legal action if HBO didn’t renew the series. Though Hollywood is prone to calling everything the greatest thing ever, this 2002-2008 series maintained an authenticity and socio-political storytelling through each of its 60 episodes. With each season, "The Wire" focused on a different aspect of urban living in Baltimore, Maryland. From the drug trade to the school system to the waterfront to government bureaucracy, these issues are all held under a deliciously incisive light. There was no simple good or evil, just a lot of shades of both.
Dominic West as James “Jimmy” McNulty
There’s nothing like an insubordinate, hard-drinking cop to really warm your heart. West brings the lovable back to the functional alcoholic, not because he manages to reform his longtime love affair with Irish whiskey. Instead, Jimmy is a marvelous cop, the kind of police officer that actually solves cases, but that doesn’t mean his life isn’t a mess. Surprisingly, Dominic West is a Brit. He spent many years in London theatre and has a long list of supporting roles in standard Hollywood fare like “28 Days” and “Mona Lisa Smile.” Luckily for him, he producers were specifically looking for unfamiliar faces for the Baltimore streets.
Amy Ryan as Office Beatrice 'Beadie' Russell
Ryan borders on the plain and seems to have no interest in Hollywood glamour. What she has in spades is a magnificent acting ability, from her Oscar nominated turn in “Gone Baby Gone” to her work on the series “The Office”, where she engages in a goofball romance with Steve Carell's character 'Michael'. In "The Wire", Beadie, a single mother and unimpressive waterfront officer, somehow manages to be the one woman that can woo McNulty away from the bottle. With Ryan in the part, the romance is completely believable.
Wendell Pierce as William “Bunk” Moreland
What Wendell Piece brings to solid as a rock homicide detective Moreland is magnificent sarcasm, the best kind of city honed cutting wit. He doesn’t get ruffled, he doesn’t get gooey supportive when McNulty lays off the drink, and he cheats on his wife. After a long career of guest spots, Wendell Pierce takes center stage on "The Wire." He also stars in HBO’s critically-acclaimed “Treme.”
John Doman as Deputy Commissioner for Operations, William A. Rawls
This ruthless bureaucrat works his way up the city’s political ladder by any means necessary. He’s the thorn in McNulty’s side throughout the series. He has a penchant for making homoerotic jokes, kind of like, ahem, Ted Haggard, and lets his pettiness show when dealing with the rebellious McNulty. The delightful Doman brings great touches of humanity to the cold-hearted careerist. A quality he’s brought to scores of television dramas, like “E.R,” “Law and Order,” “C.S.I.” and “Damages.” Doman also leads the medieval “Borgia” family on Showtime's "The Borgias", as patriarch Rodrigo Borgia.
Idris Elba as Russell 'Stringer' Bell
Another Brit playing a classic American stereotype, the kid that grew up in the projects but made himself a success. Except in this case, “Stringer” Bell is not in a legit real estate business, but the number two in a drug operation. Elba brings an elegant, intellectual air to this marvelously complex criminal. He’s since let his comic side show as Michael Scott’s “The Office” nemesis Charles Miner. He’s also made the jump to big budget franchises like “Thor,” “Ghost Rider” and Ridley Scott’s upcoming “Prometheus.”