Wendell Edward Pierce (born December 8, 1966) is an American actor, best known for his work in HBO dramas, including his portrayals of Detective Bunk Moreland in The Wire, trombonist Antoine Batiste in Treme and "Michael Davenport" in Waiting to Exhale.
Early life & education:
Pierce was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was one of three sons born to a teacher and a decorated World War II veteran who worked as a maintenance engineer. His father's segregated Army unit helped U.S. Marines win the Battle of Saipan in 1944. Pierce said of his father's experience:
"When the country wasn't loving my father, my father was loving his country. It's the ultimate act of patriotism."
Pierce was raised in the black middle-class community of Pontchartrain Park. It was the first African-American post-war suburb. His father, along with many black veterans, bought into the neighborhood after returning home from the war. The neighborhood was wiped out during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, including Pierce's family home, which was flooded with 14 feet of water.
After first attending Benjamin Franklin High School, Pierce graduated from the New Orleans Centre for Creative Arts (along with Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Harry Connick Jr., and Lolis Eric Elie) where he was a Presidential Scholar of the Arts. As a young actor, Pierce appeared in The Winter's Tale at the Tulane Shakespeare Festival. He produced and hosted "Think About It," a youth themed talk show, for the local NBC affiliate station, and also hosted a weekly jazz show on WYLD-FM RADIO called "Extensions from Congo Square."
He then attended the Juilliard School's Drama Division (Group 14: 1981-1985) where he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.
Pierce has been in over 30 films, appeared in nearly 50 television shows and has performed in dozens of stage productions. Including his noted work on HBO dramas, The Wire and Treme, Pierce has worked with directors like Spike Lee and Taylor Hackford and starred alongside actors such as Brad Pitt, Nicolas Cage and Tom Hanks. He has also been in more commercially successful films such as The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 in which he played "J. Jenks." He has been sought out for his voice over work on projects like NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2013."
For his role in "Treme," Pierce learned to play the trombone, though relies on "sound double," Stafford Agee, of the Rebirth Brass Band. Agee actually records the music, while Pierce shadows the sound.
Pierce's work has been critically acclaimed and recognized with several award nominations including an Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead for his portrayal of "Joe," in the film, Four, in which he plays a married, closeted gay man who steps out on his family with a young white man he met online, on the night of the Fourth of July. The film will be released on September 13, 2013, around the same time that The Michael J. Fox Show debuts on NBC, in which Pierce plays Michael J. Fox's boss, "Harris Green."
The Money Pit
Casualties of War
Brian De Palma
with Sean Penn and Michael J. Fox
with Sean Connery and Dustin Hoffman
A Matter of Degrees
A Rage in Harlem
with Forest Whitaker and Danny Glover
with Denzel Washington
Manhattan Murder Mystery
It Could Happen to You
with Nicolas Cage
Bye Bye Love
with Rob Reiner
Agent Dick Gill
with Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller
Waiting to Exhale
with Lela Rochon
Get on the Bus
with Brad Pitt, Jason Patric and Robert De Niro
with Don Cheadle and Halle Berry
The 24 Hour Woman
with Rosie Perez, Melissa Leo and Chris Cooper
Shadows of the Past (aka Abilene)
Joe Camp III
with Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan
The Fighting Temptations
A Hole in One
with Michelle Williams
Land of Plenty
with Michelle Williams
with Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington
William Brent Bell
with Adam Goldberg, produced by McG
I Think I Love My Wife
with Kerry Washington
Night Catches Us
with Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington
with Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci
Gareth Maxwell Roberts
with Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Spacey
Lay the Favorite
Dave the Rave
with Bruce Willis and Catherine Zeta-Jones
