Felicia Pearson was born to play her eponymous character “Snoop” on HBO’s The Wire. Discovered by actor Michael K. Williams (b.k.a. Omar Little) in a Baltimore club, the street-certified Pearson had no buffer zone between putting in work for her set and putting in work on the set. But cast as drug lord Marlo’s loyal assassin, Pearson and her riveting performances are forever seared in the memories of Wire aficionados.
Her tough life, five years of which were spent doing a bid for second-degree murder, provides a background story many rappers would sell their souls for. Instead of glorifying her checkered past, Felicia has transitioned into more positive things. She volunteers as a prison-visitor, works anti-violence and literary campaigns and runs a youth drama organization with Wire alumni Jamie Hector. Pearson is also an author, penning her biography Grace After Midnight. The inspirational book, which held down the #1 spot at the Essence Magazine Book Club, is in the midst of being reprinted. Felicia Pearson is also a rapper which immediately brings to question if there’s room in the Hip-Hop game for another Snoop?. The baby-faced actress thinks so, recruiting R&B singer Lil’ Mo for the single “Lovely” on her forthcoming yet-to-be-titled album. In addition, Pearson has the lead role in a new film helmed by Ed Burns and David Simon, the salient writing duo that produced The Wire.
The Crew’s Khalid Strickland hooked up with the laid-back Felicia “Snoop” Pearson to discuss Grace After Midnight, her pearls of hood wisdom and the line between reality and fiction on The Wire.
TSS: Congratulations on the success of your book.
Felicia: Thank you.
TSS: Explain the title Grace After Midnight. What’s the science behind that?
Felicia: Grace is my accomplishments now and midnight is my past history… just coming through the struggle, you know? And I just came up with Grace After Midnight.
TSS: What are your goals with this book?
Felicia: Just so people can understand me and my history and where I came from. Hopefully everything that I say, some of it will touch somebody and change somebody’s mind about something. It’s a lot of things out there that kids and adults go through that they can relate to in the book. They read it and hopefully see that I overcame a lot of things and hopefully they think they can do the same thing. That’s all.
TSS: Back when you were in the streets heavy did you have aspirations of being an author or actor? Or did you just go where destiny took you?
Felicia: I just went where my destiny took me.
TSS: What do you say to hood folk who can’t picture life beyond the block, as if that’s all they’ll ever have?
Felicia: Don’t think that at all because there’s a lot out here in this world. There’s a whole world out here. Like around my way, I used to think about that myself. Like, “This is all I’ma accomplish… just huggin’ the block” and this, that and the third. And God said, “Nah, there’s another way out and I’ma show you.” So just keep the faith and if you can dribble a basketball up and down the court or run a football… soccer, anything… just keep on praying on your dream and it will come true.
TSS: Many Wire fans will see Grace After Midnight and say, “Yeah, it’s a continuation of The Wire. It’s gonna be some straight gangsta, drug shit.” Is that what the book is about or should they curb their expectations a bit?
Felicia: Uh, no. That ain’t what I get out of it. The book is just… how can I put this… it’s an inspiration. I just wrote that for a lot of people. It ain’t just based on The Wire, gangbangin’ and “I wanna go hard” and all that type of stuff. Nah, man, it’s a wake-up call. I been through a lot of things and if they really read my story they’re going to get inspiration, you better believe that. It ain’t based on The Wire or none of that; it’s just based on my everyday life. People are going through that all over the world so it ain’t about The Wire. It’s just a true story, you know?
TSS: Being that Grace After Midnight was so successful, do you have more books on the way?
Felicia: I’m working on my second book as we speak right now.
TSS: Can you speak a little on what that book is about?
Felicia: I can give you a lil’ something. It’s about things I forgot on the first one and things that I’m going through right now. Just a lil’ touch-up ‘cause I know my fans want to know what’s next for Snoop. The first book, I’m in the process of turning that into a movie right now. I’m just working.
TSS: Speaking of your life back in the day, when you met Michael K. Williams [who portrayed Omar Little on The Wire] what was going on with you at that time? And how did he approach you?
Felicia: First he was looking at me and I ain’t know who he was ‘cause (at that time) I ain’t never watch The Wire. And my brother told me that was Omar from off The Wire. Shortly after that, Michael K. approached me and asked me if I was a girl or a boy. I told him I was a girl and he said, “You’ve got to come on the set.” What was going on through my and at the time was, “Man, get out of here. I don’t even know you. What can you do for me?” That was just my negativity in my mind but at the same time I still listened and followed his directions. I was on the set the next day, the next week I was auditioning and here I am.
