Twenty Things You Might Not Know About The Wire

Charlie Brooker called The Wire “the best TV show since the invention of radio” but did you know that Chris Bauer wasn't actually that fat, or that there was very nearly a spin-off show in 2006?
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Charlie Brooker called The Wire “the best TV show since the invention of radio” but did you know that Chris Bauer wasn't actually that fat, or that there was very nearly a spin-off show in 2006?

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i) In the Season Two episode ‘All Prologue’, the monstrous Russian thug with the Jimmy Hill chin is played by Oleg Aleksandrovich Prudius, aka professional wrestler Vladimir Koslov (until recently WWE Unified Tag Team Champion).

ii) Not content with acing the role of high functioning alcoholic Jimmy McNulty, Dominic West directed the Season Five episode 'Took'.

iii) Chris Bauer wore a fat suit to give the troubled Treasurer of the International Brotherhood Of Stevedores Frank Sobotka sufficient girth.

iv) Frank's nephew Nick Sobotka is essayed by Pablo Schreiber, stepbrother of the actor Liev Schreiber (the Scream series, the Manchurian Candidate and Omen remakes, X-Men Origins: Wolverine).

v) The first episode of Season One and the last episode of Season Five were directed by the same man, Clark Johnson, aka the Baltimore Sun's city editor Guy Haynes.

vi) Director of Juice, Surviving The Game, the Adam Sandler action comedy Bulletproof and a whopping six episodes of The Wire, Ernest R Dickerson first came to prominence as Spike Lee's cinematographer - he lensed She's Gotta Have It, Do The Right Thing, Mo' Better Blues, Jungle Fever and Malcolm X.

vii) Had their auditions gone differently, we could have had a Wire starring Jamie Hector (Marlo Stanfield) as Cutty Wise, Seth Gilliam (Ellis Carver) as Russell 'Stringer' Bell and Lance Reddick (Cedric Daniels) as Bubbles.

viii) Although it was never mentioned on the show, Stanfield foot soldier Cheese (Method Man) was written as the absentee father of Randy Wagstaff (Maestro Harrell), the school kid given such a hard time for snitching in Season Four.

ix) Tom Waits - composer of the show's title theme, 'Way Down In The Hole' - agreed that The Wire's producers could make use of the song provided they first let him see the show. Videotapes were promptly dispatched to the Waits household, followed by weeks of agonising silence. When the execs finally got the courage to give the legendary singer-songwriter a call, Mr Waits explained that he'd received the cassettes but he couldn't play them because he didn't know how to operate his VCR. "My wife knows how to use it and she'll be back in a couple of days," Waits continued. Two days later, a release was signed.

x) The Wire's much missed producer/director Robert F Colesberry has some incredible accomplishments to his name. However, while his work on top motion pictures such as After Hours, The King Of Comedy and Mississippi Burning is well documented, what's less well known is that Colesberry wrote 'Hot Lunch', the B-side of Irene Cara's multi-million selling - not to mention Oscar-winning - 'Fame'.

When the execs finally got the courage to give the legendary singer-songwriter a call, Mr Waits explained that he'd received the cassettes but he couldn't play them because he didn't know how to operate his VCR

xi) "Sheeeeee-it" - corrupt senator Clay Davis's catchphrase didn’t appear in the script: it was improvised by actor Isiah Whitlock Jr (currently to be seen playing opposite Ed Helms and John C Reilly in the feature comedy Cedar Rapids).

xii) The teacher who discusses The Great Gatsby with the incarcerated D'Angelo Barksdale in the Season Two episode 'All Prologue' is Richard Price, acclaimed author (Clockers, Freedomland) and screenwriter (Scorsese's The Color Of Money, Sea Of Love, Mad Dog And Glory).

xiii) Whenever you hear Omar whistling 'The Farmer In The Dell', it's not Michael Kenneth Williams you're hearing. Unable to whistle himself, Williams had to make way for middle-aged white actress Susan Allenback.

xiv) If the name of Wire director Agnieszka Holland sounds familiar, it might be because of her eclectic filmography which features the hit children's film The Secret Garden, the stately costume drama Washington Square and Total Eclipse, the Rimbaud/Verlaine biopic in which Leonardo DiCaprio and David Thewlis spend rather too much time pretending to be goats.

xv) The brilliant child actors in Season Four were selected and readied for the small screen by Robert F Chew, aka portly gang lord 'Proposition' Joe Stewart.

xvi) Asked how he might prepare for the role of stickup man extraordinaire Omar Little, Michael Kenneth Williams was told to familiarise himself with two classic westerns, Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch and John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

xvii) Over the course of five seasons and 60 episodes, Baltimore's finest open fire on just three occasions. And each time, it's the same person who's responsible for the shooting, puzzles enthusiast Roland Pryzbylewski (Jim True-Frost).

xviii) Clarke Peter (the always immaculately dressed Lester Freamon) is a top musical theatre performer. Besides writing Five Guys Named Moe, he's delivered show-stopping turns in Chicago and Guys & Dolls both on Broadway and the West End stage.

xix) A Wire spin-off was mooted in 2006. The Hall would have exclusively dealt with the Maryland political scene. It was scrapped due The Wire's relatively low ratings.

xx) Tom McCarthy, the man behind weasely journalist Scott Templeton, enjoys a second life as the director of low-key indie movies like The Station Agent, The Visitor and new release Win Win.

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