McNulty (Dominic West) and Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) could only be there via videotaped messages, but a big lineup of The Wire castmates, series creator David Simon, and producer Nina Noble filled a Paleyfest NY stage for a nearly 90-minute anecdote-filled discussion about the HBO drama that many fans consider the greatest TV series of all time.
From a panel that included John Doman, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., Seth Gilliam, Jim True-Frost, Jamie Hector, Michael Kenneth Williams, Sonja Sohn, and Wendell Pierce, we discovered which actor was once so worried the show might be contributing to the problems it focused on that he considered quitting; we learned about the cast's ritual for when an actor or actress was about to be killed off The Wire; and about which beloved character was going to be killed off in Season 1 until an HBO exec intervened.
Read on for those and seven more revelations at The Wire cast reunion at PaleyFest NY. Then, watch the entire panel video for yourself (although, not that we really need to mention this to The Wire devoted, but, expect plenty of four-letter words in said video):
1. Turkish Fans
Doman, speaking about being recognized as a star of the show, said he was once in Istanbul when a fan came up to him and began talking about The Wire in another language. "Wire" was the only word he understood.
2. Is Elba the Next 007?
When a video greeting from Elba was introduced, Simon said, "Isn't he James Bond yet?" We have been wondering the same thing…
3. Meet the Real Bunk!
Fan favorite Pierce – The Bunk! – can be seen in the clip below recalling how unimpressed Rick Requer — the real-life Baltimore cop who inspired the Bunk character — seemed to be when he first saw Pierce. Today, the two are pals, and even have plans to attend a New Orleans Saints game together.
4. "I Was an Angry Black Man"
Williams was not initially a fan of Season 2's shifting storylines, which moved some of the action to the docks of Baltimore's ports and away from the projects. "I got real bitter. I was the angry black man," Williams said. "I approached David, and I was like, 'How come we made this show hot, and then you want to give it to the white people?!'" Co-star Gilliam said he and co-star Dominick Lombardozzi were also displeased at what they worried were diminishing roles for their characters in Season 2, and even had an angry sitdown with Simon about the situation. Lombardozzi was pacified by Simon's explanation and his advice to channel their frustrations into their performances, prompting a must-see impersonation of Lombardozzi by Gilliam, now a cast member on The Walking Dead.
5. Sorry, D'Angelo
Another Wire star who's moved on to The Walking Dead – Gilliard – said he knew the moment he read his first script how special the show was, which prompted Simon to apologize for killing off his D'Angelo Barksdale in Season 2. A Gilliard-Simon hug ensued.
6. A Wire Tradition
Simon said J.D. Williams, whose Bodie was killed off in Season 4, handled news of his character's impending death better than any other cast member who received similar news. Pierce added that the cast developed a tradition for dealing with co-star deaths: They would make plans to show up and watch them film their final scenes, even if they were off that day.
7. How Kima Was Saved
Sohn's Kima Greggs was originally going to be killed off in Season 1. But former HBO entertainment president Carolyn Strauss talked Simon out of the character's demise, and Greggs became not only a fan favorite, but she remained with the series for all five seasons.
8. Pierce Almost Quits
Pierce said he once considered quitting the show, when he began to worry the violence and focus on dark topics on The Wire was accentuating the problems instead of simply shedding light on them. He reconsidered, and said he came to see that the series' examination of the public school system was actually the best representation of what's going on in our society.
9. Close to Home
Sohn said the show's subject matter forced her to deal with some painful family history: memories of her real-life drug dealer brother.
10. Not a Wire Fan
He didn't mention him by name, but Simon confirmed Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley — among the politicians who inspired Aidan Gillen's Tommy Carcetti — is not a fan of The Wire, which he believes inspired O'Malley's decision to cut film incentives for Hollywood productions in Baltimore in 2008.
Watch the full The Wire panel at PaleyFest NY right here: