Like Gandolfini, West has so mastered his craft that you totally believe in the reality of this man's surrender to desire. And just as Gandolfini did with Tony Soprano, West never lets his Hector Madden become one-note, totally unlikable for it.

Given his thoughtful approach to character and craft, it is not surprising that West, who directed an episode of "The Wire" in Season 5, is looking to spend more time behind the camera. And Simon thinks West has a future there.

"Dom debuted as a director on 'The Wire' and did extraordinarily well," Simon said "We asked him back on 'Treme.' ... On the second season he was slated for an episode. Prior to prep, however, he realized he had a conflict with an acting commitment in the U.K."

Simon and West almost reunited for the final season of "Treme," which is filming in New Orleans. It would have also reunited West with Wendell Pierce, who played his detective partner, Bunk Moreland, in "The Wire."

"We thought of a 'Wire' callback for the last episode of 'Treme,'" Simon says. "There was a scene in which Antoine Batiste [Pierce] has to purchase a pair of bunk beds, and we thought, why not go to the well one last time on the same joke?"

As Simon described the scene, an Ikea employee larded down with boxes would follow Batiste to his car: "Batiste expresses concern about the assembly process and the employee, face hidden under the box would reply that it's an easy build, any idiot can do it. Flatpack is settled on the roof of the car, and we turn to see employee nod assurance and walk off. Dom would have played the employee."

"I would have been playing the Ikea shop assistant, and it would have been so good," West says, laughing uproariously as he described the end of the imagined scene. "It would have been brilliant, brilliant. But I just couldn't do it unfortunately."

Brilliant is a word often used by others in talking about West's work these days. It's in the reviews of "The Hour" and his stage performances in London and Sheffield the last two years. It's also in the analyses of most people who talk about his work in "The Wire."

"When that whole ensemble cast came together in the very beginning of 'The Wire,' the first thing that occurred to me was, 'If you don’t like Jimmy McNulty, it's not going to be good,'" Emmy-Award-winning casting director Pat Moran said last week.

"We had to give a damn about what happened to him. And had it not been a guy as charming and an actor as outstanding as Dominic West, it would not quite have been the great show that it was. We had to feel he was a lovable loser, a lovable cad. He wasn't quite an anti-hero, but he did some stuff, if you will recall. It was a tricky, tricky role, and he pulled it off. He was spot on. Dominic West is a brilliant actor."

"The Hour": The second season concludes at 9 p.m. Wednesday on BBC America.

BONUS SIDEBAR: West on choosing the right accent for McNulty

One of the many acting choices that led to Baltimore Police Detective Jimmy McNulty becoming the kind of character viewers could believe in involved the way he spoke.

Despite living in Baltimore six months a year for the five years that "The Wire" filmed here and being praised by some critics for his Baltimore "accent," West says he never could get the dialect quite right -- and so, never tried to do one as McNulty.

"I could never do a Baltimore accent -- I mean, a proper one," he said. "’You goin' down the ocean, hon?' I could never do that. I mean, I wanted to, but I could never quite do it right. And so, David Simon said, 'Absolutely not. You mustn’t do it.' So, I did a sort of general East Coast accent."

When asked how he learned to sound American in "The Wire" and why he thinks British actors like he and Damian Lewis, of "Homeland," are so much better at American accents than U.S. actors are at sounding British, West said he believes it's cultural.

"Part of the reason is that unlike Americans, we Brits grow up on American TV," he explained. "We watch a helluva a lot of American TV and listen to a huge amount of American music. So, there's a huge amount of American culture in our lives - and we hear the accent from a very early age." Also, he added, most Americans are not as attuned to listen for social class differences and regional nuances in accents as people in the U.K. are.

"So, I think you forgive a lot in America," he said. "If you watch Mel Gibson in some of his early films, it's amazing anyone believed he was American. I think Americans are quite forgiving in that way, partly because they possibly don’t realize how much English or Australian hasn't been washed out of the accent."


Hometown: Sheffield, Yorkshire, England

Education: B.A. Trinity College Dublin, Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London

Family: Married, father of four -- two daughters and two sons