David Simon Answers Fans' Questions
Where's Omar? Is D'Angelo really dead? Executive producer David Simon has the answer. Hit the Bulletin Boards. for more.
DEBSWORLD - Have you ended the Omar storyline? Will you please enlighten us with some thoughts of Omar?
David Simon - Omar follows his own code and therefore he comes and goes as he pleases and as the story dictates. Again, as far as story goes, we're somewhat indifferent to whether viewers like an actor or a character; the story alone dictates when and why a character appears. That said Mr. Williams is a fine actor and has done marvelous work bringing Omar to life. Only one enlightening thought otherwise: Omar never curses, alone among the characters. He is beholden to no institution other than himself and therefore he is not, in the logic of The Wire, debased. He therefore does not speak the debased language of those who are subject to the caprices and indifferences of the institutions they serve.
ronniead - I'd like to know why did you use a blackman to dress like a brother act like a brother in the nation of Islam when you know that the nation of Islam has nothing to do with drugs only when there trying to clean it up from the housing project's and they would never kill another blackman unless they are in danger of their own lives. I found this to be very, very upsetting being a FOI myself for more than 40 + year's
David Simon - An interesting question, I must say. First of all, let me be clear that Brother Mouzone has not identified himself as a member of the Nation of Islam. The only thing the even implies a connection is that he speaks precisely and wears a bowtie. The general appearance was noted by Cheese in his query to Mouzone as to whether he was with the Nation, to which Brother did not respond. Clearly, the man has demonstrated that he is a gangster and perhaps, from his appearance, some might wonder if he was once affiliated with NOI or FOI, but at this point, he has said nothing to suggest that his current standing has anything to do with NOI.Therefore, I would point out that we have not been inconsistent with the Nation's anti-drug stance, which we well know to be the case. In fact, I am the very writer of a Homicide episode, which aired in 1996, in which NOI was depicted as doing anti-drug security work in the Westside highrises.
But this is more to the point: If you watch this show, you know that every single ethnicity and religion that comprises a modern American city has been in some way insulted and abused by the behavior of one or more characters. The traffickers in the high-rises are black; the drug suppliers this year are Greek and Israeli and Russian/Ukranian. McNulty drinks too much? An Irish-American stereotype perhaps. The malevolent major who misuses his power is Polish-American, and his worst excesses come because of a moment of ridiculous Roman Catholic pride. And Morris Levy? Uh oh, someone inform the Anti-Defamation League that the corrupt drug lawyer is decidedly Jewish.
It is certainly provocative to suggest that we "use a black man" in a way that disrespects the NOI in a way that is inappropriate. But the fact remains that we have disrespected just about every group without regard to race, creed or religion. There is a point to this, too. We are saying that in effect it comes to what has demeaned us as a collective, as an American people, none of us are clean. And as far as our willingness to write characters black and white, from all different backgrounds and circumstances, we are disinterested in the suggestion that certain things are off-limits. We are writers telling a story and we believe that stories well-told are neither black nor white, they belong to no one and to everyone. We meant no offense to NOI through the character of Brother Mouzone, nor have we written anything to offend. But in this story, when it comes to race, religion or ethnicity, we are well past the point of sacred cows.
Benny_Blanco_from_da_bx - I would like to know if you have any plans on releasing the DVD set of seasons one and two of the Wire? Secondly, I am interested in any information of what future projects your fans can look forward to, movies, books, series, etc.
David Simon - The DVD release is up to HBO. It is my understanding that the first season will be available next July. Second season probably thereafter. Too soon to be talking about projects other than The Wire right now.
("HBO comments that no release date has been set for this DVD. New releases are announced a few weeks prior to release date)
khristoss - After season One finished did you know or think that their would be a season Two? And if you didn't know, did you just put a new story line together to flow with season one?
David Simon - The show was planned for additional seasons. We knew what we wanted to say with season two (and in a less detailed sense, with future seasons as well) and so we began planning for it even while filming the first season.
lak1 - Was it hard to get other people to see The Wire's potential? Was the show created for HBO or did you try to test the waters with other networks first?
David Simon - It was developed only for HBO. A broadcast network would not have the patience for this show. In fact, they would tell us we are doing everything wrong; which, in some sense, we are. The show is crafted as a visual novel; most of episodic television, even when its very good, is crafted as a series of short stories. It was initially hard convincing HBO that we could do a "copshow" that would be distinctly different from network fare, cop shows being the storytelling backyard of the other networks. They needed to see several scripts and then they needed to get a sense that the show would build as the episodes progressed, which is kind of what happens when people pick up a book and read it, chapter by chapter.
durdaatl - How did The Wire come about in terms of the storyline. Is the show loosely based on a true story or stories?
David Simon - Ed Burns and I wrote The Corner together. That book is a subtle argument against the drug war. But we both felt that since the book was for the most part a microcosm of that war in the tale of a single open-air drug market, there was more to be said about the nature of the disconnect between law enforcement and the drug culture. And we felt that this could be accomplished through a narrative like The Wire. The show also owes a debt to Richard Price's magnificent Dempsey books, and "Clockers" in particular, which first demonstrated the narrative power of a split-POV between police and their targets.
BlkQbnQueen88 - Is DeAndre' is really dead?
David Simon - Do you mean DeAndre McCullough from The Corner? He is not dead. In fact, DeAndre is alive and doing better than he has in a long while, working at a mattress company and living with his girl and son and in fact, if you get a close look at Brother Mouzone's No.2 that's him, trying his hand at acting. He's pretty good, actually. If you mean D'Angelo Barksdale, then yes, he's quite dead. If you were watching the show this year, you saw him strangled in the prison library, after which the killer staged the death as a hanging/suicide.
luvhbo66 - If given the choice to actually walk in the shoes of any of the "The Wire" characters from Season 1 or Season 2, whose shoes would you don and why?
Question 2: The character of Wallace was one of my favorites for many reasons. I felt sorry for him because he really had no choice in how his life turned out and I genuinely thought he had a sweet, caring spirit. I could barely watch his execution and I wonder, did you have a hard time deciding that Wallace would die and the manner with which he would meet his death?
David Simon - To question one, Bubbles, I think. I have tried certain drugs and I have, at times, had some problems with addictive behavior, but I have been sensibly wary, I think, about experimenting with heroin or other narcotics. I think I would like them too much. So, the story of Bubbles - and that of many addicts and ex-addicts - is one that leaves me always curious. Having said this, I assume that I would only have to walk in those shoes for a brief, sensible period, whereupon I would be whisked to a rehab clinic and restored to responsibility and viability for the rest of my time. It doesn't work that way though.
As to question two, yes, killing Wallace was agony, especially since Michael Jordan was such a wonderful and talented kid. But the story is the story. Nothing else has an argument.
marlinmania - I am from Maryland, and spend a lot of time in Baltimore. I am very impressed this season with the Baltimore accents from the cast. Especially Ziggy and the Police Chief. Do you select local actors, or are they training in Dundalk?
David Simon - Accents are touch and go. It isn't possible to use an actor pool of Baltimore performers only, so the actors often have only a passing sense of the Bawlmer accent. When we can do it, we do. James Ransone who plays Ziggy is a Bawlmer boy and we encouraged him to use the accent. He has, delightfully. I've known twenty characters like him, and indeed his character is based very loosely on a legendary longshoreman named Pinkie Bannion, who used to take his duck to the bar and repeatedly expose "pretty boy" and all else. As they said in Bawlmer about Pinkie: "That boy ain't right."
pantleggs - I was impressed and caught off guard by your use of Tom Waits' original version of "Way Down in the Hole" in the show's opening credits, changing up from the Blind Boys of Alabama's version used in the first season. Am I correct in assuming this subtle change is a metaphor for the second season in that it is another way of telling the same story? Or am I reading too much into it?
