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Apparently Baltimore’s Mayor Tried To Force The Wire To Stop Filming In His City And His Reason Was Hilarious

One of the difficult parts about producing HBO’s acclaimed police series The Wire is that the politicians and bureaucrats in Baltimore eventually got tired of the television show telling audience members how corrupt Baltimore could be. The Wire made incredible use of the streets, ports and school of Maryland’s largest city, and the cast praises the decision to film in Baltimore instead of Vancouver or Toronto pretending to be “Charm City.” But The Wire co-creator David Simon told CinemaBlend a very funny story about the show meeting resistance as they continued to tell stories, and what almost shut down their production. 

Every season of The Wire focused on a new area of the city, drilling into specific problems including legalized drug-slinging to the effects drugs had on Baltimore’s elementary schools. The cast told us which of the seasons they consider to be the best season of The Wire. But David Simon told us that the season might not have happened – or happened the way that he wanted – if Baltimore’s mayor had his way. Simon told us:

After season 1, the mayor said he wanted to be out of the Wire business. And the problem was, before season 1, before we even shot the pilot, I actually went to that mayor and said, ‘Look, this can be any rust belt city. I could stage this in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Cleveland… it just needs to be a post-industrial city struggling with the same problems.’ I actually went to lunch with him to talk about it. And he said, ‘No, no, no, bring it here. We want the TV (work).’ I said, ‘You’re sure?’ Yeah, sure. Cut to a year and a half later, he’s running for governor, or wanted to run for governor at the time. And he looked upon this very blunt show that was critiquing the drug war harshly as an albatross. I don’t know what he wanted us to do. He wanted us to stop, basically.

Which again as mentioned, would have been very difficult to do. As we point out in these behind-the-scenes facts about The Wire, the show became synonymous with Baltimore, so moving it anywhere else would have taken the soul out of the program. It’s comical that the Baltimore mayor heralded the arrival of The Wire in his fair city, but the moment the show began to shine brighter lights on the dark secrets of the Maryland city, he wanted it to go away. 

The show wasn’t going to go very far. As David Simon continued, they could bring the show to Philadelphia to film, but they’d already established the character as Baltimore police officers, so it’d still carry the name Baltimore. And Simon continued:

Eventually, upon realizing that we were going to make it anyway, because we had started and we were going to try and finish it, and the filming money would go to another city, he relented.

Money talks. That’s a lesson a show like The Wire would teach us. The interviews took place in honor of the HBO show turning 20 years old. And there was plenty to celebrate, but things to mourn, as well. The legendary Michael K. Williams, who played colorful gangster Omar Little, died in 2021, and the cast took time to remember Williams’ contributions to their landmark show. The Wire co-star Wendell Pierce told us an excellent story about a prequel movie idea David Simon almost agreed to, which might have starred Samuel L. Jackson. That’s why we chose The Wire as one classic HBO show that deserved some kind of a movie

The Wire is an outstanding show that deserves your time and attention. It’s currently available to own in its entirety on Blu-ray and DVD, and also can be streamed on HBO MAX, so make sure your HBO Max subscription is up to date.

Sean O'Connell
Sean O'Connell

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.