‘The Wire’ Premiere: Wallace Lives, and Rawls Cuts a Rug

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You’d be hard-pressed to find a less star-studded red carpet than at The Wire’s Friday night’s premiere party: career character actors, British theater vets, converted street kids. But for gushing reporters/fans like us, the show’s myriad cast members ambling down interview row served as a bizarre feast for the eyes — dapper Chris! Spiffed-up Bubbles! Marlo and McNulty, only inches apart! In the name of verisimilitude, David Simon and the producers took pains to cast virtual unknowns, so real names bandied about by the publicists were useless. By all accounts the talented young actor Jermaine Crawford will go on to a long and fruitful career. But for that subset of the viewing public crammed behind the rope Friday, he’ll always be poor Dukie.

Slowly, though, the illusion broke. McNu … er, Dominic West’s real speaking voice, a proper British brogue, didn’t help. (He even said “telly” at one point.) Eventually the circus shuffled into the theater for a screening of the fifth season’s first episode, where the president of HBO Entertainment, Carolyn Strauss, gave Simon a rousing introduction. Taking the podium, Simon quipped, “I know we’re getting somewhere because Carolyn came to our premiere. I feel like David Chase.” Then he ticked off the names of every memorable cast member, exhorting them to stand for an ovation, another strange sight: crooked politicians and ruthless assassins popping out of their seats, smiling. The loudest cheers came for Michael B. Jordan, who portrayed Wallace, a sympathetic, confused young drug tout whose first-season murder was one of an overwhelmingly bleak show’s bleakest moments.

Finally the gaggle moved to the after-party at Gotham on 36th, where the illusion continued to crumble; we’ll have to scrub the memory of John Doman (Rawls) and Frankie Faision (Burrell) throwing down to Ciara on the dance floor alongside a fleet-footed Wendell Pierce (Bunk) and a decidedly un-tomboyish Sonja Sohn (Kima) from our brain before we can ever revisit past seasons. Toward the end of the night a young lady approached West, who was hovering nearby in discussion with Simon and Domenick Lombardozzi (Herc), and attempted to drag him toward the dance floor. It would be the final nail in the coffin for our illusions; West politely refused the advances, unthinkable for the newly relapsed McNulty. —Amos Barshad

Related: Interactive Party Lines from last night's Wire premiere