Julito McCullum has firmly made his run for greatness and The Wire is his race track. The 16-year-old actor has more performance credits than he’s got years in school, including Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and the Oprah-approved movie Akeelah and the Bee.
On The Wire, Julito plays Namond Brice, son of the murderous Wee-Bey of Avon Barksdale’s crew, and realizes that he simply isn’t built for the bloody shoes of his father. Julito is a different sort of teen than his Baltimore counterpart. He’s a regular student, enjoys dancing and even hopes to explore the art of rapping. With The Wire, the Brooklyn native exemplified the viscous cycle that permeates the Black community. In real life, he shatters the cycle and defies convention like he was rebelling against Namond’s abusive mother.
AllHipHop.com: So tell me how you got into acting. I did some research and you have a nice lil resume.
Julito McCullum: Its funny because when I started I wasnt actually I an actor I was a dancer.
AllHipHop.com: What kind of dance?
Julito: Hip-Hop. I was like the first-I was like the only Black kid that was doin it with 30 and 40 yr olds when I was like 10, 11. It was crazy. And thats another thing. I couldnt really get jobs like that because they wouldnt want to pay me for me and my mom and living expenses and things like that for tours. So me and my mom, we thought about it and we were like, were not going to get as far as we want to be doing the dancing thing so I needed a new grind. So my mom, who knew a couple of people in the industry, got us connected to our manager and the day after we went into an interview with them we went out on auditions.
AllHipHop.com: So lets talk about The Wire-
Julito: Its crazy! Lemme just tell you. Before I even got in The Wire, me and my mother used to always say this is our favorite show. Not knowing that they were gonna make a role for a kid two years later. We used to always be like, “Yo, The Wire is hot!” You know, before you actually blow up you have to do all these lil’ surveys [with questions] like, whats your favorite show? And we wrote The Wire. Then we used to always pray that they would [cast] kids on the show. Its crazy, the day before my agent called and said you have and audition for The Wire, we thought it was a role as an extra. They were like, “Nah, they have principle [speaking roles] this year for the kids.” Crazy. [His mother whispers something inaudible] Ok, Ma. Ok.
AllHipHop.com: Respect ya moms! Shes all you got.
Julitos Mother: I just dont like him to leave out anything. The Wire was big for him because he also helped find the other kids on the show.
AllHipHop.com: Oh, well lets talk about that. When you went in to audition did you originally read for Namand?
Julito: Yeah, I read for Namand. And usually you have to go through a couple call backs but soon as I got in there they wanted me and I got it. I was the first kid to get before all the other kids got it so they used me and made me help them cast to see who else was gonna get each part. Cause like, the other kids they read for like Dukie, and some of them read for my part until I got it. They were going back and forth with them. But soon as I went in there they were like, “This is Namand. We want him. Thats it. Shut it down.
AllHipHop.com: So being on a show with a bunch of kids, how is the energy on set between the adults and you all?
Julito: Being on The Wire, its crazy, were like a family. We worked together for nine whole months so its like. We all grew together. There were never no egos colliding or nothing like that. It was funny because I thought it would be since the other guys had been there since season one and we kinda comin in and taking their shine. But it was never like that. They helped us anytime we needed help. We always would chill outside of The Wire. Still to this day Ill see Jamie [Hector], who plays Marlo or other guys who werent in this season like Wood [Harris, Avon Barksdale] or Idris [Elba, Stringer Bell], we all cool its all love, its all love.
AllHipHop.com: You shot the show in B-more. Were a lot of the cast from Baltimore?
Julito: Actually its like, the people who have the big roles, none of them are from Baltimore. None of them. But the side people and the extras theyre from B-more. But none of the principle actors are from Baltimore. Except Snoop, she of course is from Baltimore and Prop Joe. And Slim Charles. Hes not from Baltimore but hes from DC. Its like, if youre not from B-More youre from DC and if youre not from DC youre from VA and if not [from VA], they went straight to New York. They got a lotta Brooklyn people in the show.
AllHipHop.com: Where are you from?
Julito: Brooklyn. Im from Canarcie [Brooklyn]. I moved to Flatbush for five years and now I live back in Canarcie.
AllHipHop.com: What would you say is the importance of the creators of The Wire switching it up and adding kids to the plot this season?
Julito: The importance was to get the teenage viewers. Because right now, if youve got the teenage viewers then youve got it all. Because kids are like, the main people out right now thats watching TV. They say that just putting kids in the show made this the best season yet. So its like it was a big move to have kids as the main focus. Like now, Im walking down the street and some kids were like, Oh My God – thats Namand, thats Namand. And then I walked across the street just now and a 40 yr-old Caucasian guy came up to me. So theyre getting a lot of different people watching it.
