Being a writer, director, and purely a huge fan of television and films alike, I have many favorite pieces of cinema that I truly love and respect for the true art of it. With this certain prowess, I am also critical about what I see released on television and in movies. In particular, the representation of certain things and norms in motion pictures that are based on the culture miss on correctly reflecting it on what it is “factually” based on.
The amount of culturally accurate depictions of inner-city interactions within the black community in television is scarce. That being said, I believe “The Wire” is one of the most accurate depictions of this culture and trauma in particular, as it is based on a true story in a real world place whilst covering a wide arrange of problems and issues within the community of Baltimore at that time and in the black community in general. It covers these problems through a thorough and vivid story unlike any other, intertwining street beefs with real politics, love stories, and drugs.
“The Wire” covers a multitude of issues and highlights “the hood’s” plight. Closely following the local Baltimore police chase of a notorious drug kingpin named Avon and his associates in high places, we are able to see the many sides of what happens in the drug dealing world. From dealing with corrupt politicians, the impact of love, women and relationships, the middle-school classroom, across the board, it shows how the prevalent drug dealing can negatively affect these institutions and parts of life even though it may not have anything to do with it directly.
“The Wire” is considered by critics to be one of the best shows to air on television “ever” for several reasons. However, when it originally aired, it struggled to find and audience, and was poorly received. It was ahead of its time, and gained recognition over the years as one of the best shows. One of the main reasons, is the very strong acting from a very mixed and diverse cast for its time plus new talent, vetertan talent, and real people that were apart of the real story in life, including dealers, police-man, and other politicians. Idris Elba, Michael B. Jordan, Wood Harris, Dominic West, familiar names at the time, all come together for an ensemble cast.
All of their characters respectively played well, with amazing performances from all of them, with unique acting styles and character arcs for each. The strongest character in my opinion has to be Michael. He was played by Tristin “Mack” Wilds at the age of 15. He represents the most “solid” gangster in the story, who is obligated to provide for his little brother, while in middle school, without the help of his addict mother and sexual abusive father. With this obligation, and the environment around him, comes grave choices he has to make that ultimately change his life for the worse, although initially he was reluctant to become involved in the bad things that were going on right in his face.
His stoic and damning demeanor attracts the main antagonist in the show, Marlo, and he recruits the young soldier to his hit squad. Throughout the show he battles with his moral compass, as he is obligated to make ends meet for his child brother, but he is not completely sold on killing whoever Marlo tells him to with no questions. Eventually, Marlo crosses a line, as they are sent to kill an enemy in their home, with children present. He can’t bring himself to do it, and that decision sets of a domino effect that ends up with him turning and eliminating the main threat his life and loved ones from the beginning.
I was able to catch up with Tristan “Mack” Wilds, who played Michael in “The Wire” and ask him several questions, check out what he said!
1. What does the character you played “Michael” represent to you personally?
a. I believe Michael, just like the other boys, represented the options handed to children who are brought up in the inner-city areas of our country. Sure, there are anomalies who excel in the arts, athletics, fashion, etc. But those opportunities aren’t always afforded us.
2. Are their any changes you would’ve made to your character?
a. Personally, no. The way he was written was damn-near ripped out of the lives of young men and women we see everyday. To add or subtract from it would probably disrupt the symphony David Simon and Ed Burns conducted.
3. At a such young age, how did you get into your role so well? What research did you do to know you were successfully depicting your role?
a. My research came from my surroundings. I grew up between two neighborhoods similar to the ones we depicted in the show, one named Stapleton, and one named Park Hill. In these neighborhoods, there are many young men who are Michael, could’ve been Michael, or know someone like Michael. Their categories can change by the choices they make, turning someone who knows or could’ve been a Michael, into a Michael. So seeing and knowing this at a young age made the depiction shown more intuitive than anything else.
4. At the time, did you realize you were acting in what critics say is one of the best television shows of all time? Or did you have to grow up and then watch it and see in retrospect?
a. Definitely took me some time to understand what I was a part of. At the time I was 15, and the only thing I was excited about was being out of school. But as I grew and rewatched the show, i realized what was being said, and wholeheartedly agree with it.
David Simon created this show with the intention of taking conventional cinema making out of mind. He says “We tore the cover off a city and the American dream was dead.” Culturally, “The Wire” ushered in a new interest and love for African American stories. The Wire at the time it came out wasn’t received well, as most of the audience believed it was just another “cop” show. However, the reason I love it so much, and today it is regarded so highly is due to its groundbreaking, unconventional, raw, but extremely true and accurate story telling, to highlight the dysfunction of the US in many of its established institutions. At the time it was aired, it was a form of protest TV and made its mark forever in television history as one of the best shows of all time.