David Simon of THE WIRE on African-American viewers, characters, directors and writers
Below is an excerpt from Slate's interview with series creator, writer and producer David Simon, whose insights into the world he depicts come from years of work as a Baltimore Sun crime reporter, and a year's "ride-along" with the Homicide unit (which formed the basis for his nonfiction masterpiece Homicide and the excellent Tom Fontana TV series of the same name, for which Simon also eventually worked as a writer and producer).
"Slate: Some of our readers have been offering up what amounts to a racialist critique of white, middle-class writers presuming to tell black ghetto stories. And in Slate's "TV Club" on The Wire, Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz touch on a question that they have been asked (and asked themselves) over the years: Can a white person honestly and accurately capture black culture?
"Simon: Well, I have a couple answers to that. On one level, I'm becoming impatient, because I feel the work has answered the question. But let me answer. The people in that room on The Wire miss certain things because we're white. I'm sure we do. We miss certain things about black life—or not entirely; we miss the subtlety that a black writer of a commensurate skill could achieve. But it is possible that there are things we catch because we are who we are—we are not necessarily of the place, and this may allow for whatever distance is necessary to see some things.
"The other thing is that I didn't ask for this gig. I got hired out of
"I don't know how popular The Wire is on the Upper West Side of
"Having said all that, the show is very conscious of trying to bring in African-American writers. I tell agents in
"We have done better in having an African-American hand in some of our crew departments and in directing. Nobody has directed more episodes than
"It's our hope—this is a little premature—to get Spike Lee for the first episode next year. He said he was interested last year, but we had some miscommunication. His agent said he wasn't available. We are very conscious of the race disparity. We look around the room and see, oh shit, we're a bunch of white guys! But you look at what Price and Pelecanos and Lehane and Burns have done. … We're not trying to exclude in any sense, and it's not a good-old-boy network, because some of these people never met before this show."