When HBO first released the series, The Wire, back in 2002, fans didn’t know just what to think about the show. With so many cop dramas on television, The Wire didn’t exactly stand out as something unique on TV. In fact, it seemed to have a bit of a slow start that even made the actors wonder whether or not it would be a show that could stand the test of time. Yet, audiences quickly saw how The Wire was different from all of the other cop shows on TV due to the complexities of the characters and the way the series told both sides of the story in regards to the criminal organization and the police hunting them. Telling the story with the backdrop of the rough neighborhoods of Baltimore, people became invested in the characters as well as the overall community.
In fact, during Obama’s time as president, he sat down with the creator of The Wire, David Simon, and talked about why he thought of the series as one of the most innovative shows on television. The Medium reported the interview in 2015, where Obama stated, “[The Wire is] one of the greatest – not just television shows, but pieces of art in the last couple of decades.” He thought of it as a great insight into how the world can solve criminal justice problems. With the amount of influence the series has had on those who’ve watched it and the world in general, it’s no wonder that audiences are still thinking about their favorite characters from the show. Check out our list of the 15 stars of The Wire and see where they are now and what they’ve been up to since the series concluded.
15. Idris Elba
Although there were a number of huge breakout stars that came out of The Wire, none can boast the type of success that came out of Idris Elba’s portrayal as Russell “Stringer” Bell. Elba had already made a huge name for himself as a British actor but his appearance on The Wire was a great start at introducing him to American audiences. After his time on the series, Elba’s public persona blew up. He starred as Nelson Mandela in the film, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, which garnered huge respect from the industry. He seemed to have a constant flow of work on the big screen in hit films like American Gangster and Prometheus. Yet, he wasn’t too big to return to the small screen in the hugely popular TV series, Luther. Playing Detective John Luther, this is a long stretch from his previous character of Stringer Bell. Yet, somehow Elba makes it work and is undeniably believable as the heartthrob detective that audiences are forever rooting for. The talk behind Idris Elba being cast as the first African American Bond has only increased his status as a Hollywood heartthrob and audiences are anticipating seeing more of him on the silver screen.
14. Aidan Gillen
It’s interesting how similar Aidan Gillen’s character on The Wire is compared to his current role as Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish on Game of Thrones. While The Wire didn’t exactly have dragons flying around, there was certainly a fight for power over who would rule Baltimore, both criminally and politically. Gillen’s character on The Wire, Tommy Carcetti, had similar ambition as his Game of Thrones counterpart and even sat on the city council, similar to Littlefinger sitting on the Small Council during the early seasons of Game of Thrones. Nowadays, people have mixed feelings about Gillen’s character on Game of Thrones, with some loving his ambitious rise to the top and others hoping he would get dropped through the Moon Door. Only time will tell what will become of his role on the hit series but at least Gillen was able to stray away from the criminal drama pigeonholed role after his time on The Wire concluded.
13. Lawrence Gilliard Jr.
Lawrence Gilliard Jr. played the role of D’Angelo Barksdale, who was part of the next generation of criminals in The Wire. As the nephew of Avon Barksdale, it stands to reason that D’Angelo would have inevitably taken over as he progressed in the business. Yet, the conflict he had with Stringer Bell ended up being his downfall and ultimately the reason why his time on the show came to an end. Yet, his portrayal on the series was met with high praise and he quickly gained other roles. While he was in a few questionable endeavors like The Wire: The Musical, he was also cast in some hit shows like Friday Night Lights and The Walking Dead. Starring as Bob Stookey on The Walking Dead, his character had a persona that started off a bit unlikable but then transformed into one of the favorite characters in the group. Always looking on the positive side of things and longing for fellowship with others, people were genuinely heartbroken when he was killed off of The Walking Dead. Yet, he’s undoubtedly made a lasting impression with fans and showrunners and will probably be seen again in film or the small screen soon enough.
12. Chad Coleman
The most appealing part of the storyline of The Wire had to do with the complexities of its characters. On the outside, it seemed like a simple good vs. evil story with the show following the criminals and the police hunting them. Yet, once viewers began learning about the struggles within the Baltimore community and the background stories of the police officers, there was a lot of grey area that created some unlikely heroes. Chad Coleman played one of these heroes as the character, Dennis “Cutty” Wise. Trying to make a start as a reformed criminal, Wise tried to help the youth of Baltimore through the neighborhood boxing gym. This mild-mannered teddy bear of a man with the ability to inflict pain was obviously a perfect role for Coleman, so perhaps that’s why he was able to land such a similar role in The Walking Dead. After The Wire concluded, Coleman landed the role of Tyreese Williams and again, created a huge fan base due to his large heart and incredible fighting ability. Coleman is currently involved in a new series for Syfy, The Expanse, with the second season slated to be released in 2017.
