High 'Wire' acts


Actor talks about his many roles in hit television dramas

By Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

Last month marked actor Chad L. Coleman’s first time in Michigan in 29 years.

“I haven’t been here since 1986, so it’s long overdue,” said Coleman, best known for his roles on “The Wire” and “The Walking Dead,” who was a guest at the Motor City Comic Con in Novi. “I’ve had a great sampling of a lot of different food and restaurants. It’s been great – so far, so good… The fans are very loving, very inspiring; they’re all in.”

He was one of 10 actors from “The Walking Dead” – which included Lawrence Gilliard, Jr., who also starred on “The Wire” – present at Comic Con.

“Lawrence and I never worked together on ‘The Wire.’ He was killed off in Season 2; I came on in Season 3. I’ve been circling around this guy for years and we finally met in the audition room. He’s an amazing actor, an amazing human being, I count him as a friend, and I’m excited about the work he was able to do as well,” said Coleman.

A Virginia native and U.S. Army veteran, Coleman has appeared in a variety of guest roles on “New York Undercover,” “Third Watch,” the “Law & Order” franchise, “The Good Wife,” “CSI: Miami,” “Hack,” et al. He played O.J. Simpson in the tele-film “Monday Night Mayhem,” which chronicled the origins of ABC’s “Monday Night Football.”
Coleman’s breakout role is Dennis “Cutty” Wise on “The Wire,” HBO’s ground-breaking crime drama that aired from 2002-08, which was the brainchild of former police reporter David Simon, who created NBC’s “Homicide: Life on the Streets.” Taking place in Baltimore, “The Wire” is considered one of the greatest television dramas of all time. Each season introduced a different institution – the illegal drug trade, the seaport system, the city government and bureaucracy, the school system, and the newspaper media – and its relationship to law enforcement. It also featured appearances by actual Maryland figures, including former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke.

Cutty got his nickname after serving 14 years in the Maryland State Penitentiary, also known as “The Cut.” An infamous enforcer in Baltimore’s drug trade, he’s eventually paroled. Upon release from prison, he immediately returns to his old ways but finds himself unable to take a life. He eventually opens a boxing gym, where he becomes a mentor to the community’s youth in an attempt to steer them away from a life of crime.

“I thought it was a ground-breaking role and I was happy to represent someone coming out of incarceration, trying to get a second chance, seeing what that whole uphill journey is like for people trying to change their lives. It was awesome,” said Coleman.

The show was lauded for its realistic depiction of police work, criminal activity, and the newsroom of a major metropolitan newspaper. There were even reports of actual criminals watching “The Wire” to learn how to counter police investigations.

“Crime statistics went down on Sunday nights because a lot of those guys (criminals) were watching the show,” said Coleman. “That’s what makes it so exceptional – (the creators) were willing to be uncompromising in their storytelling and they told it from a novelistic approach and they gave voice to a lot of people you probably wouldn’t have heard from.”

Added “Homicide” star Reed Diamond: “‘The Wire’ was everything David Simon wanted ‘Homicide’ to be, but you couldn’t have that language and couldn’t have those subject matters told in that manner on network television.” 

Coleman’s other famous role is Tyreese on AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” which is based on the comic book series of the same name published by Image Comics. “The Walking Dead” centers around a band of humans led by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) struggling to survive in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. Not only do they have to contend with the mindless zombies (which are referred to as “walkers”), but also unscrupulous, savage humans who are just as bad, if not more so, than the walkers.

Tyreese died this past season in the episode “What Happened and What’s Going On.” He was bitten by a walker on the arm and begins to hallucinate after suffering severe blood loss, seeing characters from the series who died that question his actions after the zombie apocalypse.

In the end, he’s found by Rick and Michonne (Danai Gurira), who severs his infected arm. In the end, he dies and Michonne makes sure he’s not resurrected as a walker. A funeral is held and Rick buries Tyreese, leaving his cap on his cross.

This was Coleman’s favorite episode and he was very satisfied with how Tyreese’s story arc ended.

“Unless they were gonna go grossly outside what the graphic novel was doing, then there wasn’t much else for him to do,” said Coleman. “I thought it was some amazing television and bold storytelling, wonderful writing and acting. The directing was great.”