“The Wire” is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its launch this week, with the cast and crew recalling some of their best memories from their time on the show.
David Simon, the creator, head writer and showrunner for each of the five seasons of the HBO series, recounted how Idris Elba was less than pleased when he learned he’d been written off the show, which ran from 2002 to 2008.
Elba played drug-dealing heavyweight Stringer Bell, who was killed off near the end of the third season in one of the series’ most surprising turns.
Simon, in an interview with The Associated Press, said the show wrote Elba off “when people were really starting to discover what a leading man he was.”
“When he read the script … he was like, ‘Man, I can’t believe I’m leaving the show.’ Like, he was not happy. And I remember talking with him over the script and saying, ‘Idris, you’re going to have movie roles. You’re going to be an A-lister. People are going to get a load of this death, they’re going to acquire this story arc in retrospect — this is your calling card, man. You’re going to do fine.’”
Simon said that at the time “The Wire” aired, there wasn’t enough work in Hollywood for Black actors and actresses.
“There just wasn’t enough content being generated,” Simon said. “That’s been ameliorated somewhat by the changes in the industry and also by the weight of content, by how much we’re doing.”
Wendell Pierce, who played Detective Bunk Moreland, said he was able to appreciate the show more because he didn’t get to portray a street criminal or any of the roles on the drug-dealing side of the show.
“And so I watched the show as a fan as much as anyone else,” Pierce told The Associated Press. “And then to hang out with those guys when we would go out and party and have, just hang out off the set.
“The thing that I remember, what makes a real ensemble was, people were their individual selves, and they had a contribution to make to the paradigm. And because of that, it really created a multidimensional world and the humanity that everybody brought to each of their roles.”
Watch The Associated Press interview clips with Simon and Pierce here or below.