John C. Reilly almost played the part of Detective Jimmy McNulty in ‘The Wire’

Wire creator David Simon thought Reilly could bring something different

Actor John C. Reilly almost bagged the part of Detective Jimmy McNulty on The Wire.

It was eventually given to British actor Dominic West but in a new excerpt from Jonathan Abrams’s oral history of the series, ‘All The Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire,’ it’s been revealed that Reilly was seriously considered for the role.

In the excerpt, via GQ, The Wire creator David Simon says he ‘thought John C. Reilly could be a different McNulty.’


“Certainly not the same, but I thought he could carry all of the excesses and vices of McNulty in a different way. I’ve loved his work in a lot of stuff. I was on the phone with him. It was three weeks before Halloween [2001], because I was in a corn maze with my kid, Ethan, who would have been like seven, six.

“So, I’m trying to keep up with my kid, who’s running around like a madman in this maze, and that’s when John C. Reilly called me back. I really couldn’t take the call. I talked to him for maybe five minutes, and I said, “Hey, listen, can I call you back? I’m in a corn maze with my kid.” And he said, “Yeah, yeah. Call me back.” In the time between when he called me and when I called him back, he stopped taking calls. He later told Dom [West, who got the role] that his wife was like, “We are not moving to Baltimore.”

“Later on, Dom was working with him on Chicago and they’re looking at each other. They’re so different, and Dom’s like, “What were they going for?”

“That’s kind of how casting is sometimes,” Simon added. “You go in one direction. You find out you’re on the wrong track or circumstance thwarts you, and you end up going in a different direction.”

Meanwhile, Michael K. Williams, who played Omar Little in The Wire, is gearing up to star in Star Wars‘ forthcoming Han Solo spin-off movie.