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2
with Kristen Stewart
with Jason Statham
with Jean Dujardin and Tim Roth
Independent Spirit Award Nomination
Vietnam War Story
A Man Called Hawk
"Never My Love"
with Angela Bassett
""The Last Campaign", "Starfire"
General Motors Playwrights Theater
"Avenue Z Afternoon"
The 10 Million Dollar Getaway
Parnell "Stacks" Edwards
I'll Fly Away
Law & Order
Chief Ola-Gimju Nwaka
"I Don't Do Cuddles"
TV Movie, Directed by Forest Whitaker
Law & Order
New York News
"The Using Game"
New York Undercover
Dr. Anthony Fisher
Never Give Up: The Jimmy V Story
DA Calvin Patterson
The Advocate's Devil
The Gregory Hines Show
Law & Order
The Brian Benben Show
Kevin La Rue
God, the Devil and Bob
"In the Beginning", "Date from Hell"
Officer Conrad 'Candyman' Jones
City of Angels
My Wife and Kids
The Weber Show/Cursed
Show name change in middle of season
"Childs in Charge"
"Sins of the Father"
Law & Order
Law & Order: Trial by Jury
Dr. Richard Link
"The Line", "Eros in the Upper Eighties"
Close to Home
TV Movie, with Queen Latifah, NAACP Image Award Win
The Wire: The Chronicles
Det. William 'Bunk' Moreland
"2000: Bunk and McNulty"
Det. William 'Bunk' Moreland
2 NAACP Image Awards Nominations
Women's Murder Club
In Plain Sight
Dr. Warren McBride/Warren Morris
"It Doesn't Live Here Anymore"
House of Payne
"The Last Supper", "We've Come this Far by Faith: Part 2"
"Something with Bite"
Drop Dead Diva
Tim & Eric Awesome Show
The Michael J. Fox Show
Pierce has been in numerous stage productions. He was lauded for his performance as Holt Fay in Queenie at the John F. Kennedy Center. He has performed on Broadway in staged productions of The Piano Lesson, Serious Money and The Boys of Winter. He has performed off Broadway in The Cherry Orchard (for which he was nominated for a VIV Award for Lead Actor, Waiting for Godot (which was set on a New Orleans rooftop post-Hurricane Katrina, and Broke-ology, performed at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
Other performances include Cymbeline (at The Public Theater), The Good Times Are Killing Me, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Tis Pity She's a Whore and Ms. Ever's Boys performed at the ACT Theatre.
Pierce is also a theater producer, having produced the Broadway show, Clybourne Park. The show was nominated for four Tony Awards. It went on to win the Tony Award for Best Play in 2012.
In 2009, Pierce became the host of the nationally syndicated, Peabody Award-winning radio program, Jazz at Lincoln Center, which features live recordings from Jazz at Lincoln Center's House of Swing.
Business & Philanthropy:
Pierce considers himself a "true capitalist" and a "classic entrepreneur." In 2013, Fast Company named Pierce one of the "100 Most Creative People in Business."
Pontchartrain Park Community Development Corp.:
Pierce started the non-profit, Pontchartrain Park Community Development Corp., to build new affordable solar and geothermal homes in the area for families displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
Inspired in part by Michelle Obama's initiative to bring more supermarkets to "food deserts" - where residents lack easy access to fresh produce - Pierce, along with 2 partners (childhood friend, Troy Henry, and James Hatchett), started a chain of grocery stores, Sterling Farms, in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans in 2012. Sterling Farms also has a convenience store division called "Sterling Express." The stores are named after Sterling Henry, his business partner's father who ran a pharmacy for about 40 years at the Lower 9th Ward. Sterling Farms opened its first store, a 30,000-square-foot supermarket, in Marreo, LA.
Pierce is "tri-coastal," splitting his time between L.A., New York and New Orleans. New Orleans locals nicknamed him "Saint Wendell." His favorite sports team is the New Orleans Saints.
Pierce is politically active. He attended the 2012 Democratic National Convention, was one of President Barack Obama's top campaign fundraisers in 2012 (along with Harvey Weinstein and Eva Longoria), and once escorted Gwen Ifil to a White House State Dinner.
When first cast in The Wire, Pierce and his cast mates doubted the show would be a hit:
"I remember the first time we all sat around and watched the pilot. We all turned to each other and said, 'Man, I don't think this s--- is going anywhere.'"