When season two of The Wire shifted focus from the projects to the docks, a lot of people feared the show had gone off the rails. After all, why abandon the world — and beloved characters like Stringer Bell and Omar Little — you’ve just created? Well, it turns out that some of the show’s cast shared viewers’ concerns. At last night’s The Wire reunion at Paleyfest, Michael K. Williams remembered feeling “bitter” after the transition:
Williams: The whole first season I came on as a recurring character and the character started to grow. So I fell in love with the cast, I fell in love with the writing, I fell in love with the city, so what do you do? You move to Baltimore. So I was ready for second season, like OK, where’s this storyline going? And I got introduced to the mind of David Simon—he took it to the docks. [laughter] I got real bitter. [laughter] I was an angry black man. And I approached David, in my ignorance, you know—how come when we made the show hot, and you want to give it to the white people?
David Simon: Michael, that’s the way it works.
At the time, Simon explained to him that staying in the projects would have limited the series’ scope, but “that went way over my fucking head,” said Williams. It wasn’t until season three that he realized, “Oh, this is not about me.”
But Omar wasn’t the only one who got sidelined in season two. Detectives Herc (Domenick Lombardozzi) and Carver (Seth Gilliam) got stuck doing surveillance on the docks, and day after day, kept coming up empty. “We were shooting a lot of second unit with [director] Robert Colesberry, who I think was trying to keep us entertained after a while,” said Gilliam, who played Carver. “We were taking lots of shots of spiderwebs, slow walking track, and it’s like, is there even film in that camera? What the fuck are we doing here? It’s like George Steinbrenner — I’m gonna find these fantastic guys who always beat the Yankees, I’m gonna sign them to these contracts, and sit ‘em on the fucking bench.”
Eventually the two actors went to Simon with their grievances and even threatened to quit the series. Gilliam recalled, “It was basically like, I’ll quit! Fuck you! I don’t need this show! You’re wasting me! We will walk, man! And we had no way to walk — we didn’t have shoes.”
Simon talked them down gently. He pointed out that they felt just as frustrated as their characters, Herc and Carver, and told them to “use it.” Gilliam said his co-star was “really buoyed by that,” but he wasn’t convinced. Then he launched into an impeccable impersonation of Herc that had the entire audience cheering.
Watch the hourlong panel below: