When you think of the average teenager, the first things that come to mind usually dont involve Shakespeare or long term career goals. Jermaine Crawford, known to most of us as Duquan Dukie Weems on HBOs The Wire, is not only a consummate actor hes also a singer, a dancer, a budding producer/writer and a responsible youth spokesman for the American Diabetes Association.
With the fifth and final season of The Wire upon us, AllHipHop.com took a few moments to speak with Jermaine about the new season and where it will go. Being a key character on such a popular show is a big job, but Jermaine is poised and ready for whatever comes his way. Hes making plans for himself, and devising ways to help others in the process.
Of course none of the actors on The Wire want to spill the beans with spoilers – if they tell us, theyd have to kill us as Michael K. Williams (Omar), Jamie Hector (Marlo) and Felicia Pearson (Snoop) all whispered to us in the process of our early 2007 ”Wire Week” - but Jermaine does promise some big surprises.
AllHipHop.com: Youve done Shakespeare, you sing, and youve done other theater acting. How did you get your start, and what prompted you to get into acting in the first place?
Jermaine Crawford: Well pretty much I began acting through singing because I started off in the theater doing musicals, so that pretty much led to acting as well. Ive done a lot of Shakespeare like you said, A Midsummer Nights Dream and a lot of plays around Washington, DC. I just kind of got my start there, then I kind of found a manager. I auditioned for The Wire and I guess my theater skills came in handy. [laughs]
AllHipHop.com: When you auditioned, did you go in with a particular role in mind or did someone bring you in to audition for the role of Dukie?
Jermaine: Well, actually I auditioned for the role of Michael at first, but then they switched it up and said, You know, we want you to try out for the role of Dukie. So then I tried out for that, that was the screen test and they sent that video out to HBO, and I got the call like a week afterwards and I was happy about it. [laughs]
AllHipHop.com: Do you have any particular experiences you draw from playing Dukie? He definitely has had a rough life.
Jermaine: Not necessarily do I have experiences from the background that Dukie has, its more so that when we were filming most people think that The Wire is a set, like its a soundstage. Were really in the streets of Baltimore, so its not necessarily my experiences that are in comparison to Dukies, its just that when youre in the environment you kind of absorb everything thats around you and reflect on whats going on. You just kind of broadcast it from the inside of you.
AllHipHop.com: What have you taken from the people of Baltimore about the story?
Jermaine: Absolutely nothing but love. People just give us such good responses to it [like] Its so realistic, we love it. We get nothing but love from the people of Baltimore and especially the police department. The police department of Baltimore really loves The Wire, so I just wanna give a shout out to Baltimore for showing some love to their hometown show.
AllHipHop.com: [Ed Burns] who [writes for and co-produces] The Wire is an ex-cop, right?
Jermaine: Absolutely, hes an ex-cop and an ex-teacher, so thats where the Mr. Pryzbylewski [a.k.a. Prez] character comes in hand with my character Duquan Weems.
AllHipHop.com: Watching Dukie go through all of the things he went through was really heartbreaking, but thats really the state of a lot of children in America, and we dont get to see that side of poverty or drug abuse. Have you talked to any kids that are in that situation?
Jermaine: Its kind of funny that you said that, because Im actually working and writing a documentary to expose the reality of teenage homelessness in America. Im working on producing that as well, so Im trying to broadcast the reality of homelessness, and I have interacted with some of the kids who are extras on the set and got some feedback. It touched me what they were saying so much to the point where I wanted to stand up and do something about it and expose the reality of it.
AllHipHop.com: Obviously since you started out singing, I would imagine youve got some things in the works or some ideas of a direction you would like to go
Jermaine: Eventually I will begin a singing career.
AllHipHop.com: Do you see yourself doing any particular genre of music?
Jermaine: Im more of a R&B type cat, kind of pop-ish. I love upbeat fast paced music, but then again since my vocals kind of come from the church, so I can slow it down a little bit. My whole genre of music will be a little bit of everything, very eclectic type music. Very weird and eccentric but old school and up to date – its a little bit of everything [that] I plan to bring to America. [laughs]
AllHipHop.com: I think that might be a move for the next Usher [since] you dance too.
Jermaine: Yeah, I do a little bit of everything. I always learn everyday and [dont] reject anything, because it can always be an opportunity. From learning the piano or guitar, theres always an opportunity for me to better myself. So I try to do a little bit of everything in each and every craft so that I can bring it to these people who are out here.
AllHipHop.com: You said you grew up in the church and that you bring the church voice to things. Does your Christianity ever interfere with anything [in your work]?
Jermaine: As far as my Christianity, I truly and honestly believe that God has blessed me with a gift to share with the world and Im going to use the gift that God gave me. But as far as the raunchiness of some of the roles that I undertake, to be honest, the show is a very raunchy show, but my character in particular is not one of the raunchy characters. So I was actually very blessed when I got the opportunity to play Duquan Weems, but I just really feel that God has blessed me with a gift and I just want to share that with the world.
AllHipHop.com: In the previews of this season, Duquan is a little knocked up from bruises on his face and Michael is showing him how to shoot a gun. Obviously theres some toughening up of Duquan thats gonna happen this season. What can people expect to see from the character?
Jermaine: Expect the unexpected. [laughs] With everybodys character, expect the unexpected. If I gave you a hint, you still couldnt even figure it out, so just be prepared for the best and the worst. Expect the unexpected.