NEW YORK — Castmembers of the critically lauded HBO series "The Wire" have began what is in essence their farewell tour and victory lap, now that the Baltimore-based show — which has given us memorable characters like "Stringer" Bell, Jimmy McNulty and Marlo Stanfield — began its fifth and final season on Sunday night.
And Baltimore's finest — from series creator/ executive producer David Simon to faces old and new — took to the Chelsea West theaters in Manhattan on Friday night for the premiere of the debut episode of the show's final season, which also features Method Man, who is said to be playing a more prominent role as gangster Melvin "Cheese" Wagstaff.
To say that many were angling for the show to receive its first — some say long-overdue — Emmy would be an understatement. But more than anything, they all seemed to share a bond over the importance of the project they've participated in.
"We know what we have and don't need an award to remind [us] of that, as nice as that may be," said Amy Ryan, whose character, Officer "Beadie" Russell, busted a smuggling operation in the second season. "We're all in the thought that it's the best show on television. That may be very bold to say, but we're a very bold group."
Actors Dominic West (Detective McNulty), Lance Reddick (Major Cedric Daniels) and others echoed those sentiments from the red carpet.
"I think ['The Wire'] is going to be remembered as a groundbreaking show that changed the nature of the way you can do a television show," actor Seth Gilliam, who plays Sergeant Ellis Carver, explained. "It'll be remembered as a show that helped the television industry realize that you can take your time to tell a story. You don't have to sensationalize what you have to say. Human truths are more than enough."
The show has consistently been praised for its authenticity and its writing, which is largely drawn from Simon's time as a police reporter for The Baltimore Sun (a fictional version of the paper features in the show this season).
Just as each season before this has focused on a different sector of life in the blighted city, from the police unit to the school system, this season features a look at journalism.
With only the first episode having aired thus far, no actors were open to discussing what may happen to their characters in the end. However, plenty were willing to share their thoughts on scenes past, including Gbenga Akinnagbe, who plays Chris Partlow, a hit man for the chilling gangster Marlo Stanfield.
"This might sound a bit savage, but the beatdown scene [between my character] and Michael's father — that really got a strong response from people," he said. "But because I understood what was behind it [in terms of motivation] and what was going on, I really took a lot from it as an actor; it wasn't just about beating down this man. If you watch it, people begin to see that there was a lot of subtleties that don't go any further than right there. If you get it, you get it: Nothing is spoon-fed."
The show resonated strongly with fans from the very beginning. With criminals and cops, as well as inspirational characters, being portrayed equally, fans had plenty of vantage points to choose from.
Actor Anwan Glover, who plays Slim Charles, explained how his own life at times mirrored a script taken from the series: The Washington, D.C., native said his younger brother was murdered in August. The actor went to the press and pleaded for there to be no retaliation for his brother's killing.
Glover said he received an outpouring of love personally — as did the show — at times from the most unlikely places.
"The hip-hop community embraced us, they loved it — but not only them," Glover said. "I had teachers come up to me, police officers, firemen, politicians, people that bake cookies, teachers, store owners. It's 'The Wire,' and you'll never be able to get that.
"They will make this [show] a class in college," he added. "Believe that."
Jamie Hector, whose dark turn as Marlo Stanfield has made him a favorite, agreed.
"They should make it [a] curriculum [option] because there is going to be something to learn from," he said. "I think you can constantly look at the show and say we can learn from everyday life."