AHHA: He killed—he set up D’Angelo’s murder in prison. Jamie: Yeah, he set up one of his own to be murdered. I mean, he was grimy. On the streets if you really look at—let’s take away the name Stringer Bell and let’s just put the name of some wild dude on the streets with some slashes on his face, looking busted. And it’s just like, you look at the dude and say, “This dude is grimy, I don’t even want this dude next to me, this dude is wrong, he’s dead wrong.” Then you wouldn’t mind him going.
But people learned to love Stringer Bell on screen, [including] myself because I was looking at him like, yo this dude is a businessman, he’s about his business, he’s gonna go far. But the streets are watching and they’re talking. AHHA: How do you feel about the progression of the show from the first season to the third season as far as how the focus shifted back and forth from the streets to the docks and also politics? Jamie: The progression of the show shows that people take a personal interest in what they’re doing with the show—the writing, the artwork, everything. And the progression shows that the people that are actually behind the scenes are very much so behind the scenes, like, “I’m not gonna Hollywoodize this.” This is what it’s gonna be and this is what it is. They’re sneaking in drugs—people from the docks, let it be known.
Everyone wants to know where guns come from and how come they end up in the hood. There’s a high demand for guns in the hood, and people supply it. There are no gun shops in the hood, but we get guns. So now, somebody’s gotta tell that story. Where is it coming from, how is it getting here. So from the first season, yeah okay, you see it. But the second season a lot of people who couldn’t get with it now saw where it came from. AHHA: Right. After Avon goes to jail in the last episode we saw, Marlo sends his boys back on the streets to deal drugs. These were the kids who Cutty was training to get into boxing and off the streets. So one of the few criticisms of the show is the negative portrayals and the destructive influence it might have on kids. How do you respond to those remarks? Jamie: I mean, have you ever seen a block that’s just beautiful, with trees, the Block Association? Everything is great. But as soon as you turn the corner, it’s popping, it’s still going down. There’s still hustling on the corner. There’s still a lot that’s going on on the corner. And if you think your kid is not gonna be affected by that, then you’re wrong.
So what do I think about [the negativity]? I think that it says the truth. And if you don’t want to see that as being the truth, as what is going on right now at this moment, also in Baltimore, then you’re one of those people that probably want to stay on the block and think that your kid is gonna walk to the corner and not get affected by [what’s] real. You just gotta figure out how to deal with it however you want to deal with it. AHHA: What positive lesson do you think people can take away from The Wire despite all the negativity? Jamie: That they can actually come out there and make a difference. Because politics, sugarcoat it as you may, it can be grimy. On the streets, it can get grimy. The positive message that I would get out of The Wire is understanding that these people exist, and [learning] about politics and education.
Now [in the fourth season] it’s going to be about education, but once you understand that on the streets and in the police station, this is what’s going on — everybody knows they’re grimy, but people don’t want to believe it. The thing about the good also, you got those like the Major, who’s trying to make a difference and he gets slapped in the face. AHHA: Yeah, you learn a lot about systems. Jamie: Systems, exactly. Thanks for the word. You learn a lot about systems. And you learn that everything is not all peaches and cream like [some] people portray it to be. But at the same time, you gotta work with what you got. My thing is, don’t argue about what you can change. AHHA: With this book signing you just participated in and the recent criminal justice forum you were in, can you talk about the importance of these types of discussions? Jamie: When you’ve got celebrity status, you gotta know how to channel it and decide exactly who you’re gonna affect. I mean, if you’re on the front page, you’re gonna affect a lot of people reading the front page. If you’re on stage and you’re rhyming, people are watching. If you’re on TV, people are watching. If you’re hood shining, people are watching — if you’re just on the block, if you’re not even a celebrity.
The importance of [the forums] is just to let people know this is what you can do, you can do it. Because I’m from the block. Puff [Sean Combs] is from the block, Jay [Z] is from the block, Nas is from the block. You can actually do it. It’s very possible. It’s hard work, persistence, focus and drive – and God first over all of this. AHHA: And as far as the after-school program, some of your students have gone on to acting. How do you feel when you see them take such positive directions? Jamie: It makes me feel great, because a lot of people are just happy when they touch one life. I can say I touched three. God is good. It’s not easy because they have a lot of influences around them. I mean, one of my little ones was in his building and saw this dude fly off—get thrown off probably. So this is what he sees. And in seeing that, he still goes to school and gets busy. It makes me feel great. AHHA: Where does your interest in helping the youth come from? I heard you mention your parents. Jamie: Yeah. I mean, it’s funny because working with the kids I notice that you really get the truth from them. You come in with a crooked hat on, they’re gonna let you know, or if your hair’s not done or whatever the case may be. But the truth comes out of the kids. And I noticed that if I want to really stay in my craft then I need to work with them, so I volunteer my time.
A lot of them are just falling through the cracks and a lot of people are not acknowledging them. And the talent that they have is extraordinary, so I might as well spread some love, spend some time. I used to volunteer my time at P.S. 398 in Brooklyn as well as other junior high schools in the area. AHHA: What main advice would you give young kids who want to get into acting? Jamie: Read a lot. Read a lot and read loud. Express yourself, and travel the world through literature. Because when you get older you’re really gonna travel the world. At least when you go, you’re gonna know where you’re going. But just read; don’t stick yourself in just one type of book. Read Perfume by Susan Irvine, Malcolm X. Read Maths In The Mind. Read different books and explore, and travel. I’m from BK, but it’s not only BK and I’ve learned that. You can get up out of there and come back. You can get out of Marcy, you can get off Church Ave. and Utica Ave. and come back and give back. You got to. It’s a must.
So the advice I’d give [kids] is to read and master their craft. And whatever they want to do, surround themselves around the people who are doing it. If you wanna be an actor, ball player, whatever you wanna do, surround yourself around the people that’s doing it. Because if you don’t, you’re not gonna get better. AHHA: I hear you’ve got a movie coming out. Can you talk about your upcoming role? Jamie: I have this film that’s coming out pretty soon, directed by Harry Davis, with Wood Harris and N’Bushe Wright. It’s called MVP. AHHA: Is that coming this summer? Jamie: Yeah, it’s supposed to be coming out this summer. It’s a film that’s basically around Wood Harris, who’s a lawyer. And I’m the x-factor, I’m the problem. He’s trying to defend a friend of mine, and just like on The Wire, just like on the streets, I’m grimy and turn against friends.
Your enemies can’t get too close to you, and that’s what this movie shows also—your friends can’t. So you gotta choose your friends wisely – because if you choose the wrong one, they may want to get at you.