The long awaited third season of "The Wire" aired on HBO on September 19th to the delight of the show’s loyal following, and AllHipHop.com was able to catch up with a couple of the actors from this exciting streetwise series.
First up is JD Williams, who plays the sometimes quiet but always aware character Bodie. A native of Newark, New Jersey, Williams has appeared in several television shows and music videos over the course of his career, and also had a long-running role on the now defunct HBO Series Oz. His appearances on popular shows like "Sex & The City," "New York Undercover," "The Sopranos," and "Third Watch" along with guest spots in various music videos have made his face easily recognizable. He starred in Christopher Walken’s short film "Popcorn Shrimp," and had a role in the comedy "Pootie Tang," and although his HBO bio states he appeared in "Graffiti Bridge," he assures us that he was not in the film [that was Tevin Campbell, folks].
JD took some time to sit down and speak with AllHipHop.com Alternatives about the connection between "The Wire," the citizens of Baltimore where the show is filmed, and the fans that bring him so much inspiration.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: How much research in Baltimore did you and the other actors do to prep for your roles?
JD: The first year, I got down there like two days before we shot – it was like 12 or 1:00 in the morning. I just threw on a black hoodie and walked around. I went to one of their hoods and watched that night. I learned not to do that no more, I was lucky I made it back that night. That was my little personal thing, because I didn’t want to go onto the set that day like I’m portraying a Baltimore [resident] and I ain’t even been around Baltimore. I think everybody does different things, but the guys who play the cops have to study more police procedure than they do streets. A couple of the new guys you see, they’re from there, so that’s easy for them, but me, Wood [Harris], Idris [Elba], Hassan [Johnson], we’re not from Baltimore.
As the weeks went on, we learned some of the nuances that separated them, but I think initially none of us were really 100% prepared. People have different levels of who they are in Baltimore, so I think all the [actors] did something different [to prepare for their roles].
AHHA: Do you frequent any spots in Baltimore where people will give you more insight about the city?
JD: Yeah. It’s funny ‘cause I work a lot of places, but I still live in my own hometown, and I’m always walking around Newark all the time. I get sort of that hood love, like home love, so when I go [to Baltimore] we shoot there and they see us walking around. We seem so recognizable and familiar to them that it’s almost like the same thing, it’s almost like I get the same feeling. That’s definitely a bonus. We get a lot of support from the locals.
AHHA: How do you feel about Season 2 when the story focused more on the docks and took away from your screen time?
JD: I look at it like… of course the actor side of me wants to be on camera, but as far as being a fan-slash-writer myself, it’s like if you look at it, you see the concept of how they wanted to change it. Overall I’ve heard from the fans that that storyline was kind of slow or bland, but I still think that it proved it’s purpose. It balances out. I don’t mind a little bit less work, we’re going to get paid the same.
AHHA: How much input do you have regarding your character?
JD: It’s usually like on set modifications, I don’t do stuff beforehand. When I was on Oz I used to go a week before and write in pencil what I wanted to change and show it to the script supervisor. On this show it’s kind of like immediate, but usually usually [the crew] lets us get away with something, but if they don’t get it they just don’t get it. Sometimes there’s certain dialogue – they might check up on the police jargon or the medical terms or the law terms, and check with real lawyers and doctors and cops, but when it comes to the slang a lot of the times they just make it up. A lot of times we really gotta correct them on the slang, but other than that [it ’s okay].
AHHA: Do the writers generally make decisions to knock off a major character based on contract situations or something else? For instance, they let the police officer, Kima [played by Sonja Sohn], live, while they killed off D’Angelo [played by Larry Gilliard, Jr] in prison.
JD: Actually, I think [D’Angelo] shouldn’t even have made it to the second year – story wise the character shouldn’t have made it. I think it’s how we affected the audience that dictates how the writer writes it. Certain things gotta stretch out. [Kima] was supposed to be killed earlier last year, but sometimes they just change things. Me personally, that’s the actor in me saying, ‘Yeah, change it for the audience,’ but the writer in me says ‘Stick to the storyline, if somebody’s supposed to go they supposed to go’.
AHHA: It’s been said that some people in Baltimore have tried to emulate the characters on the show. How much affect do you feel "The Wire" has on the city?
JD: I don’t think that we affect Baltimore, I think Baltimore affects us. If they weren’t like that before I came down there, I apologize. My character is wild, but it’s not like he doesn’t think. He tries to be a thinking thug. I think if it really affected them, things would actually be more calm.
AHHA: Does it frustrate you or worry you that you might be typecast?
JD: No, I’m not in a rush. I still look like a little sidekick. If I do end up physically changing then I might be like ‘This is a leading man type of a guy’. I can still see myself ‘next to the man’. I don’t feel bothered at all. I see myself as a lot of different things. If I was to get a lead part… every actor likes to step out of himself, but I would rather have something that is a natural progression. I would want it to make sense.
AHHA: In the Mariah Carey video you obviously played a role that was different than anything we’ve seen you in before.
JD: Well, anyone can be a lover – we can all be lovers. There wasn’t an audition, something happened and she just called me and offered the part. I didn’t even know what it was – I didn’t have to.
AHHA: Then you were in the Freeway video…
JD: Yeah, that was like right afterwards… I dunno, after [the Mariah video] everyone just started calling out of nowhere. I don’t even know how they got the number, but hey, that’s cool with me. I heard about the Aaliyah video shoot [for ‘I Miss You’], and I was an Aaliyah nut, so I just popped up. Her family thought it was a good look. After that it was Lumidee, then the Cam video with Jahiem, and then the Fabolous video.
AHHA: Have you had people from your hometown give you any pressure about not changing who you are as you attain more success?
JD: Yeah, that happens anywhere, but I figure I like to deal with statistics – if I meet 5,000 people this week, that’s gonna happen to me at least five times this week where someone’s real pushy, so that’s how I deal with it. I didn’t buy a car for a long time ‘cause when I bought a car I was gonna have to hear ‘Ohhhh, so you makin’ money now so you got a car’. I held off on that. I was having fun – I like the trains. I would always catch a cab from my house and catch the Path, but all the way down and all the way back people would be like ‘What you doing walking? What you going to McDonalds for?’. I’m just like, ‘I like to be on the street’.
AHHA: What’s after "The Wire" for you?
JD: I don’t know. I’m really trying to get my production company rolling. I just finished the casting for my first film [called Nork Projects]. It’s a film that I wrote and I’m trying to produce and direct it. That’s really what I want to do, my own thing. You gotta stay busy, and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be.