Baltimore native (and “The Good Wife” star) Josh Charles, “The Wire” actor Jamie Hector and “The Walking Dead” alum Jon Bernthal will star in a new HBO series depicting the exploits of the city’s corrupt Gun Trace Task Force.
HBO’s “We Own This City,” based on Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton’s book of the same name, on Wednesday announced its director and three lead actors.
Reinaldo Marcus Green (”Monsters and Men”) will direct and executive produce the six-episode limited series, which goes into production in July and will largely be shot in Baltimore. Former Sun reporter and “The Wire” creator David Simon and his longtime collaborator George Pelecanos will write and executive produce. Nina K. Noble, Kary Antholis and Ed Burns are also executive producers.
HBO, in a release, described the show as, “...chronicling the rise and fall of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force — and the corruption and moral collapse that befell an American city in which the policies of drug prohibition and mass arrest were championed at the expense of actual police work.”
Bernthal, who also starred in “The Punisher,” will play Sgt. Wayne Jenkins. Charles, also an alum of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” will play Daniel Hersl. Jenkins and Hersl are serving long prison sentences for their corrupt actions — including stealing money from alleged criminals — as police officers on the Gun Trace Task Force.
Hector, who also appeared in “Queen of the South,” will play Sean M. Suiter, an officer who was shot and killed the day before he was to testify before a grand jury about evidence planting by the GTTF in 2017. His death was ruled a homicide although questions have lingered over whether he took his own life.
On April 30, Green was in Baltimore scouting locations before heading back to Los Angeles, where he’s working on finishing “King Richard,” the biopic about tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams’ father and one-time coach.
Green, who grew up in New York, described Baltimore as, “...Brownsville meets Red Hook,” he said referring to two neighborhoods that have struggled in the past but are now on the upswing. “It’s definitely its own city. It feels like a mix of Brooklyn, the Bronx and some areas of lower Manhattan and Harlem.”
Green’s father worked for the Department of Investigations in New York, which polices city government.
Asked about his vision for the series he said, “I hope this show helps us peek behind the curtain. How do we dig deeper and root out the things that are wrong and evil and put in good things?”
Fenton, in addition to the writing the source material, is a consultant on the show. When The Sun spoke to him earlier this year, he said part of that job is to keep the show honest. “I answer how things happened and make sure it stays true to life.”
While specifics about the show are in short supply, Simon is looking forward to shooting in Baltimore and working with some of the alums from his previous shows. Hector, for example, played drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield on “The Wire.”
“We haven’t been back here in 15 years. Through no fault of our own, we just kept picking up projects that took us elsewhere,” he said. “Although it is a police story, it is a departmental procedural. We want to capture the psychic cost of having this happen if you’re in Baltimore and particularly if you’re Black because that who was targeted.”
Like most reasonable people, Green says “The Wire” is one of the best things he’s seen on television. “I grew up on it, like most of us. I love the show.”
Pelecanos, in addition to executive producing television shows and movies, is a successful novelist with numerous titles to his credit. Many of his novels explore crimes and the criminals who commit them.
“One of the things that interested me about this is that the police and the citizens come from the same background. They’re working people. They shouldn’t be against each other,” he said. “The people you need to watch are the ones upstairs, the brass and politicians. ... None of us wanted to do a show just about corrupt cops, because it’s been done and been done well.”
Simon, who has found success making shows centered on bad guys (“The Wire,” “The Deuce” and “The Plot Against America”), said, “Dysfunction is what the journalist’s mind gravitates to. Show me something that’s not working, and I’ll stand there and open my note pad. Show me one working according to its mandate, and I won’t unless it used to be a disaster. That’s true of drama and fiction.”
Shows are not the only drama in Simon’s life. He is well aware of his reputation on the internet. The self described “surliest blue-checked s--- talker on Twitter” mixes it up regularly with his 316.2K followers who bait, taunt and yell back at him. Sometimes they even agree with him.
“It’s definitely a persona. It’s not who I am. What am I doing on Twitter that I actually care about? I don’t know,” he said. “There are times I laugh it off and other times I think we’re discussing something that matters, but those moments are very rare.”