It is with a heavy heart that I inform our readership that Robert F. Chew, the actor who blessed The Wire fans with the endlessly quotable and imitable Prop Joe, has died of heart failure at the age of 52.
Distasteful wordplay and line-dropping aside. Chew’s amazingly restrained performance as Prop Joe in the HBO inner-city epic serves as a touchpoint of the brilliance of the program, widely regarded as one of television’s best.
While Robert Chew’s legacy includes turns in David Simon productions Homicide, The Corner, and The Wire, perhaps his greatest work was his effort after achieving success, mentoring Baltimore‘s Arean Players, a troupe of child and young adult actors.
No less than David Simon has high praise for Chew, offering:
“He could have gone to New York or Los Angeles and commanded a lot more work, but he loved the city as his home and chose to remain here working. He understood so much about his craft that it was no surprise at all that we would go to him to coach our young actors in season four. He was the conduit through which they internalized their remarkable performances.”
With that quote, we learn that not only was Robert Chew responsible for his own great performance on the show, but also in eliciting the moving performances.
While he was known for his character, I’m sure he was known to many other people as something more. Rest in peace, Prop Joe, you cadaverous motherfucker.