Any time is a good time to revisit the brilliance of HBO’s critically-acclaimed drama The Wire, but this week is especially good due to the fact that the series has been given an HD upgrade and for the first time ever is available to own on Digital HD.
To celebrate the occasion, Playboy was lucky enough to speak with beloved cast member Wendell Pierce, aka Det. William “Bunk” Moreland — currently on the big screen in Selma — about the benefits of being forever known as Bunk (Hint: free drinks), the not-so-hidden first season nods to The Wild Bunch and how a night spent in jail the day before his audition for the show won him the role.
What do you think is your best feature in HD?
[Laughs.] My bedroom eyes.
How about your co-stars?
Michael K. Williams will be more menacing, scary Omar, and beautiful Sonja Sohn will be even more beautiful. And the great city of Baltimore which is a prominent character in the show, as fluctuating as the urban landscape can be in Baltimore, it’s a really wonderful place and I think HD will bring that out, and the work of the directors you see even more, what they created. There are so many iconic shots and memories people have, “What’s that noise?” “It’s just the crickets.” When he’s standing in front of the empty houses and “Oh, fuck me,” when I realize there could be a dead body in each one, and then there are all those iconic camera shots.
When people approach you, what comment or quote do you get most?
After screaming “Bunk!” people want to buy me a drink and then the quote is, “A man has to have a code.” Everyone always associates that with Omar because I’m speaking about Omar but Bunk actually said it after Omar explains to him what his ideology is. So I get that the most and “I am a strictly suit-and-tie motherfucker.” And then the classic is, “I’m just a humble motherfucker with a big-ass dick.”
Do you ever just stumble upon Wire episodes and just stop to watch?
Oh, I have stopped to watch. First of all, we had so few scenes with the criminal [characters] and vice versa, what happens is I’m such a fan of the show and the work that Wood Harris and Idris Elba were doing as friends who ultimately are adversaries. And the work that all those kids did in season four, which is my favorite. Also, the scene in front of the crime scene [in the first season] where we only use the “F” word. And my scene with Omar, about criminalizing the neighborhood and why we become police officers, that scene epitomizes that when he tells him, “We’re both from here, why would you destroy the community? No more bodies.” And how there’s a thin veil between two men from the same community: one chooses to destroy the community and the other is trying to stop it. That scene is so memorable. The great thing about the re-release in HD is you’ll see something new and discover something new between the characters and the storylines. Everytime I see it I catch something new. That scene with Omar, when they have that first confrontation, it is so similar to The Wild Bunch. I’ll give you a little trivia, in the first season there is a line in almost every episode that is an homage to The Wild Bunch, one of David [Simon’s] favorite films. I’ll give away one, in the last episode of the first season, “Kiss my butt, you cat sister’s ass” — that’s almost an exact quote from The Wild Bunch.
What was your first encounter with Playboy?
My first encounter with Playboy was with a friend who stole his dad’s Playboy and we sat under a tree to check it out. I must’ve been about 12 and we were able to keep it a secret.
What movie scared you most as a kid?
2001: A Space Odyssey. I snuck into the theater and you know, it was an adult movie, it was my first adult movie and it was so out there, I was like, “Oh my god, I don’t want to grow up! This is blowing my mind, man! Oh my God, I don’t want to be an adult!”
What’s your pop-culture blind spot?
Lyrics. I love songs, I love music and classics, but I cannot learn lyrics, that is my blind spot. So I just make them up. The Temptations, [starts singing] “My girl, talking ‘bout my worrrld.” [Laughs.] I just make them up.
Let’s pretend you’re on death row: What’s your last meal?
That’s tough. Being from New Orleans, small cup of gumbo, I would have smothered okra with shrimp and creole tomatoes, nice vegetable and Creole dish which is my favorite that my mother used to make and then I would have duck confit. A wonderful glass of Chateaux Lafite and dessert; my favorite is key lime pie.
What was your first car?
An Acura Integra.
What was the first song you knew all the words to?
Well, I don’t remember lyrics but I think the one I got closest to was “Reasons” by Earth, Wind & Fire.
What’s your favorite mistake?
I had a run-in with a cab driver who wouldn’t take me to a particular place. I got out the car, he got out, swung at me and we got into a fight. I was in the pokey overnight and got out the next day and had this audition. I don’t know if it was exactly that day but very shortly after this happened, after spending the night in jail and this altercation with this cab driver — whose cab I shouldn’t have even gotten into — I went to this audition and couldn’t hold back from telling them the story about how I had spent the night in jail because of this stupid ass cab driver, and I went on and on and on before I left the room. Months later, David Simon said, “You remember when you told that story? That’s when you got the role of Bunk.” It was my audition for The Wire.
Wow. That is a pretty fantastic accident.
It was. That will be the first line of my obituary: “Wendell Pierce, he played Bunk on the iconic show The Wire, passed away at the age of 110.” [Laughs]