Wendell Pierce sparks new Michael J. Fox sitcom
"Michael has helped remind me of that: You create all those memories that in your real life you take for granted. In your heart and your mind, you create a world for your character so strong that it INDUCES your character’s behavior."
Pierce had been filming that morning, but, unexpectedly granted the afternoon off, he has joined a reporter at a sidewalk cafe on Manhattan’s Upper West Side where, clad in a polo shirt, chinos and sandals with black socks, he nurses a beer in the late-September chill.
Spending time with him bears out the unifying nature of his diverse roles: He’s a guy you like hanging with. With a full frame, a broad sweet face and a mischievous magnetism, he’s good company.
Consider the role for which he is perhaps best known: as Bunk Moreland, the dapper, dry-witted detective on HBO’s epic urban drama "The Wire." A series with dense storylines and grim twists, it was given its essential heart in large part thanks to Bunk’s partnership with Detective Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West).
Pierce even infuses with intermittent charm his character in "Four," a somber drama about living a lie and the damage that results.
"I’ll answer the question that you really want to ask," he chuckles when the film is broached: "WHY? Why did you do it?"
He explains he had seen the play and admired it, then was "shocked" when he was asked to play a role in the film so far outside his norm.
"The character explores the ripple effect of abhorrent behavior," he says. "As an actor you’re always a student of human behavior, and to study this sort of behavior is why I took the role."
Pierce, who turns 50 in December, got into acting as a youngster growing up in New Orleans. He attended a theater camp at the University of New Orleans, and liked it, then enrolled at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. Then he headed to New York and Juilliard to further hone his technique (including a speaking voice that, in its full come-hither mode, could rival Barry White’s).
But Pierce has never lost touch with his home town, helping spearhead projects that include a redevelopment effort to build new homes and a chain of quality supermarkets in neighborhoods that need the nutrition as well as the jobs.
And through it all, he has forged an acting career he is proud of — especially this fall, he says, toasting himself with a sip of his beer.