“The king stays the king". – D'Angelo Barksdale, The Wire
Are you ready to read the baddest and toughest facts about The Wire? Then dig in.
1. Obama gave it two thumbs up
Yup, the former American president Barack Obama loves to watch The Wire. Who’s his favourite character, you may ask? According to an interview with the Las Vegas Sun, it’s none other than Omar, whom Obama described as: “the toughest, baddest guy on the show".
2. Omar knew how to dance
Michael Kenneth Williams (who portrayed Omar) may have played a tough guy on screen, but would you be surprised to know he had a background in dance? When Williams realized he was on a troubled path in his youth, he got into theater to break the pattern. Later, he became a NYC club kid and background dancer to many well-known artists. He even choreographed and appeared in the video for Crystal Waters' "100% Pure Love".
3. The street Oscar
During the filming of a scene, Andre Royo (who played Bubbles) was approached by a passerby, who handed him a bag of drug and told him that he looked like he needed it.
4. The MacArthur Genius Grant
The Wire’s creator David Simon was selected for the honour in 2010 and is one of only two screenwriters to ever receive the prize. The MacArthur Fellows Program is a $500,000 prize awarded annually to between 20 to 40 individuals, who "show exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work".
5. Gus who directed these episodes?
Puns aside… Clark Johnson, who played newspaper editor Gus, happened to direct the pilot and the final episode of the show.
6. Best show ever?
It’s a very controversial topic to get into, but many have declared The Wire the “best show ever” at one point or another – like Complex, Entertainment Weekly and Slate. Without an argument, it is definitely one of the best.
7. A great catchphrase comes on the fly
The catchphrase “Sheeeeee-it”, uttered by Senator Clay Davis, was not scripted. It was the creative product of Isiah Whitlock Jr. Not bad, not bad at all…
8. Yet, no Emmy
Whether it’s the best show ever or not is up for debate, but being one of the greatest television series to hit the screen, it’s a little shocking that it has never picked up an Emmy. Not one. Not even a quarter of one. To compare, Breaking Bad (another amazing show) picked 16 Emmys during its run.
9. Hello, spin-off
There was a spin-off in the works during the fourth season of The Wire and it was called – drum roll, please – The Hall, focused mostly on the politics behind the original series. HBO didn’t go for it though.
10. No fame, no glory
Despite being a fantastic show, The Wire consistently brought in low ratings. The final season ran with an audience of less than 1 million – compare that to Breaking Bad, which reeled in more 10 million viewers for its finale. Yowza!
11. The boys with the scar
The scars on Michael Kenneth Williams and Jamie Hector’s faces are actually for real. Pretty cool, eh?
12. Minor roles for real criminals and officers
Many of the minor roles on the show were played by real politicians, criminals and officers (much like The Deacon). Some of the real former criminals acting on The Wire were detained by the real officers, who also worked on the show. That may have been a little awkward.
13. No repeats
If you watch The Wire from the beginning to the end, you will notice that none of the characters appear in all episodes. You can test this fact out, if you want.
14. Dominic West thought the show would not last past one season
British-born Dominic West, who played Jimmy McNulty, wasn’t sure if he wanted to commit to a five-year contract – or to living in Baltimore for so long – but his agent calmed his nerves by simply telling him that The Wire will probably be around for only a season. Boy, was he wrong!
15. Slim Shady loves this show too
Eminem is another famous fan of the show, although his favourite character remains a mystery. Maybe Obama and Slim should have The Wire marathons together.
16. Only one cop fires his weapon during the entire show
In all of the five seasons, only one officer fires his weapon– Roland Pryzbylewski or Prez. And even he sets off his weapon a total of three times. That’s pretty impressive for a offender/cop series.
17. No show is complete without a fat suit
Chris Bauer allegedly donned a fat suit during the show to give his character Frank Sobotka the required “magnitude”.
18. Believe it or not, David Simon had to beg to keep the show going
The Wire was canceled for a time after season 3 and was again at risk of cancellation after season 4. Creator David Simon confessed to Entertainment Weekly that he literally had to beg HBO to keep the show on the air. We bet the execs at HBO are pretty happy they obliged.
19. No dollar in the swear jar
Omar is the only character to not be guilty of major profanity. Michael Kenneth Williams was even given the green light to omit any swear words that were mistakenly put in the script.
20. Omar was based on a real person
It seems unlikely, but it’s true. Omar is based on a real Baltimore drug dealer stickup boy named Donnie Andrews. After turning himself in to authorities, he became an anti-gang mentor to young prisoners and was released early after extensive lobbying by Ed Burns and David Simon. Andrews continued his activism until his passing in 2012.
21. Bubbles was also based on a real person
Bubbles was based on a fella named Possum (real name remains unknown) – a drug-addict, who traded his lock up sentence to become a authorities informant charging $50 to $100 per offender caught. Possum also had a photographic memory and marked his selected targets with hats.
22. Can’t end the funny bone
David Simon admitted to adding more humour than he initially intended to make the show more watchable and less depressing. Good call on that!
23. The Wire had an ancient inspiration
Of course, the series was influenced by the creator’s experiences and the city of Baltimore, but a huge sway for the structure of the show came from something very ancient – the Greeks. In an interview with Slate, David Simon revealed that the makers of the show were really writing a Greek tragedy,but “instead of the gods being petulant and jealous Olympians hurling lightning bolts down at our protagonists, it's the Postmodern institutions that are the gods". We didn’t see that coming!
24. A drug lord had a role on the show
Of course, he did. Also, an inspiration for Avon Barksdale, Melvin Williams used to traffic drug in Baltimore in the 70s and 80s, raking in hundreds of millions of dollars. Williams was finally detained in 1985 and was sporadically in lock up until 2003. He then went on to play The Deacon in season 3 and 4 on The Wire. You still have to pay the bills somehow post drug-empire, right?