David Simon - Yes , it was our way of saying: This is the same show (song) but this year, the tale itself (singer, tonality) will be different. As Little Big Roy says in the first episode of season two: "Ain't never gonna be what it was." No one writing this show has any intention of telling the same story twice. That's not the point of this show. Sometimes this can be hard on viewers who want to relieve things that they have enjoyed in the past.
WireAddict - What happened to those little kids Wallace was taking care of? Who's feeding them and getting them ready for school? He was a good kid caught up in a rough life, but still trying to do the right thing. Somehow I can't see Poot doing it.
David Simon - This is going to make you sad, but what do you think happened to them? What do you think happens to some childhoods in West Baltimore?
MajSeven - Knowing that the futility of the drug war and the decline of the working class have been topics close to your heart, what other subjects would you like to explore either in The Wire or in any future work you may do?
David Simon - Perhaps we should examine the possibility of reform in some fashion. Perhaps the political structure should be given a chance to fix things
SeniorSoprano - In shooting and televising THE WIRE, what positive/negative feedback have you received from the Baltimore Police Force and Local/State Government? Has this feedback differed at all according to the hierarchical position of the respondent?
David Simon - The higher the rank the less they like us. During the show's first season, I drove up to the FOP lodge off 41st Street to have some beers and give some of the rank-and-file a chance to yell at me for the tone of the show and its treatment of the drug war. I expected an earful, but instead, I was handed more rounds than I bought. The show seemed to resonate with the lives of the cops living the drug war day-to-day. But the current police commissioner has described the show as an insult to Baltimoreans and the mayor, although publicly stoic about the show, has made it clear in other conversations that he is not happy. That is his right. If I were the mayor, I would be calling myself an asshole regularly. Thus far, however, the city, while officially a bit chilly, has not gone beyond that to make filming so problematic that we would be required to produce the show elsewhere
SMITHKART - How did you come up with the waterfront? Can we expect next season to be as different as the last 2?
David Simon - The waterfront is, to us, cinematically beautiful. Those cranes are gothic. And we were looking for a world that would represent for the working-class in Baltimore. We could have done the steel mills, but they are bankrupt, or the GM plant, or some other union-wage industry, but the port felt right
msspesh - I've recognized a couple of actors on The Wire who were in the HBO Movie The Corner. If I'm not mistaken, I also recognized Tyreeka Freamon and DeAndre McCullough on The Wire. The actual people not the actors that portrayed them. I'm I right?
David Simon - Tyreeka Freamon appeared briefly in season as a clerk at the elections office. DeAndre is being harried about certain magazines by Brother Mouzone. The real Blue, George Epps, was sitting at a bar recently arguing about port versus sherry. From the book Homicide, the real Jay Landsman played a shift lieutenant in the scenes with Major Colvin of the Western District, in the aftermath of the shooting of the nine-year-old. Also Richard Price, who wrote "Clockers","Samaritan", "The Wanderers" and other notable novels and screenplays, was in the prison library when Gatsby was discussed. That was homage. For those of you who have read "Clockers," it is clear that this show owes a debt to that remarkable book. Oh yeah, Tom Waldron, who covered Annapolis for the Baltimore Sun for untold years, played the "good vote" legislator who Sobotka is steered away from at the ILA legislative meeting. That's all the cameos I can think of at the moment. Oops. One more: DeRodd Hearn, DeAndre's half brother, plays the part of Puddin, who works with Bodie and Poot and was involved in that gunfight. In real life, DeRodd is nothing like that, I assure you. He's a great kid.
AmyIzMe - I started watching after one of my friends pointed out the hottie Chris Ashworth, Serge. I love to hear that Russian accent although I'm now hearing that he's actually from Virginia? Is this really true? Does he normally have a southern accent then?
David Simon - He normally has a nice Tidewater drawl.
DYRO - How did you break into writing for TV?
David Simon - Barry Levinson bought my book "Homicide" and made it into the NBC series. I went to work for Tom Fontana as a writer on that show and he taught me as much as he could about TV production and writing. I owe a great deal to Barry, and to Tom, especially.
Jada1 - Do you allow your actors to add to your dialogue?
