'The Wire' has ended, but its talent is still being tapped

With Felicia "Snoop" Pearson's guilty plea last week to conspiracy to sell heroin, one question being asked by fans of "The Wire" is how other cast members of the Baltimore-based series are doing.

The answer: Several are doing just fine professionally. And a few are doing extraordinary work on and off camera. Some of it can be seen this week on TV.

Two of the finest actors from the HBO series, Dominic West and Idris Elba, are about to help launch a prestigious drama showcase and series on BBC America at 10 Wednesday night. (BBC America isn't part of most basic cable packages; on Xfinty in Baltimore, it's found on channel 114)

The showcase is called "Dramaville," and it will serve as a weekly forum for top British dramatic series and films. The network bills "Dramaville" as "the home of groundbreaking British drama." And Elba, who played the drug dealer Stringer Bell with such power and grace on "The Wire," will serve as host.

Think PBS "Masterpiece Theatre" and the way Laura Linney introduces and sets up the film or series being shown each week

Elba will also be featured within the "Dramaville" showcase when the sequel to his detective series "Luther" debuts in September. He has been nominated for an Emmy as outstanding lead actor in a miniseries for his performance in that show. He was also nominated as outstanding guest actor in a comedy series for a turn he did on Showtime's "The Big C."

One Emmy nomination for drama, and one for comedy. Not a bad year. The Emmys will be awarded Sept. 18 in a live broadcast on Fox.

Having just as strong a year is West, aka Jimmy McNulty, the self-destructive Baltimore police detective whose journey was at the heart of "The Wire."

West stars in the series that BBC America is using to launch "Dramaville" on Wednesday night. Titled "The Hour," it's a six-part mystery-thriller set in the world of TV news at the BBC of the 1950s.

Think "Good Night and Good Luck," the George Clooney feature film version of Edward R. Murrow's days at CBS News in the 1950s, with a bit of "Mad Men" thrown in. There is sex, sexism, and tons of drinking and smoking and people desperate to advance their careers. And it is all played out against a crumbling social class system in post-World War II Britain.

The casting on this series is through the roof: Romola Garai, Ben Whishaw, Tim Pigott-Smith, Juliet Stevenson, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Oona Chaplin.

And even with that cast, West's performance as BBC presenter Hector Madden stands out. If you were impressed with West as McNulty, you'll be blown away by him here — there are so many more nuances and wrinkles to this character. And Madden radiates sexual energy in a way McNulty never approached.

No one, though, is doing more good work in TV and his community of New Orleans than Wendell Pierce, who played McNulty's one-time partner, Detective William "Bunk" Moreland.

Pierce is such a whirlwind of good and hard work, it's hard to keep up with him, even on Twitter. Here's a sample of recent tweets from Pierce on his professional life:

• "Please read about the work I'm doing with the Classical Theater of Harlem" to reopen with "Henry V."

• "I'm shooting 'Parker' with Jason Stratham, Jennifer Lopez," Michael Chiklis and Nick Nolte. First day tomorrow." ("Parker" is a thriller directed by Taylor Hackford.)

• "Yes that is my voice you heard narrating on NFL Network Hall of Fame Specials. Congrats to the inductees, especially, Marshall Faulk. Homeboy."

And that's in addition to his continuing performance as trombonist Antoine Bastiste on HBO's "Treme." Pierce has also been playing another musician, blues guitarist B.B. King, in the feature film "B.B. King and Me" that started filming.

And then, there's Pierce, the actively engaged citizen and community developer of New Orleans. He recently announced that he and a partner are opening the first of four planned Sterling Farms fresh food groceries in his hometown in an attempt to serve what Michelle Obama described as "food deserts" in urban America.

And he continues in what he described in a Sun interview as his "true labor of love and pride" as president of a community development association in Pontchartrain Park. The nonprofit homebuilding effort is aimed at resurrecting one of the nation's proudest postwar African-American communities after it was left for dead by Hurricane Katrina.

Like Pierce, Sonja Sohn, who played Detective Kima Greggs so compellingly, has been making a real-life commitment to her hometown as well. In her case, it's Baltimore, where she is founder and CEO of ReWired for Change, a nonprofit group that seeks to help troubled kids and teens in some of the city's most underserved neighborhoods.

Happily, it looks like she is starting to find some on-screen success as well as a member of the cast on ABC's "Body of Proof," which is about to start its second season.

Aidan Gillin, meanwhile, has landed on his feet in one of the hottest series on television. And in retrospect, the casting seems like a no-brainer.

It's not much of a stretch from playing the duplicitous politician Thomas Carcetti in "The Wire" to the manipulative, scheming courtier Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish in HBO's "Game of Thrones." Gillin does, though, seem to take a delight in the special wickedness of his new character — whereas Carcetti always seemed like he wished he could be a better person. Gillen is also doing some feature film work in the IRA drama "Shadowdancer."

The bag is more of a mixed one for some of the other cast members.

Andre Royo, whose character Bubbles provided a grounding for the series with his drug addiction, sure looked like someone on the verge of becoming a first-rate character actor, if not a midrange movie star, during the last two seasons of "The Wire." But that has not happened.

Maybe that will change with the upcoming release of "Red Tails," the George Lucas film about the Tuskegee Airmen, the heroic African-American squad of pilots in World War II. Other Royo films scheduled for release include "Shoedog" and "Remnants."

Wood Harris, who played Avon Barksdale in "The Wire," is waiting on a breakout role in TV or film as well. Maybe that will happen with the feature film "Sweetwater," in which he depicts a basketball star who broke color lines. It's scheduled for release in 2012.

Michael K. Williams played one of the greatest villains in TV history as Omar on "The Wire." He's found a home on another outstanding HBO series, "Boardwalk Empire." He can also be seen as a guest star on the NBC sitcom "Community" this fall.

Baltimore native Lance Reddick has played a recurring role in Fox's "Fringe," but like Royo, he seemed headed for more.



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