AllHipHop.com: The show is a really in depth show that deals with some serious issues especially concerning Baltimores reality. As a young man how did you prepare for the role?
Julito: I really didnt have to do no preparing for this because Im from the hood and I go to a regular public school so I see this all the time. But was different was I had to be in Baltimore for about, four or five months before we even started shooting because they needed me out there to help them cast the other kids. But I did kind of like watch the kids and see how they act because you know, a Baltimore hood is very different from a Brooklyn hood. So I would watch and observe. But as soon as we got it rolling everything came natural.
AllHipHop.com: Namand was a very serious role for an actor. You had to really step your acting chops up!
Julito: I think a lot of people thought I was just going to play the regular average hood kid, but there was more the character. They just had to wait and see. I mean I had to be crying and all of this stuff like getting beat up all the time. It was kinda hard, but I did it. I mean I definitely felt like I had to step it up because it was a nationwide show with 13 episodes and everybody loves The Wire . So everybody is gonna watch The Wire so I was like, you know, you have to definitely step it up. But the [character] shows my versatility because Im crying. It shows I can be soft. It shows I can be loving. So its different from all my other roles ’cause usually Im just hard, straight up. Then I come to this role and it shows that he [Namand] does have a heart and that hes a kid inside hes not just no hood guy.
AllHipHop.com: So how is Namand compared to Julito?
Julito: Were different. I mean, were similar because we both live in the hood and we both have a very strict mother.
AllHipHop.com: You think Namand has a strict mother?
Julito: Yeah, his mother is strict! Just the wrong kind of way. But me and Namand are different because Im not that crazy in school. I dont act up. And when you meet me Im not out there like that. Like Namand you could just see him and youre like, Oh thats Namand. Hes loud and Im not like that. Im very laid back and very humble and people meet me and its like, You sure you Namand? And Im like, “Yea, Ima good actor baby!”
AllHipHop.com: So in terms of other things youre doing outside of The Wire is acting your main focus?
Julito: Yes, acting is my main focus. Hands down. Outside of The Wire Im just pretty much out there promoting myself and putting my face out there. Because right now when people see me they know me as Namand from The Wire they dont know me as Julito. Im working on getting people to say thats Julito. Theres a role Im tryin to get [in a film] called, Live to Tell. Tupac wrote it and I feel like if I get that role Ill break that wall down. Im definitely going to show that I can hold something by myself. I dont need a whole cast to support. Im also tryin to get started on my music career.
AllHipHop.com: You rhyme? [Stunned]
Julito: Yeah, something like that.
AllHipHop.com: You’re lucky we aint in front of a track board, because I would definitely throw a beat on and have you spit a 16!
Julito: Thats easy for me! But Im definitely getting started on my music career. Im trying to hit that. Im tryin to hit everything, all these aspects of everything. Im also the spokesperson for The Apollo Theater right now so Im going around to all the different schools and giving them inspirational talks.
AllHipHop.com: What do you tell the kids is them most important thing they need to know?
Julito: Stay in school and listen to your parents. Thats it mainly. Me, I aint even gonna lie. How I got this far was from listening to my mom. My mother would tell me something and I would be like, “Nah I dont think thats gonna be hot.” But then Ill do it and it pops. But Im also telling them to just stay focused because right now in the world we live in, if you dont stay focused and you fall prey to people peer pressuring, you to do things thats negative, youll get messed up.
AllHipHop.com: So you said that the teenagers are who everybody should be focusing on right now and you yourself are a teenager. So music wise who are you feeling?
Julito: Ima Hov [Jay-Z] fanatic. Of course Im from Brooklyn, so Im a Hov fanatic. I mean, Hov is my favorite, but I also love Kanye West. Im loving Jim Jones. Im loving Jadakiss. Im loving the whole Hip-Hop right now because they say Hip-Hop is dead, but I dont think so. Hip-Hop is growing and I think it needs a lil’ help. It just needs lil’ boost.
AllHipHop.com: Well how will you help with your music? What are you gonna bring to the table?
Julito: Ima bring that fun music. You know that when you hear it you aint stressed out, you dont wanna cry music. I mean sometimes you gotta give’ em that. But my album is gonna be album a lotta fun.
AllHipHop.com: Who would be your dream collabo?
Julito: Me and Hov.
AllHipHop.com: Julito and Hovito?
Julito: Ooooh thats nice! Thats the name of the song. If me and Hov could do something together itd be crazy.
AllHipHop.com: So where do yourself in five years.
Julito: I see myself getting that big role and moving my mother out the ‘hood. Like I told you people dont know me as Julito yet but they will.