HBO’s The Wire signed off a decade ago this coming March. Eclipsed in popularity by mainstream shows Sex and the City and The Sopranos on the same network, the Baltimore-set crime drama never received any major television awards, and the showrunners struggled at times to actually complete its five seasons. (Note: if you haven’t yet watched it and you plan to, read no further.)
However, The Wire is, bar none, the best television show of all time. Conceived by former Baltimore journalist and already seasoned television writer David Simon, the show was singular in its ability to feel at once like entertainment and documentary. I never pushed weight, but as a former newspaper reporter and public school teacher, I can attest to the fact that the show nailed a great deal in authenticity while maintaining certain sensational elements (see: Omar’s continued existence) that make for great television.
That feeling of authenticity kept the show from achieving the mainstream status of crime-drama successors like Power that clearly pay homage to The Wire but whose sensationalism (and absurdity) attract larger audiences. The show maintains a cult status that motivates your bougie-ass friends to name-drop it with an air of superiority (“Yeah, I mean, Power is cool, but it’s no Wire . Wait, what? You’ve never seen it?!”). You either are that person or you know that person.
Wire fans are also prone to spotting show alum in other media with excitement like we’re playing “Pokémon Go” in summer ’16; it happens often because Hollywood understood the beauty of the show even if mainstream audiences didn’t, and has thus spent the last 10 years hiring its Delaware-sized cast in a great many things.
While much of The Wire’ s cast came from Simon predecessors The Corner and Homicide: Life on the Street , the diaspora of Wire alum across all of media has been substantial: If you’ve watched a movie or a television show, turned on the radio, listened to a book on tape, played a video game or taken in a stage show in the last decade, you’ve benefited from The Wire’ s existence.
Here’s a list of the players and what they’ve been up to since the show went off the air. Full acknowledgment that I don’t write about all the players because we’d be here all damn day. Also, pour some out for Robert “Prop Joe” Chew.
The British actor started his career across the pond, and he’s popped up in a mess of shows and movies since The Wire. He also lent his voice to the Finding Nemo sequel, Finding Dory. Perhaps his biggest career achievement to date is that which has been confirmed by numerous natives: a solid Baltimore accent on the show.
Highlight: Nominated for a Golden Globe for Showtime’s The Affair, which is still on my must-finish list.
Lowlight: Being the best thing about 2008’s trashbag Punisher: War Zone movie.
I believe Reddick is quietly training to replace Morgan Freeman as the go-to for soul-stirring voice-overs once Freeman finally passes away in the year 2318. Sure, Reddick pops up in supporting-acting roles from time to time, but he can absolutely make a cozy living collecting checks in a recording studio without ever showering in the morning.
Five seasons of sci-fi drama
and voicing a military leader in hit video game
Lending his voice to bootleg
Gears of War
50 Cent: Blood on the Sand
Big Dris (and his constantly wavering accent) blew up after String was offed in season 3. He’s had a music career that most folks can’t tell you anything about, so it’s a damn good thing that he’s likely the
alum with the most mainstream Hollywood success.
Elba should catch a nomination of some sort for blazing through Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue in 2017’s
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.
And that so-called music career.
Like West and Elba, Gillen had a bunch of
fans not realizing for several seasons that he’s a European man. The Dublin native had an extensive career in theater, television and film across the pond before
including the original British version of
Queer as Folk.
He’s voiced video games, narrated audiobooks and gotten himself killed at the very beginning of a Batman film. All in a day’s work for an international star.
American audiences will recognize Gillen as the shade tree, recently departed Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish in
Game of Thrones.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
What … you didn’t see it? No one did, fam.
The current reigning #BaeGod, Jordan broke all of our hearts as the young, naive hopper Wallace, who eats a couple bullets for agreeing to snitch. Wallace never made it out of season 1, but his career most certainly did: He rode a series of high-profile television and movie roles to get the title role in 2015’s
. And we might
be rooting for the bad guy when he takes on the role of Killmonger in next month’s
The range Jordan demonstrated as the doomed Oscar Grant in
as well as the scion of Apollo Creed proved that his star is just getting brighter. And blacker.
film that, like, seven niggas paid to see. Fortunately, he was part of an ensemble and not to blame for that dumpster fire.
