Back in Season 1, did you have a sense of the impact that the show would have?
I knew it was something different, knew it was speaking in a different way, and that it was unique in telling a story. David [Simon, series creator] had high expectations to write a show about moral ambiguity, the life and dysfunction of our society. To see all these years later, that there are classrooms around the country examining this in an academic setting, and to know that the men and women in power -- all the way to our president -- is impacted by the work that we did all these years ago is a pretty amazing thing.
As someone who starred in all five seasons, did you have a favorite?
Season 4. The kids. No one has ever examined the dysfunction of our education system better. It's just a true lynchpin of where we lose kids and where we can save kids, that real fork in the road where they have two ways to go. And those kids are truly wonderful actors.
It was also one of the most challenging seasons for me because I almost left the show after it. One of the actors at the wrap party, she was going to Brown University and she was telling me how excited she was to be going to college, how sorry she was that didn't work with me. She played the girl who slices the other one with a razor -- the complete opposite of who this girl was. I thought, "Why aren't we telling your story? Maybe we were part of the problem?" Then the season came out and I saw impact of it and the impact it had on me. I realized, the violence, the dysfunction shed light on the problem and how it is. And I thought, ‘OK, I won't leave.’
What scenes or lines are most memorable to you?
The crime scene where McNulty and I only use the F-word [Season 1, Episode 4 "Old Cases"]. That immediately said this show is different, and it was a great acting exercise.
The scene with Omar on the benches [Season 3, Episode 6 ‘Homecoming’] is probably my favorite scene. Bunk says, "You know this neighborhood, you know what it was. We went to high school together, why are you doing this?" It really tells the story of why black men become officers. They know the small percentage of people who are doing the crime and the small percentage that are causing the problems aren't a reflection of the people that live in the neighborhood and the wonderful community they have. I've met so many African-American policemen who tell me that was their motivation.
The one that breaks my heart is in Season 4 [Episode 12, ‘That's Got His Own’]. It's in the hospital, when Randy, who has been willing to testify, is there because his foster mother is burned in the firebombing of their house. And Randy turns to Sgt. Carver and says, ‘What now?’ And the sergeant has nothing to say and just walks away. It breaks my heart every time.
Do you have a favorite character, other than Bunk?
… I guess it would be Omar. It sounds like a cliché, so many people like Omar. But Michael K. Williams is such the polar opposite of Omar. He's the kindest, gentlest, most loving man I know. He created something that David and the producers knew they could not let go. His humanity is what everyone responds to.
What's the number one things fan say when they greet you?
There are three lines that people always say to me. 1. "The Bunk is strictly a suit and tie mother*cker." 2. ‘Bunk Moreland, I'm just a humble mother*cker with a big ass dick." And 3. "A man has to have a code.’ That one I would say I hear most often.