Isiah Whitlock Jr.'s portrayal of the crooked State Senator Clay Davis remains one of "The Wire's" most indelible performances, thanks in large part to his pronunciation of an unprintable catchphrase. A YouTube montage has nearly 1.4 million views.
On Tuesday, Whitlock's elongated version of the expletive entered the next phase of its strange life when the actor released the trailer for "The Whitlock Academy" on YouTube. It's unclear what it is exactly — A comedy webseries? Tongue-in-cheek teaching tool? — and Whitlock played coy when pressed for details. (You can watch the trailer above and draw your own conclusions.)
"Heh, heh, heh, what is the Whitlock Academy?" Whitlock said in his recognizable drawl on the phone Tuesday afternoon from New York. "It's where actors come to finish their training. We've basically decided that no actor's training is complete until they properly learn to be able to say the word, 'sheeeeeeeee-it.'"
"We do different exercises and things like that, helping actors read and support themselves through their diaphragms," he said. "We incorporate it into Shakespeare … how it works with iambic pentameter."
If the "Academy" is actually a YouTube joke with viral ambitions, Whitlock isn't saying. When asked if this marketing campaign is a ploy for a webseries to catch buzz, he replied, "That may be a little more technical than I am able to talk about. I would just say, over the next couple of weeks, we'll let it roll out and see how people respond to it."
The 60-year-old actor currently plays General George Maddox on HBO's "Veep," but lately, he's been watching "The Wire" high-def marathon, like everyone else.
"Even watching it a second time through - just to see how excited people are and stuff like that - is very enjoyable to watch," he said.
It will be seven years in March since the show's end. Given time to reflect, Whitlock said his favorite "Wire" season is its fourth, which incorporated the Baltimore public school system into the narrative.
"I thought they did that so effectively," Whitlock said. "I would have to say that would be my favorite season just because of all the different elements — the politics, the police, the kids, the school system. It's just jampacked."
While Whitlock had no problem identifying his favorite season, he refused to choose a favorite character.
"When you look at the Omars and the Bunks and the Stringer Bells and the Barksdales and the Brother Mouzones and the Snoops and Chris — you could just go on and on and on," Whitlock said. "All of these characters are so unique [and] unlike anything you've ever seen on television, or probably will [see] again on one series."