can see their point. The Wire showed an attention to detail and scope that was not only rare, it was unique. It took a pretty standard TV premise, that of cops tracking drug dealers in Baltimore, and turned it on it's head. Cases were spread out in to an entire series, the intricacies of detective work was shown in meticulous detail, as well as the politics and corruption of the police hierarchy. But this wasn't a police show, it was a show about the city of Baltimore and it's inhabitants. That is why, instead of showing the drug dealers as shallow caricatures, as so many cop shows have done in the past, equal importance was given to the lives and operations of criminal groups in Baltimore. We saw a world with complex politics, ingenious methods of avoiding capture, and incredibly vivid, and often sympathetic, characters.

It was these characters that made The Wire. Almost every major character was well developed and highly believable and the show was never about any one person with others acting as peripherals. For much of the cast, which was largely made up of relative unknowns when the show started, it was the best characters they'd ever get a chance to play. But The Wire had to end at some point, so three years on, Filmstubs is taking a look at some of the principal actors involved in The Wire and where they went after the show that made their name ended.

Dominic West (Jimmy McNulty)

McNulty was probably the closest to being the main character in the show (though many would argue there was no main character), McNulty was something of an anti-hero. Devoted to good policing and developing the best case, no matter who he screwed in the process, he also happened to be something of a hard-drinking, self destructive bastard. It never stopped you liking him though. It seems strange that a tough Irish-American detective would be played by a privately educated Englishman who went to school with none other than David Cameron but Dominic West is just that. In England at least, his work on The Wire has only recently begun to receive widespread recognition, leading to appearances at award ceremonies and on panel shows. His post-Wire career has ranged from bad films (Punisher: War Zone) to above average TV shows (The Devil's Whore). Expect an appearance in the upcoming follow up to Johnny English, which I'm not sure anyone actually wanted.

Idris Elba (Stringer Bell)

Another British actor in an unlikely place. The character of Stringer Bell defied all stereotypes about the drugs trade. Intelligent, articulate and ruthless when he needed to be, Bell was the real brains behind Avon Barksdale's operation and, despite leaving the show at a relatively early stage, remains one of the most memorable characters. Since leaving, Elba has worked at an incredibly prolific rate. Supporting roles in films such as 28 Weeks Later and American Gangster have been common and he has excelled in larger roles such as RocknRolla. He's even got a starring role in his own BBC detective series, Luther, which aired to positive reviews last year. Expect him in this year's Thor.

Michael K. Williams (Omar Little)

Arguably The Wire's most popular character, Omar will go down as one of the most memorable in television history. Baltimore's answer to Robin Hood, Omar is a shotgun wielding vigilante who answers to no-one. Recognizable by a huge scar across his face, Omar always distinguished himself from the rest of the criminal underworld. His complex moral codes always fascinated. Williams probably knew he wouldn't ever get a role as good as Omar Little (how could he?) but his work since has been solid, and as a member of the cast of HBO's new epic Boardwalk Empire he may well become a household name. Apart from that, Williams has popped up in the odd film and guested in several popular American TV shows.

Sonja Sohn (Kima Greggs)

One of several strong female characters in the show, Greggs is a tough detective and one of the few that likes McNulty's way of thinking. Sub-plots revolving around her home life and starting a family with her parter, Cheryl, were always strong but Greggs' police work made her a key character, particular her friendship with her CI, Bubbles. Since The Wire finished, Sohn has stuck to TV work, taking a recurring role in Brothers and Sisters and crime series Body of Proof.

Lance Reddick (Lt. Cedric Daniels)

Daniels is hardly a laugh-a-minute character but his commitment to the cause and willingness to stick up for his team stand him apart from the array of corrupt and self-interested cops on show in The Wire. That said, Daniels does have a mysterious past, but throughout the show he's the glue that holds the show's characters (the police at least) together. Lance Reddick must have a friend in J.J. Abrams as, not only did he have a recurring role in Lost, he is now a major character in Fringe. Just don't mention Jonah Hex.

John Doman (William Rawls)

Arguably the show's biggest bastard, which is impressive considering some of the characters that have shown up, Rawls may not have racked up bodies but he took no prisoners as a Deputy Commissioner for Operations trying not to make Baltimore police, and himself, look bad. Angry, rude, and often hilarious, Rawls is just about the worse boss you can imagine. Naturally, he hates McNulty. Doman has his very own starring role in upcoming series Borgia, a French/German production focusing on the famed Borgia family during the renaissance, one of the more interesting projects a Wire alumni has got involved in. Apart from that there's been the standard recurring roles in TV series (Damages) and supporting in films (Blue Valentine).

Wood Harris (Avon Barksdale)

The focus of the detail that started it all, Barksdale is a key player in the Baltimore drugs trade and heads a vast drugs network that McNulty and co. are determined to take down. Barksdale is known as particularly ruthless and often cruel character, one that preferred to go in guns blazing rather than talking. It's an attitude that would drive much of the conflict in season 3. Things have been steady for Harris since leaving The Wire, with the usual mix of TV guest roles (House, Hawaii Five-O) and film appearances. This year he will star in Sweetwater, a film chronicling the life of the first black NBA basketball player Sweetwater Clifton, played by Harris.

Wendell Pierce (Bunk Moreland)

Bunk could well be the show's funniest character, but that doesn't make him a clown. Cigar chomping, hard drinking and with a bitter sense of humour about his life and job, Bunk is one of the good guys; a homicide detective less concerning with numbers and more concerned with the case itself. Naturally, he is one of McNulty's closest allies. Pierce has been busy since The Wire ended but perhaps his most notable role since has reunited him with Wire creator David Simon, starring in HBO's Treme. A lot of Wire fans have been disappointed with Treme simply because it is not The Wire but the shows are similar in that they require patience and a willingness to immerse yourself in the environment. Pierce is strong as always. Somewhat disappointingly he's going to be in the next Twilight movie, but the less said about that the better.

Clarke Peters (Lester Freamon)

The wise old head of the show. Freamon is a skilled, meticulous detective who has been dealt an unfair hand for much of his career but gets a shot at redemption as part of Daniels team. Whilst Greggs and McNulty prefer the direct approach, Freamon prefers to stay in the office, finding ingenious ways to keep tabs on the team's target, imparting invaluable wisdom as he goes. Peters is another Wire alumni who has found his way onto David Simon's Treme. It's not really a surprise to see them working together again when things went so well with The Wire. Peters also had a stint in vaguely trashy British hospital drama Holby City, and for the life of me I can't figure out why he did.

Andre Royo (Bubbles)

Everyone loves Bubbles. Greggs' reliable informer, Bubbles was a character you really hoped could make it away from the grip of drugs and destitute housing. A low-level user who was effectively disregarded and ignored by dealers and hoppers, this made him a perfect man to study their actions and provide valuable information. Since The Wire ended Royo has kept busy with guest appearances on shows such as Numb3rs and Heroes. He's also appeared with Lance Reddick in Fringe and is set to make a number of film appearances in 2011.

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