David Simon - I very much try to keep the scenes "on book" and ask the actors not to ad lib without consulting the writer on set first. The plotline is too intricate to allow for much ad libbing. Every now and then, however, an actor will come up with something that enhances the scene and we are open to the possibility when it occurs.
Mreid99 - David your show is exceptional, interesting to see how some of these individuals like to pick at every single little detail, when they forget it's ultimately about entertainment.
David Simon - Actually, we want the show to be entertaining. Any buncha storytellers would. But more than that, we want the show to be argued about and discussed and considered. A lot of what we feel about the drug war, about what has happened to the working class, about race and class and the dignity of individuals is there on the screen. If people are merely entertained, then we've failed what ambitions we had, I'm afraid.
bigkam - Is there any possible way that D'Angelo could be brought back..technically he could've just passed out and the police put him in p.c. while he recovered...he has to pay his family and barkdale back for what they did to him ...
David Simon - He could be an angel. And he could grant wishes. And...and...I'm sorry, I don't mean to be sarcastic, but no, he's dead. He finally reached out for his own dignity and then someone killed him. It's outrageous, and a tragic waste. I get upset just thinking about it and I'm sure you do, too.
vj3k4 - David, As a large fan of Homicide: Life on the Street, I was wondering how you felt the Wire compared to it. Also I've noticed certain parts of the Wire are similar to Homicide; Are these similarities an expansion of characters written for homicide that you thought would work for the Wire as well?
David Simon - I loved Homicide and I learned to produce television by working for Tom Fontana. But I don't think the tone or purpose or structure of the shows are at all similar. The only thing similar is the universe itself: Baltimore, with an emphasis on police and crime. That similarity is natural because what I covered as a reporter is a basis for both enterprises. But Homicide was after something different with its seasons, and creatively, that show achieved its goals. The Wire has very different goals and we'll see, I guess, how we do. To be specific, I think it's fair to point out that Homicide and NYPD Blue said everything there is to say about urban cops and the nature of good and evil. Nothing matches Frank Pembleton or Andy Sipowicz when it comes to a cops contemplation on the nature of evil. They are classic archetypes. The Wire has very, very little to do with good and evil. The show is arguing something very different about the human condition.
Johnny5Stars - As a Greek-American, I was blown away by the attention to detail this season. All of the Greek dialogue is right on, and I love that you capture Greek culture so well. (Example: "The Greek" refers to the bad blood between Greece and Turkey while interrogating the Turkish seaman.) Great job, malaka!
David Simon - Who you callin' malaka? George Pelecanos is to be credited with the Greek phrasing. And if you are into it, you should check out some of his earlier D.C. novels which feature a Greek-American protagonist who has some McNulty-like characteristics as well. His later novels aren't as heavy on Greek culture, but they are excellent in their own right. Try The Big Blowdown to start.
djdub63 - The only thing I would like to see is that you include some Baltimore Club music during the show. I think it would add some street credibility to the show with the home team.
David Simon - Would love to. We used the late Miss Tony's "Get Ya Guns Out" to good effect in the Corner. But one of the problems is that a lot of local club music is sampled and it is hell tracking down the copyright and publishing on all those samples. By the time we do it, the episode has come and gone. What we need is local club music that is all-original. Or longer lead time for our clearances. But I agree with you. Baltimore is notable for its club tracks.
mskyrm - What pushback did you receive in the process of making a "thinking person's tv show" that doesn't spoon-feed everything to the viewer and how did you deal with it?
David Simon - We have had the overwhelming support of HBO, which is only interested in programming that could never find a home on a standard network. They have been remarkable and quite brave about it, considering that the ratings for the show are modest-to-respectable only.