TSS: I didn’t know you were a rapper too. You’ve got a song with Lil’ Mo. Was being a rapper something you always had an interest in?
Felicia: Yeah, that right there…I always had an interest in.
TSS: It’s inevitable that haters will roll their eyes and say, “Here we go again, another actor-turned-rapper.” You have a message for them?
Felicia: Hate on (Laughs).
TSS: (Laughs) How long have you been rhyming?
Felicia: For real, I started taking it seriously about two years ago.
TSS: How is East Baltimore now compared to back when you were knee-deep in the streets?
Felicia: Whoooo… I don’t know, man. I keep my ears to the street and I think it got worse. I ain’t really been out there but I think it got worse.
TSS: Being that you the character you portrayed on The Wire was pretty much yourself, how much acting did you really have to do?
Felicia: Nah, man. That was acting. When them cameras come on some people freeze-up, some people keep lookin’ at the camera and forget their words… everything. Man, it’s not that easy, you know? And I had to really study my craft and get it right. Mr. Ed Burns, Michael, Jamie… people like that were helping me because they were in the game long before me. They showed a couple of moves in front of the camera that I could rely on. The whole set was just helping me. They made me phenomenal; I thank every last one of them, man.
TSS: Being that the scripts were similar to your life and the show was shot in your backyard, were there any scenes that were familiar while you were shooting? Any flashbacks, so to speak?
Felicia: Uh, which one… the drive-by scene, that’s about it. ‘Cause we don’t put nobody down in no old houses or nothing like that. That was probably when I was a baby, like 2 or 3 or something when the old heads was running around (Laughs). They don’t do nothing like that down here…. they leave you where you stand at ‘round here. That ain’t no flashback or nothing like that.
TSS: You’re such an imposing figure on-screen. Do you have a softer side people may not be aware of?
Felicia: Yeah, me period (Laughs). I’m a sweetheart. I love to laugh, have fun, and make people smile. I learned to live my life smiling ‘cause if you get stressed out, stress will lead you to a heart attack or something. I’m too young for all that (Laughs).
TSS: The things you’ve been through are real but a lot of rappers falsify their image. They play the tough-guy, gangsta role when that ain’t really them. You keep it 100 at all times, so what does keeping it real mean to Felicia “Snoop” Pearson?
Felicia: Just be yourself, man. If you wasn’t out there on the streets, don’t front. Some rappers do rap about the streets and ain’t never been in the streets, knowing they’re from the suburbs. But I respect them because they’ll come out and say it after the fact, you know? And some of ‘em I just look at‘em and be like, “Oh well.” I really don’t even pay them no mind. If you’ve got good music, I’ll listen to it. It don’t even matter but stop portraying that, you know what I mean?
TSS: Now that The Wire is over…
Felicia: We’re in the U.K.; man… it ain’t over (Laughs). Shout out U.K.!
TSS: (Laughs) Aiight. Well, do you still see and communicate with fellow cast members?
Felicia: Yeah, all the time.
TSS: How do your peoples in the hood respond to your success?
Felicia: They love it because they know where I came from. And now that the position is put in front of me, they love where I’m going with it. Every time I see somebody, it can be in a restaurant or something, they’ll say, “Yo, keep doing what you’re doing and don’t let nothing stop you.” It’s just motivation from everybody. They always tell me, I don’t care where I go, it could be in somebody else hood. “You know the haters out here are gonna try to stop you, don’t pay it no mind. Keep striving, shorty.” It just feels good that people who are coming from where I’m came from is giving me motivation. So I just take it and be like, “Wow.” It just feels good.
TSS: Any parting shots for your many fans at The Smoking Section?
Felicia: Yeah. If you’ve got a dream just keep on striving for it. Touch it. If you can touch it, it’s okay, man. Keep going. It’s not easy out here at all, don’t think it’s easy. Just keep striving and every time a hater tries to knock you down just think about me and get right back. That’s it.
Felicia Pearson’s Grace After Midnight is available at Amazon and other fine book retailers. As an additional bonus, here’s the first taste of her untitled debut Hip-Hop album “Lovely,” which features Lil’ Mo.[audio:http://www.snapdrive.net/files/591135/Snoop%20Feat.%20Lil%27%20Mo%20-%20Lovely.mp3%5D
Download — Snoop Feat. Lil’ Mo – “Lovely”