Meet the “cousin” to The Wire — HBO’s We Own This City.
The team behind The Wire (David Simon, George Pelecanos) is back with something new in We Own This City on HBO, and fans are sure to enjoy it due to its familiar setting and some familiar faces.
Based on the book We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops and Corruption by Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton, the series chronicles the rise and fall of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force. In its six episodes, the corruption and moral collapse will be exposed that befalls Baltimore where policies of drug prohibition and mass arrest are championed at the expense of actual police work.
Ahead of its April 25 debut, Shadow and Act spoke with the director Reinaldo Marcus Green and cast members Jon Bernthal, Jamie Hector, Wunmi Mosaku and Darrell Britt-Gibson about the highly-anticipated project.
Reinaldo Marcus Green was excited to get this show off the ground because it speaks to his soul
Coming off the success of the Oscar-winning film King Richard starring Will Smith to directing the first season of We Own This City was a major high for him. Telling stories of real people is what he thrives off of the most.
“This was getting back to my roots and this is back to feet on the ground dealing with real subject matter, real important storytelling. It’s what I scratched the surface with in my first film, Monsters and Men. And I’ve been looking to get back to something as powerful as this where I had I could do a deep dive– six episodes to talk about something that, quite frankly, I think people have been fatigued by,” he said. “And it was like, ‘OK, well, we can’t be tired to talk about things that are important. We have to find ways, new and interesting ways to talk about it and make them fresh and make them interesting and make the new generation want to stand up.'”
Jon Bernthal leads the series as a corrupt police officer.
Bernthal grew up in D.C. not far from where things took place in Baltimore
Having grown up around certain environments, he’s witnessed his own levels of corruption that made him relate to the script.
“I had not read the book but I had heard a bit,” he said. “This show deals with subject matter that that that is near and dear to me. And I’ve had a lot of firsthand experience with issues of race and policing and corruption is something that I’m just I’m fascinated by and sometimes horrified by. It’s just had a deep resonance with me…And I had the utmost faith, complete faith in the folks that I got to tell this story with.”
On whether or not audiences will be able to separate the two shows and characters
Jamie Hector starred as kingpin Marlo Stanfield on The Wire. While he says the show has similar elements, there’s a great foundation that will have audiences eager to tune in and be able to differentiate the two shows.
“What was great is I think there’s a built-in audience only because fans always love to see what the team has in place from The Wire,” the actor told us. “But it still stands alone. They can stand alone because even more personally watching two episodes on We Own This City, it grabbed me from the beginning, just starting off with the fact that this lead officer is getting incarcerated. So what we’re going to find out that he has done to the city of Baltimore. And then realized I can go and watch The Wire if I really want to – all five seasons and then sit back and say, ‘These officers were created based on the lack of attention being paid to institutions during the war on drugs.’ All of this created this. But this also is a standalone project where you can really lock in and enjoy it will entertain but also known as nonfiction, be really, really affected by.”
Darrell Britt-Gibson says the story has the same motivation as ‘The Wire’ -- which is to be a continuous conversation of much-needed change
Britt-Gibson is known for his role as Darius “O-Dog” Hill on The Wire, so working with this story wasn’t something foreign– though he admits the story and the way it unfolds can be heavy to remove oneself from. But, he finds it to be another important project because of its relevance.
He explained, “It’s the story of today, it’s a story of yesterday, and it’s a story of tomorrow because nothing has changed. This happened in 2017, but it could be 2021. I speak a lot about the summer of 2020, when we were all in the streets [protesting at the height of the Black Lives Matter Movement]. I was so excited at that moment because it felt like, ‘We’re here, we’re doing this collectively.’ But I always in the back of my mind was like, ‘This not is not going to last…’ We have a long, long, long way to go. So, [with] these stories, there is no finish line nowhere in sight for us right now. I think that stories like this are so important because they are able to create a conversation that is going to keep it moving forward. Hopefully, this show becomes that thing. It’s sort of like a baton being passed.”
Wumni Mosaku on what she wants viewers to take away from ‘We Own This City’
The Lovecraft Country star portrays as a civil rights attorney who is placed at the center of the drama and works diligently to uncover what’s happening with Baltimore police at the helm of this crime ring.
She told us that her main takeaway from the project is how Black and brown communities relate to the people in their cities who vow to protect and serve them.
“I really want people to feel that even though they may feel safe with the police, that this very real and legitimate feeling of not being felt safe with the police or not trusting the system, that it’s very real for people, that it’s not just you have that as a luxury to feel safe and to to be able to call the police and know that they’re not going to show up for you or turn on you,” she explained. “I really hope that people see that the system isn’t broken. It needs to be. Something else needs to be put in its place. And if you care about safety, if you care about your community, if you care about freedom, then you have to get involved.”
We Own This City premieres Monday night on HBO.