You have to consider that the nature of a novelistic television show is that each chapter builds on the previous, so that the pace accelerates. That means that the first episodes of any season are much like the early chapters of a long narrative. They set the stage, introduce characters and begin the plotting that will result, hopefully, in the payoff. Tellingly, the first episodes of first season were a revelation not only for viewers, but for HBO as well. Trained to watch episodic television, many people were stunned to find that the show was deliberately pacing itself much more slowly and intricately. Some people were bored, but others were drawn in. The moment when I knew we'd be alright was when Chris Albrecht, then the head of programming for HBO, said he was glad that each episode was getting better. That was a good sign, he said. To me, they were all good episodes in that they were progressing the single story exactly in the manner intended, but Chris's impression was important. Many people pick up a book and read it to conclusion with the same sense that each successive chapter leaves the reader more involved and more committed to finishing.
doctorP - Do forums like these bulletin boards provide any useful information for you, the actors or the HBO decision makers? Some see them as merely outlets for the fans. But certainly they can provide an almost instant glimpse into the reactions and thoughts of fans regarding a show and whether or not you have successfully conveyed your ideas.
David Simon - We scan the boards when we have time, but we don't use them for biofeedback. I'll be honest: I learned while writing for Homicide that viewers, if they could have their say, would generally wish for the same things over and over again. They like a show for given reasons and so they watch the show to see those reasons affirmed. Writers do not want to write the same story over and over and actors do not want to portray the same stories over and over. On Homicide, the devoted viewers wanted every episode to end with Pembleton using his intellect and power to break a murderer down in The Box. Neither Andre Braugher nor the writers were prepared to recreate the same episodes over and over. Same with The Wire. Many viewers, it seems, wanted more Barksdale family and were unprepared to venture to a new world with new issues. Understandable. But to do the same show over again and deal with the same issues is to kill the creative aspect of the show.
Next year, something new. And to the extent that the Barksdale characters are still being explored it is only because we feel there is more to say about them and their world. If not for that, they would be gone completely. Instead, we feel that they are an excellent vehicle to capture a future theme of the show. But that is character serving story, not the other way around.
Lonsers - What is Stringer's original motivation for being a criminal? He's intelligent, takes classes and does pretty well in them...he seems like someone that could probably make it in legitimate business. My second question is, how long of a time period has Avon been in jail to this point of the season? It seems to have been only a couple months, but it's hard to say. Can we expect him to be out on the street again in the next couple seasons or is he going to be spending most of the rest of the series from jail?
David Simon - It is, in some ways, a stereotype to consider that only fools turn to crime. That's often very true, but the drug trade has become such a dominant economic engine in some American cities that it attracts all sorts. Stringer is smart. So are many of the traffickers I covered in Baltimore. So was Meyer Lansky or Charlie Luciano for that matter. Avon has now been in jail about a year. I believe he cut a deal with the prison authorities that have them moving up his first parole hearing to eighteen months and supporting his parole in exchange for his cooperation on the overdose case. Normally, he would do about a third of his sentence or nearly three years before being parole eligible, and even then, parole at the first hearing is not assured. I can't say what will happen before it happens, of course.
celica2003 - As you can see from the HBO bulletins boards everyone has a favorite character. Who is you favorite character and why?. Also which character was the most difficulty to develop?
David Simon - I have a number of favorites, but here's an unlikely one: Landsman. He is a veteran homicide sergeant and a survivor, and funny. He gets lost in the mix because of the nature of the role, but he's had more good lines than most. Proposition Joe is in the same boat, I suppose. McNulty was the most difficult character for us to define initially. There is the complex mix of genuine talent and intellect and all those self-destructive impulses.
MOWIE - I've been loving this show since minute one, episode one..the characters are amazing, and the dialogue so good. I was devastated when Wallace was shot..I cannot remember when I was ever so affected by something like that. I wanted so much for him to get free of the of the life. But why did D'Angelo have to be sacrificed as well? I understand the toll that this drug war is taking but please give us some hope for independent-thinking individuals such as they are to break free!
David Simon - The point was addressed above. But I can only add that we are not selling hope, or audience gratification, or cheap victories with this show. The Wire is making an argument about what institutions - bureaucracies, criminal enterprises, the cultures of addiction, raw capitalism even - do to individuals. It is not designed purely as an entertainment. It is, I'm afraid, a somewhat angry show.
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