Clarke Peters, <EM>The Wire</EM> Clarke Peters, The Wire

McNulty has his ladies, Bunk his booze, but The Wire's (Sundays, 9 pm/ET, HBO) Lester Freamon is all about the cash money — the cash money laundered by Baltimore's drug kingpins and corrupt politicians, that is. He may be the master of The Wire's namesake operation — the wiretapping op that listens in on Baltimore's corner drug scene — but Det. Freamon is still ambitious enough to dig deeper, right into the drug dealers' account books and the local politicians' very well-lined pockets. recently rooted out Lester's portrayer, Clarke Peters, to tap into the show's final season, eavesdrop on the cast's many off-set antics, and get all up in the all-business Lester's very personal business. So the series is ending, how does it feel?
Clarke Peters:
I've had about four months to get used to it. You're not seeing the crew anymore, you're not working on the stories, so Baltimore seems to be fading into the background, but I like Baltimore, so I'm here. There's such a camaraderie among the characters, with the practical joking and the barhopping — is that mirrored in the actors' real-life friendships?
[Laughs] Yeah, we use those nights as research… mostly for McNulty. I think because of the issues [addressed in the script] that affect all of us, and being with a group of actors who are intellectual enough to get their heads around the politics of the piece as well as the drama… it was a unique experience for all us, we've been sort of galvanized as friends by the city's politics. So is there a lot of practical joking… any cutting of neckties and soforth?
[Laughs] No, we didn't get that far, unfortunately. Nobody's burning clothes in a tub. We don't know much about Lester's personal life…. Is he still dating that girl, Shardene?
Peters: Ah, Shardene, yes. Well, you know, he put the glasses on her and she began to see the world in a different light. So he saved her.
Peters: I guess so, I guess so. The brief that I had at the top of this series is that Lester is a widower, and that he was actually looking after three boys that he brought up. But we never got into that storyline, I would have loved to have explored that to see how a man like Lester functions in a family. Well, Lester is such a natural father figure to everybody, to Kima, Prez, Rhonda, the whole department. Do you agree that he has that stern, don't-disappoint-me fatherly way about him?
Peters: Yes, I think there's an avuncular side to him that's very much like that. And what's interesting is that in the fourth season when all the [schoolkids] were around, some of them had seen the show before and although we didn't have scenes together because of the storyline, off-set they thought, "Yeah, we can go talk to Lester." [Laughs] So, is he like that with Shardene? First of all, are they still together?
You'll have to wait and watch the show for that! But suffice it to say that you will see her again. Are we going to see any more of Lester's miniature-furniture-making hobby?
I hope so, I tried to bring it back as often as I could. It facilitates something in understanding who the man is, just seeing him concentrating on some small craft. He's like Giapetto and Pinocchio: "What kind of magic is he conjuring up in these little pieces?" I was wondering where he got it to begin with, so knowing that he was a widower I assumed it was something he did to keep his wife alive in his mind; maybe she was a collector of dollhouse furniture. I felt that would soften his approach to the world. So will Lester ever find the money that he's been following all these years? Spill something, come on!
Peters: [Laughs] Well, let's put it this way: If that's the catchphrase, "Follow the money," which we've been saying since the first season, you can rest assured that David Simon and Ed Burns are not going to just let that disappear. Yes, we continue to follow the money in this season. What is interesting is that I met the man who actually worked a case like this, who Ed Burns I think based some of Lester's personality on, and he said he had coined the phrase "You gotta follow the money," and in his words he followed the money right up to Annapolis and then was, let's say, discouraged from going any further. Now whether that's what happens in The Wire you'll just have to wait and see. [Laughs] Each season focuses on a different theme, like the dock workers or the school system, and while Lester is always over working on his wire, his storyline still somehow gets entwined in each main story. If this season is about the media, is Lester's storyline going to address the money side of media?
Peters: Well, I'll tell you that it does, but I can't tell you how. But finance really affects it all. All these different departments, as well as the skullduggery of the streets, it's all interdependent in society. One thing plays off the other, one thing feeds something else. It all connects. So yes, we will certainly hear more about the money, and you'll see how following that trail is actually affected by the press. It changed my perspective on what's happening in newspapers today and how a simple byline has a far-reaching effect. And it's David [Simon, the show's creator and a former Baltimore Sun reporter] speaking much more about the world he knows, and there's some really interesting stuff going on there. You live in London, and there are so many British actors on The Wire, like Dominic West [Jimmy McNulty], Idris Elba [Stringer Bell] and Aidan Gillen [Tommy Carcetti]. Do you think it makes it easier to master that very specific Baltimore accent if you approach it from a foreign perspective?
Peters: I think yes, because it's technique. But I think more than anything else it's because Britain has actors who are born out of theater while America has actors who are born out of television and film. But I don't know that they specifically went to England looking, I think it might have just been a coincidence. It speaks to the quality of the writing perhaps — everyone does say it's Shakespeare for television.
Peters: [Laughs] It is Shakespeare in its breadth, yes.'s new Strike Survival Guide explains why it's not too late to tap into The Wire.

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