This Saturday marked the tenth anniversary of the debut of “The Wire.” To commemorate the occasion, Maxim put together a huge oral history of the show, featuring quotes from all the major players: creators David Simon and Ed Burns; stars Dominic West, Wendell Pierce, Michael K. Williams, and Method Man, among others; and former HBO bigwigs like Chris Albrecht. Wait, hold on. Maxim did the definitive oral history of “The Wire”? That’s kind of like SpikeTV producing an all-access documentary about Chinatown and scheduling it between episodes of “MANswers.” (“MANSWERS! What if a city’s whole water supply was replaced with brewskis?! MANSWERS!” [two bikini-clad women float down lazy river of beer] [seagulls swoop down and pull the women’s tops off] [Sasquatch enters frame on surfboard and plays a wicked guitar solo])
But I digress. Regardless of the source, the oral history is really well done. While I certainly recommend reading the whole shebang if you’re interested in the show and you’ve got the time, I have helpfully excerpted some of my favorite quotes below, including one from Method Man that straight-up melted my brain. There are lots of spoilers, so tread lightly if you haven’t seen the whole series yet.
On the creation and demise of Omar, the show’s signature character:
David Simon: Omar was a combination of various guys Ed had used as informants or knew. He was an amalgam.
Ed Burns: The Omars of the world are warriors, too. They’re the guys who despise the drug dealers. He’s the rebel, and he goes by his own code. When I was a cop, you’d look for guys like this. If you’re sticking up drug dealers, you have to carry a gun. And if you’re carrying a gun, I can lock you up. Pretty simple math. Once I lock you up, then we sit down, and we start talking, and then we start going to the State’s Attorney’s office, going to the judge, making deals. So I knew a lot of Omars, and Michael K. Williams did a phenomenal job.
Michael K. Williams: [discussing President Obama naming Omar as his favorite character] I felt pride, you know. I felt good, I felt good to the core.
Dennis Lehane: We were all talking over each other. “He can’t die a dignified death.” You know, because Omar was such a hero in a lot of ways, so if we said this guy is gonna go out in some sort of blaze of glory, then we’re glorifying the street. Michael Williams’ mother, when I met her, she said, “Whatever you do, don’t kill my boy.” And she’s this sweet little old lady, you know? And I remember looking her in the eye and saying, “Don’t worry. I won’t hurt your son.” So [after it was written], all I thought was, Michael’s mother’s gonna beat me to death with her umbrella.
On shooting the show in Baltimore, and some behind-the-scenes hijinks:
Andre Royo: They called me and told me I got the part of Bubbles, and my wife got excited. “Oh, sh-t! You got the part!” Packing her bag for L.A., and I’m like, “Nah, nah, we filming in Baltimore.” And she unpacked real quickly: “I’ll see you when you come home.”
Michael B. Jordan (Wallace, Barksdale gang dealer): This is some real sh-t. It was real to the point where crackheads would come up and try to cop. I had fake money, and they would come over, and an exchange would go down. I would think they were part of the crew, and I’d make the exchange. Then security would come around and be like, “No! No! No!” and break it up. I was like, “Oh, sh-t! That’s really a crack-head! I’m sorry! I’m not really a drug dealer!”
Wendell Pierce (Det. William “Bunk” Moreland): The great thing about shooting in Baltimore was we were each other’s best company. We worked hard, long hours, but we partied hard, too, man. One bar made the mistake of having celebrity-bartender night. It happened one time, and one time only! That’s all I need to say!
Idris Elba: We smoked a lot of good weed, did a lot of strip clubs. A lot of that.
On the coolest sounding Madden marathons of all time:
Seth Gilliam: I got Domenick [Lombardozzi] into Madden football, so we used to hold tournaments. It always seemed to work out that the cops were playing against the crooks. We’d play five, six hours in a row. It was intense.
On the famous F-word scene:
Wendell Pierce: One day David came up to us when we shooting and said, “I’m writing a scene right now for you guys, and I want you to do the whole scene, but you can only say the word f-ck.”
Domenic West: 44 f-cks? It’s about 20 too many. We even added some in post-production. It came out of something a cop had said to David once, and he thought that he could write an entire report only using the word f-ck.
In which Omar discusses the trajectory of the show and uses the word “bamboozled”:
Michael K. Williams: Season 1 I was just happy to have a gig. I was frivolous with the money. It was all about party time. Season 2 I got real antsy. I thought David Simon bamboozled the black cast when he brought all the white actors in to tell the docks story line. I was like, “This is some bullsh-t!” But midway through Season 3 I saw that this was bigger than me.
On David Simon being super passionate and kind of a dick, but in a good way:
Chris Albrecht: The show stayed on because [then HBO president] Carolyn Strauss and I liked it. We’d make David wait. We’d agonize over the decision, and invariably David would write us a long, sometimes vitriolic, but always searingly intelligent letter. And we’d go, “F-ck it. Let’s do it.”
On the death of Stringer Bell, one of the show’s most popular characters:
Michael K. Williams: I struggled with that scene, and the whole idea of black on black crime. The notion that two grown men can’t sit down and talk about their differences.
Idris Elba: We opted to behead him at the height of his popularity, because it wasn’t about Avon. It wasn’t about Stringer. It’s a show called The Wire. And it’s Shakespearean—we usually don’t kill our heroes.
Method Man being Method Man. Which is to say, the best:
Method Man (Calvin “Cheese” Wagstaff, Proposition Joe’s gang): We had a taste of what “The Wire” was before The Wire came out when they did The Corner. It was like “Star Trek” compared to Star Wars. “Star Trek” was good, but you wanted to see more detail. I wanted to see some space fighting. When Star Wars came out it blew my f-cking mind.
Will do, Bunk:
Wendell Pierce: It really is an American classic, and I think that’s something to be very proud of. If you see me on the street, feel free for the rest of my life to call me Bunk.