11. Michael B. Jordan
One of the biggest aspects of the criminal element in The Wire was the fact that there were tiers within the criminal organization. Many viewers enjoyed seeing the youngest generation of soldiers make their way up the ranks, even if it didn’t always work out well. Michael B. Jordan portrayed one of these young dealers in the hugely popular character, Wallace. One of the most heartbreaking episodes of the series was when Wallace was killed by his “friends.” While there were a number of breakout stars in the series, Jordan was the most surprising. He has evolved into one of Hollywood’s favorite leading men and has starred in a number of blockbuster hit films. From the 2013 real-life drama, Fruitvale Station, to the highly anticipated sequel in the Rocky series, Creed, Jordan has proved that he has the acting skills to carry a big budget film. He even portrayed the Human Torch in the 2015 remake of Fantastic Four and is slated to be in another upcoming remake, The Thomas Crown Affair.
10. Michael K. Williams
When Michael K. Williams made his appearance on The Wire as Omar Little, audiences were blown away by his performance as the homosexual killer with ruthless intent. Although he was one of the “bad guys,” he was a huge favorite by viewers. It didn’t come as a surprise when Williams was quickly swooped up in other roles after his time on The Wire was concluded. He starred alongside Queen Latifah in the TV film, Bessie, as the singer’s husband, Jack Gee. While most TV films go unseen or under the radar, Williams was hailed for his performance and since it was an HBO film, it was highly promoted. Williams also starred in the HBO series, Boardwalk Empire, as the character, Albert “Chalky” White. Yet again, Williams wowed fans by his portrayal of the bootlegger trying to make his way up the ranks in a time when segregation and prohibition went hand-in-hand. Along with his success in television, Williams made a number of appearances on the big screen. It’s safe to say that Williams will be a cinematic figure for years to come and it is only a matter of time before his next big role has fans talking again.
9. Sonja Sohn
Sonja Sohn portrayed the character, Shakima “Kima” Greggs, in the HBO series, The Wire, for the entirety of the 5 seasons it was on the air. Her character had a number of issues throughout the series that provided insight into the behind-the-scenes drama that can happen outside of the regular detective work. However, Sohn’s character was actually initially intended to be killed off after the first season. It was a female executive at HBO, by the name of Carolyn Strauss, that actually convinced the creator, David Simon, to keep Sohn’s character in the series. Rather than being shot and killed, Simon changed the storyline so that she would survive the shooting after the tenth episode of Season 1. Because Sohn was so engrossed in the true story of the much-needed community activism in Baltimore, she became the founder and CEO of the nonprofit organization, ReWired For Change. She currently works to empower at-risk youths and devotes her time in bringing about change in the Baltimore community.
8. Lance Reddick
Lance Reddick is an actor that has had a long history of credits both on the small screen and in film, long before he portrayed Cedric Daniels in The Wire. He starred in a number of films as supporting characters but seemed to find his wheelhouse in crime-based dramas on television. From New York Undercover to The West Wing to Oz, Reddick has an authoritative presence that made him the perfect candidate to play a police officer or captain. While he starred in a few episodes of the Law & Order TV series, it was his role on The Wire that really put him in the spotlight. After his time on the series concluded in 2008, he continued to find work in various television shows. Immediately following The Wire, Reddick made appearances on Lost and then held a recurring role as Phillip Broyles in the hit series, Fringe. Each year has been a successful one for Reddick but 2014 really allowed him to shine. Getting roles on The Blacklist, Intelligence, American Horror Story: Coven, and Bosch, Reddick is an actor that seems to be in every hit series on television. He continues to get substantial roles and it’s only a matter of time before audiences will see him again in one of their favorite shows.
7. Deirdre Lovejoy
Deirdre Lovejoy played the role of Rhonda Pearlman, the Assistant State’s Attorney on The Wire. Many viewers actually rooted for her to finally find love on the series, despite her hardened exterior. Based on how well she acted in a criminal drama, Lovejoy was able to land a number of similar roles after The Wire concluded. Although she had a few small roles in films, the majority of her acting success was in criminal dramas like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Criminal Intent, Criminal Minds, Body of Proof, as well as Bones. She turned to Broadway in 2013 and starred alongside Tom Hanks in the play, Lucky Guy. She landed a recurring role as Detective Linda Cutter in American Gothic in 2016. While she hasn’t exactly made a name for herself as a lead actress in film or television, she’s maintained steady work to the point where she’s far from being a forgotten actress in Hollywood.