My favorite Harris role will likely always be opposite Tupac Shakur
Above the Rim
(“I don’t give a fuck what Birdie said, I will bury the botha, you muhfuckas!”)
But he’s maintained consistent supporting-actor work in film and television following
. Like his older brother Steve, Harris’ on-screen presence is commanding, and I always want to see him in more material than I actually get to.
His role as Brooke Payne in the way-better-than-anyone-expected TV movie
The New Edition Story.
with Olivia Munn. Yeah, me neither.
Perhaps the biggest net beneficiary of
Williams was a music-video backup dancer and film extra who was
discovered by Tupac
before he landed what’s easily in the top five most iconic roles in 21st-century television to date. He parlayed Omar into a load of big- and small-screen roles, helped in part by his famous scar, which he
obtained in a real-life scrap
He played gangster Chalky White on
in nearly as many episodes as he spent on
I’m sure Williams isn’t quick to remind folks that he popped up in R. Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet” series. I wouldn’t be.
After playing one of the most morally bankrupt human beings I’ve ever fucking seen in
Hector took on a number of less memorable roles in television and film, including the bad guy in
and another drug lord in
In one of the more “WTF” examples of reality imitating make-believe, a baby shower for Hector and his wife nearly a decade ago
ended in a fatal gun battle
Being a regular as a detective on the Amazon.com series
Playing Tupac’s stepdad in the light-in-the-ass 2017 biopic
All Eyez on Me.
Like Jimmie Walker’s before him, Whitlock’s career has essentially been reduced to his catchphrase—everyone expects him to say “Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeit” shortly after his cherubic face hits the screen in
Whitlock has been a go-to for Spike Lee, which was a better thing to be in the early 1990s.
A funny meta role in the 2011 indie comedy
That terrible catcalling montage in the shitty first few minutes of the shitty first episode of the generally shitty
She’s Gotta Have It
Netflix show. At least we got the “Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeit” out of it.
(Kima Greggs) and her distinct timbre often pop up in television shows and B films; she’s currently in Showtime’s new program
was loathsome as Ellis Carver and is even more so as punk-ass Father Gabriel on
The Walking Dead.
(“Herc” Hauk) pops up wherever a script calls for a white guy from the Bronx with questionable morals, including shows like
(Roland Pryzbylewski) followed Michael K. Williams to
and has guest-starred on popular shows including
The Good Wife
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
(Lester Freamon) and
(Bunk Moreland) both graduated to Simon’s post-
The stars of
s best season have seen varied levels of success.
apparently has a music career but hasn’t accomplished anything more memorable than his portrayal of snitchin’-ass Randy.
(“Dukie” Weems) has had minimal film and stage work;
(Namond Brice) popped up on the short-lived web series
For Colored Boys, Redemption
Tristan “Mack” Wilds
(Michael Lee) has been the most successful of the kids, going on to star in the
Beverly Hills 90210
reboot as well as cultivating a respectable, Mario-level R&B career.
(Howard “Bunny” Colvin) became somewhat typecast as a uniformed officer in everything from
The Dark Knight Rises
and is currently in HBO’s
(Nick Sobotka) was scumbag Pornstache in
Orange Is the New Black
and is in this month’s heist film
Den of Thieves.
(Wee-Bey Brice) awesome Brooklyn brogue can be heard in
Grand Theft Auto V
Lawrence Gillard Jr.
(D’Angelo Barksdale) joined fellow
alum Gilliam in
The Walking Dead.
Real-life B-more gangsta
(Snoop) has been all over the place, releasing an autobiography, pleading guilty to drug-related offenses in 2011 and joining
Love & Hip Hop: New York
five years later; her fellow dead-body-in-a-vacant-stasher
(Chris Partlow) played a pimp in season 1 of HBO’s
(Bodie) showed up in HBO’s
The Night Of,
still looking 17 years old after two decades.
Michael Potts (Brother Mouzone) has spent more time onstage than anywhere else, most notably in The Book of Mormon. John Doman (Bill Rawls) is currently mixing it up as one of my favorite Batman villains, Carmine Falcone, on Fox’s Gotham. And Frankie Faison (Ervin Burrell) will—let’s be honest— always be best known for this line .