Tristan Wilds, <EM>The Wire</EM> Tristan Wilds, The Wire

This Sunday at 10 pm/ET, HBO presents the fourth season finale of The Wire, the Peabody Award-winning drama about four young boys braving the drug-saturated streets of West Baltimore. TVGuide.com caught up with one of the series' teen stars, Tristan Wilds (Michael), to get a peek at the shocking season ender, as well as the fifth — and final — batch of episodes.

TVGuide.com: I understand you're off to sing at a tree-lighting or something?
Tristan Wilds: Yeah, yeah... [My school's] chamber chorus is singing at Borough Hall on Staten Island.

TVGuide.com: It's good to see folks not afraid to invite The Wire's bad, bad Michael Lee to their yuletide festivities.
Wilds: [Laughs] Yeah.

TVGuide.com: Michael has really been going through this hard-core transition as of late. When did the writers first give you a heads-up as to how dark he would be getting?
Wilds: Around when we started shooting the seventh episode, when Michael's father came back and he started getting a feeling for what Michael's father did to him in the past. They started telling me, "Michael's going to go for a bit of a dip now, so bear with us."

TVGuide.com: Were you totally psyched as an actor, or what?
Wilds: Actually, I kinda was, because it was a time to go crazy with my acting ability.

TVGuide.com: Michael has moved out on his mom, has started to play rough in the neighborhood, and is getting involved in a bit of gunplay.... In your mind, how does he rationalize it, what he's doing now with his life?
Wilds: Everybody who watches it, they just think that Michael's getting bad. To me, I think he's taking the only way out, the only way that he thought he could save his little brother from his stepfather. He knows all the repercussions of what he did, so now he's just reppin' them.

TVGuide.com: Last we saw, Michael left gun-shot Cutty bleeding out in the street. Do you think that was a defining moment for him?
Wilds: I think it was a defining moment, because Cutty said, "Go with your people," so you know what side Michael's on now.

TVGuide.com: You come from a large family. Do you have their support in playing such a gritty role on a gritty show?
Wilds: Oh, man, all of my family members are behind me 1,100 percent. There are certain scenes where they're like, "Oh my god, I wish I didn’t have to see that," but....

TVGuide.com: Who have you been learning from on the set?
Wilds:
I've been learning from a lot of them, like Seth Gilliam, who plays [Detective] Carver, and Robert Chew, who plays [Proposition Joe], the big guy on the East Side.... Actually, Robert Chew was [the teen cast's] drama teacher, so he was rehearsing our scripts with us and everything.

TVGuide.com: Season 5 will be The Wire's final season. Do you know how many episodes you'll be doing?
Wilds: I think 10.

TVGuide.com: And when do you start on that?
Wilds: We start shooting that in March.

TVGuide.com: I know some fans were worried there'd be another big gap between seasons.
Wilds: Yeah. I don’t think it's going to be that big of a gap, but it will probably be out by the end of next year, or at the beginning of 2008.

TVGuide.com: What can you tease about the season finale, airing this Sunday?
Wilds: Well, everybody I talk to says that The Wire to them is like a drug or whatever. Let's just say, get ready for your final dose — and it's a strong one.

TVGuide.com: Over the past couple of weeks, the indie film Half Nelson has been racking up some kudos and award nominations. Were you pleasantly surprised, or did you expect that all along?
Wilds: Actually, I kind of knew it all along, because it was such a great script. Everything was so well written, so very detailed. I was hoping they would get the recognition they deserved, and they did.

TVGuide.com: You're appearing in a rap video next?
Wilds: Yeah, it's a Lil' Flip video, featuring Life Jennings, called "Ghetto Mind State." I'm playing Lil' Flip as a child. Lil' Flip called my manager and he asked for me.

TVGuide.com: What, is he a fan of The Wire?
Wilds: Yeah, that's what he said.

TVGuide.com: Lastly, I have this Internet rumor that you're playing rapper Jay-Z in a movie...?
Wilds: [Laughs] No, no... that’s just a rumor.

Send your comments on this Q&A to online_insider@tvguide.com