6. Domenick Lombardozzi
Domenick Lombardozzi portrayed the character, Thomas “Herc” Haulk, in The Wire and did a great job at portraying the corrupt side of the police department. While his partner was evolving into more of a do-gooder in the police force, Herc was starting to go further and further down the rabbit hole of criminal activity. He obviously played this role well since his subsequent roles all seemed to steer more towards the criminal side rather than his former police detective role. He starred as the bad influence friend on Entourage and audiences secretly wished he would clean up his act in order to stay part of the group. Lombardozzi has thrived in his ability to change up his character’s moral compass. He had more of a starring role in the A&E drama, Breakout Kings, but sadly it was canceled after just two seasons. In the meantime, he’s starred in a few supporting roles both in film and the small screen. Only time will tell what his next big role will be but audiences are hoping he’ll play another “bad guy” since he does it so well.
5. Felicia Pearson
In a series about the troubled areas of Baltimore, it would only stand to reason that showrunners would want to be as accurate as possible in choosing scenes for the storyline and characters for the series. This was never made clearer than when they cast Felicia Pearson. She was born and raised in Baltimore and was addicted to crack at birth with two drug addicts for parents. She even spent time in jail for second degree murder. While other cast members were only playing a part, she was acting out scenes that she was undoubtedly already familiar with. After her time on the series concluded, she landed a role in the Spike Lee drama, Chi-Raq, and had a small part in the TV series, Blue Bloods. When Anthony Bourdain wanted to get a real-life experience on his show, No Reservations, he actually included Pearson. When she was seen as just herself and not her Snoop character, it was difficult for audiences to see much of a difference (besides the whole lack of killing thing).
4. Seth Gilliam
Seth Gilliam was one of the stars of The Wire that lasted through the entire series as the character, Ellis Carver. Unlike the other police officers on the series that became disenchanted with the work of upholding the law, Carver seemed to become more and more determined to protect and serve as the series progressed. Once the series came to an end after five seasons, Gilliam focused his attention on stage performances and acted in a number of Shakespearean roles. Yet, he returned to TV when he was cast as the character, Father Gabriel Stokes, in Season 5 of The Walking Dead in 2014. While his character was met with some criticism by fans, the biggest criticism was in regard to his behavior off-camera. In 2015, Gilliam was pulled over and ultimately arrested for a DUI, marijuana possession and traveling at speeds of over 100 miles per hour in a 55-mph zone. Gilliam admitted to drinking when the officer asked whether or not he was under the influence and his blood alcohol level registered at .107. This wasn’t exactly what audiences would expect from someone who played an officer of the law for 5 seasons, or someone who plays a priest for that matter.
3. Jamie Hector
While other actors from The Wire could be instantly pegged by their character portrayals, Jamie Hector had the unique ability of being able to convey a persona of seriousness without really being seen as a gangster type. The complexity of the character could be seen when he was helping out some of the younger “soldiers,” which made him even more likable to viewers. After his time on the series was concluded, he actually starred as a police detective in the TV drama, Bosch. This further proved that Hector had the ability to portray seriousness in whatever role he took on. He’s starred in Season 3 of Heroes, an all but forgotten TV film and a small role working alongside Kerry Washington in the film, Night Catches Us. However, it seems that his biggest achievement has been through his philanthropic work. With his Haitian descent, Hector took a big role in raising funds after the horrific earthquake in Haiti in 2010. While there hasn’t been much talk about Hector in recent years, there is still a chance for him to make his mark in the entertainment industry.
2. Wendell Pierce
Wendell Pierce portrayed the role of Bunk Moreland in The Wire but fans had already been familiar with his work from previous roles both in television and on the big screen. He had starred in a number of memorable films like Waiting To Exhale and The Devil’s Advocate, but seemed to have more success on the small screen. After his time on The Wire, he starred in a number of other television shows with smaller roles. As a native to New Orleans, Pierce had a large role in trying to bring attention to the horrific aftermath during Hurricane Katrina. It shouldn’t surprise fans that he would be involved in the series, Treme, since not only did it bring attention to the New Orleans area but also to the importance of performing arts. He currently has a recurring role on the TV remake, The Odd Couple, and has gained a large fan base for his comedic character of Teddy as a regular cast member.
1. Dominic West
Long before True Detective showed fans the darker side of being a detective in a police force, Dominic West was giving some insight into the behind-the-scenes shenanigans as the Jimmy McNulty character on The Wire. Audiences rooted for him to find love, find the “bad guy” and ultimately, find himself. Proving that he could hold his own as a major heartthrob on the small screen, West was cast in a number of other television series. Much of his work after The Wire was across the pond and was virtually unseen by American audiences. Yet, this all changed once he was cast in the hit drama, The Affair. Portraying Noah Solloway, fans are left wondering what the true story is behind the love affair in the series. Yet, it doesn’t seem to deter viewers when it looks like his version of the events weren’t exactly portrayed the way it was in his head.