Wendell Pierce has said that he still feels “proud” of how The Wire depicted the police force in America, twelve years after the show ended.
Speaking to NME in a new interview, Pierce – who played Detective William ‘Bunk’ Moreland in the critically adored HBO TV series – was asked what he felt the show had got right or wrong about its portrayal of institutional racism, particularly in light of recent worldwide protests supporting Black Lives Matter and focus on how other police shows present those issues.
“I think it got most of it right,” he said. “Someone was talking about that and challenging The Wire on social media and I said, ‘If you thought The Wire was glorification of policing in America you missed the point, because it was quite the opposite.’
“It was the loss of a true north, of a moral fibre that should be part of policing. We were the canary in the mine when it comes to the dysfunction of American government, and policing, and how it was so destructive of the community.”
The actor added that he felt the message was explicit throughout the show. “We were screaming from the mountaintops that this whole idea of the war on drugs is really just a racist machine for mass incarceration, which is to reproduce a slavery system, where in America you have an incarcerated workforce for corporations to pay no money and reap benefit from,” he said. “And that is something that I’m proud of when it comes to The Wire.
“I think now in this racial reckoning, and this cry for police reform, it is so profound that people are going back now and watching The Wire with a new eye to understand.”
Pierce also discussed his latest project, Chinonye Chukwu’s hard-hitting drama Clemency, in which he plays the husband of a prison warden whose job of presiding over death row executions has taken its toll.
In a four-star review of Clemency, NME said: “It’s a shame that, even after performing well at last year’s film festivals, Clemency was largely ignored in America when it was released at Christmas – and Woodard and Chukwu both failed to make the list of Oscar nominees.
“Nonetheless, this is a tour de force which will make you want to sit up and pay attention.”