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The making of the The Wire, 20 years on: ‘The story about Dominic West’s audition is hilarious’

Can you believe it’s been 20 years (Picture: HBO)

It’s been 20 years since the first episode of The Wire premiered, and it remains to be one of the most realistic, gritty and authentic dramas of our time.

David Simon’s Baltimore-based series first made its appearance on HBO in 2002 and ran for five seasons until 2008, and fans have hailed it the ‘greatest show of the 21st century.’

The first season tells the story from the point of view of both the police and their target and centres around the city’s inner-city drug scene, where the dysfunctional police system constantly fails American citizens.

Following the incredibly challenging job of detective Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West), the programme has been praised for its reflection of US society, with high profile fans including former US president Barack Obama singing its praises.

Despite the exploration of the crime world being a huge hit with viewers, many questioned why the programme didn’t get the award recognition it deserved, especially after The Wire was overlooked at the 2005 and 2008 Emmy Awards.

To mark the 20-year anniversary, Metro.co.uk spoke to season one director and series five actor Clark Johnson, who explained why the series remains a bingeable watch two decades on, and what initially sold him to direct the pilot episode.

Clark Johnson directed the first episode of The Wire and later starred as Augustus Haynes in series five (Picture: HBO)
Each season focused on a specific theme (Picture: HBO)

Clark, who played desk editor Augustus Haynes, expressed how important it was to feature people from all backgrounds who had no experience in the industry.

‘A lot of people that we cast off the street, people with no acting training soon became pivotal to the story,’ he revealed.

‘We wanted to, and we still want to illustrate that you don’t put your knee on the neck of a guy just because he’s Black or wearing a hoodie, even though these kids in our case were selling drugs. Look at what they could have accomplished, let’s not put them in that one box.’

The Wire took viewers on a ride through Baltimore’s drug trade, with each season focusing on different aspects of life; the police and the drugs war; the plight of the working man; the media and the failing school system.

We were also introduced to characters who we couldn’t help but get hooked on. From Idris Elba’s savvy Stringer Bell to the late Michael K. Williams, who threw himself into his badass character Omar Little with courage.

The late Michael K Williams’ portrayal Omar Little remains a groundbreaking masterpiece (Picture: FX UK)

Clarke Peters, (Lester Freamon) Wendell Pierce, (Detective Bunk Moreland) Michael B Jordan (Wallace) and Dominic have come a long way since The Wire, however, Clark couldn’t help but jokingly reminisce about one star’s ‘hysterical’ audition.

‘The story about Dom’s audition is hilarious,’ the director said.

‘It was so awkward and I didn’t know his work as an actor. The head of HBO at the time was like, “you’ve got to look at this guy’s VHS tape.”

‘Dom had to work a little harder on his accent because Baltimore is very distinctive and we played his tape and it was all scratchy and the sound was bad, and I was like “this is the most dysfunctional audition I’ve ever seen. He’s perfect! Not stupid, not uneducated, just dysfunctional.’

We couldn’t picture anyone else playing Jimmy (left) (Picture: HBO)

Speaking about Luther star Idris he added: ‘It was funny because we cast a pretty wide net, and I didn’t know Idris was a Brit until he got on set which is a real compliment to his skill.’

Superfan Bibianna, 25, branded the show ‘an ode to societal intelligence’ and revisits all five seasons regularly.

‘It was the first realistic story, oftentimes in storytelling you either have a bad ending or a good ending but it’s never realistic,’ she recalled. It gives you a real view of what life actually is instead of a fantasised ideal.

‘It’s definitely a homage to real life, as it explicitly explains that it doesn’t matter how you play the game, you can get f****d at any point.’

Idris Elba played the savvy Stringer Bell from season one to season three (Picture: HBO)
‘We wanted to, and we still want to illustrate that you don’t put your knee on the neck of a guy just because he’s Black or wearing a hoodie’ (Picture: HBO)

While devoted viewer Andre, 27, described The Wire as ‘a different kind of amazing.’

‘It’s so brilliant and it goes by like a flash, and you just want to rewatch and rewatch.

‘The way it ties so many individual parts of a collective city within each episode, then within the entire series is completely brilliant. It truly is one of a kind.’

The Wire’s pilot episode, The Target, aired on June 2, 2002, and Clark revealed that the reason why the series resonates is because it took place before the 9/11 attacks.

‘We were in Toronto, and three to four days later [after the attacks] everyone in Baltimore was down prepping that show,’ he said.

‘So there was a lot going on in the fall of 2001, and it really coloured our take on it because of what had happened.

‘Every story that you tell right after 9/11, for us anyway as we’re in America, was impacted by that catastrophe.’

Although we’re in the era of reboots and revivals, Clark believes there are certain projects that can’t be replicated.

‘To re-do it now, I think the perspective holds, people are still talking about it. There’s a lot of things that can be re-done, but not this.’

The Wire is available to stream on NOW in the UK.

 


Credit: Source

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