English Actors in The Wire – Would You Have Guessed?

Did you know that Jimmy McNulty is played by an English actor? Or Stringer Bell? Well, it’s true…

Dominic West, who plays McNulty, was born and raised in Sheffield. According to the book The Wire: Truth Be Told, he got the role of McNulty by sending over an audition tape of him self playing the part of McNulty and leaving out the other persons’ lines with long pauses as he didn’t have anyone to play the part against. This made for a very amusing scene which caught the eyes of the producers. Although he’s usually spot on with the Baltimore accent, in the scene below you can clearly hear his English roots.

In episode 22 season 2 he is also going under cover at an illegal brothel parodying an English man, which makes for a very funny scene considering he’s actually English.

King Pin Stringer Bell is skilfully played by Hackney actor Idris Elba. According to IMDB, he actually uses his American accent when talking to The Wire fans.

“Wherever I go the real hard-core drug dealers come up to me and confide in me. I almost feel guilty turning around and saying: ‘Ello, mate. My name’s Idris and I’m from London.’ I don’t want to break the illusion.”

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21 Comments

Filed under HBO, Jimmy McNulty, Season 2, Stringer Bell, Television, The Wire

21 responses to “English Actors in The Wire – Would You Have Guessed?

  1. Snot Boogie

    Don’t forget Mayor Carcetti. He is played by Aiden Gillen, from Dublin, Ireland. And you thought that was a Baltimore accent?

  2. Of course I knew that, just wanted to check with the blog readers 😉

  3. Henry

    That Raid scene is great when you think about what’s going on there: it’s a british actor faking an american accent faking a british accent. Pretty sweet.

  4. bear

    I recall hearing that Clarke Peeters, although American born, was raised in England and also speaks with an English accent.

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  6. zane

    if you look up clarke peters on wiki it says he was raised in new jersey, he jsut lives in london currently.

  7. In Season Two, under “Features” on the DVD, one episode has audio commentary by Michael Williams and Dominic West, and they talk about all of the actors on The Wire that have British accents (and at least one director,) and how funny it is to try and suppress their normal speaking voices. I just finished re-watching Season Two (docks, union, Greeks) and it made me notice even more how things fit together later–Omar’s return to avenge Butch, for example.

  8. >> Henry

    Yeah, that’s absolute hillarious

  9. John

    What’s really funny about the brothel raid plot is that his fake English accent is so fucking bad! Must have been hilarious making those scenes…

  10. Nice Information. Really good.

  11. Pingback: All the pieces matter: analysis, essays, and anything else on The Wire « the readjack.com blog

    • Sara

      Michael Hyatt who plays Brianna Barksdale was born in the UK and moved to MD/DC when she was 10. She describes herself as African-British-Jamaican-American.

  12. Scott M.

    I would hardly call McNulty’s accent “spot on” — in fact I’m not quite sure what accent West is doing, but it’s definitely not a B-more accent. There are a couple of actors in minor roles who get the accent right, and, while I haven’t looked, my guess is that they’re actually from Baltimore. (I was born and raised in Baltimore so my guess is that my ear is a bit more in tune with what the accent really sounds like).

    Also, Elba does a far better job of maintaining his accent than West, whose phrasing slips every now and then.

  13. does is make a difference?

  14. Brenn

    Totally miss The Wire. Fantastic story lines, writing, and acting. Plus it was great seeing so many black actors in various roles in one series. That was so rare and has not been repeated since.

  15. Perry

    I just started watching the first season and yes, I would have guessed he was English. His accent is barely under the surface and sometimes distracting. I’m guessing it must get better in the following seasons?

  16. Chrispea

    I was amused to find McNulty was english, I spent the whole five seasons trying to work out if people from anywhere in the states were supposed to sound ‘like that’. Carcetti was a supprise, I only just noticed when seeing an ad for 2000 uk prog ‘queer as folk’ on 4od..

  17. Wonderful website. A lot of useful information here. I am sending it to some buddies ans also sharing in delicious. And obviously, thank you for your effort!

  18. Every actor no matter where they came from did the show proud!! Dominic West doing McNulty trying an English accent was a bit odd!! Clarke Peters made his film debut in Outland with Scotland’s very own Sean Connery!!

  19. footballchk

    I’m Baltimore born and raised. Idris Elba straight-up sounded like Baltimore. Spot-on ! So did Dominic West. He sounded like ‘Bawlmer’,

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