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Lauded for its searingly honest depiction of Baltimore's underworld, The Wire did its very best to keep it real.
The US crime drama, considered by many to be the greatest TV show ever made, ran for five series between 2002 and 2006.
For Dominic West, an Eton-educated toff from England, the challenge of portraying Jimmy McNulty, a heavy drinking, hard-nosed murder detective was presumably one that required every ounce of his acting talent.
But the evidence suggests some of his co-stars didn't have to do quite as much research.
A handful of cast members were all too familiar with the shady world presented in David Simon's masterpiece.
Others, though, slipped into a world of drugs and violence after the show ended.
Here, we take a look at The Wire stars whose lives mirrored the darker aspects of the show.
Michael K Williams
In The Wire, Michael K Williams played Omar Little, a gay stick-up man who robbed dealers to give to the poor.
A kind of 'Robin Hood in the hood', his character's strict code and utter contempt for drug dealers was clear.
But the irony was that the "dark energy" that came from playing shotgun-toting Omar contributed to a serious drug addiction for the actor. His increasingly chaotic life away from the screen began to resemble scenes from the show.
By 2004, Williams was smoking a lot of cannabis and had become addicted to cocaine.
He started going by his character's name on the streets and would disappear for days at a time to go on coke binges, hiding his spiralling addiction from his family and friends.
“I was playing with fire,” Williams told the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
“It was just a matter of time before I got caught and my business ended up on the cover of a tabloid or I went to jail or, worse, I ended up dead. When I look back on it now, I don’t know how I didn’t end up in a body bag.”
Williams, with the help of Reverend Ronald Christian in New Jersey, got clean after filming his final scenes as Omar.
The 54-year-old reflected: “I suffered from a huge identity crisis. But when I look at the characters, I got to exorcise my demons, a lot. In the end, I was more comfortable with Omar’s skin than my own. That was a problem.”
By her own admission, Sonja Sohn struggled with the idea of playing a cop, Detective Kima Greggs, in The Wire.
After all, her relationship with police "wasn't a very good one," she says.
Sohn grew up in a housing project in Newport News, Virginia. Her dad, an African-American Korean War veteran, was abusive and violent towards her mum, the bride he brought back from South East Asia.
She began smoking cannabis at 11. By 13, was smoking it every day, as well as dabbling with speed and acid.
But things really "started to get hairy" when she was introduced to cocaine in her senior year of high school.
Despite her issues with drugs, she graduated high school and moved to New York where she got into slam poetry and married Australian musician Adam Plack with whom she had two daughters, in 1986 and 1990.
In 1988, Sohn's older brother, a small-time drug dealer and petty criminal, was murdered in his late 20s. She told NPR he was shot dead in a jealous rage by the abusive boyfriend of a woman he had befriended.
Her drug use continued and her marriage broke down.
By the time she was cast in The Wire, she was in a much better place, but still familiar with the environment depicted in the show.
In more recent years, she founded a non-profit organisation ReWired for Change, aimed at steering at-risk youths away from crime.
She may also still be fighting her demons as in 2019 she was arrested on a drug-possession charge in North Carolina after cocaine and other drug paraphernalia were allegedly found in her purse.
Contrary to popular belief, James Ransone insists he didn't become a "junkie" until after his stint in The Wire.
The Baltimore native drew acclaim for his performance in season two as Chester 'Ziggy' Sobotka, the hyperactive, annoying and reckless son of Frank Sobotka, a union leader for the city's dock workers.
He says his addiction to heroin came "a couple of years" later.
In an interview with The Fix, he told how he developed a dependency on prescription pain pills then turned to heroin when it became harder to get hold of meds such as Vicodin, Xanax and Oxycodone.
He convinced himself he wasn't a "junkie" because he only snorted or smoked drugs, stopping short of injecting, but now freely admits he most "definitely was" a full blown addict.
"I almost died a couple of times," he told The Fix. "One time, I actually did die and got brought back to life.
"Then I got arrested a few times. The last time I got arrested, I got out of jail and came home and got a couple of bundles of heroin and tried to get high but it didn’t work any more. That was the scariest part."
Ransone, 41, says he tried to take his own life "a couple of times" before going to rehab in 2006. He's been clean ever since.
He told Interview Magazine: "I woke up at 27 after being on heroin for five years. It was like I sobered up and I realised, 'My job is being an actor. This is crazy!'"
Physically imposing with a chilling stare, Anwan Glover was particularly convincing as gangland enforcer and lieutenant Slim Charles.
But having grown up just a few miles from Baltimore in D.C., he knew the game and its players well.
In 2007, speaking after his brother Tayon was shot and killed at the age of 29, he told a local radio station his sibling had been caught in the crossfire during a local feud and was "in the wrong place at the wrong time".
He said that while he himself had never sold drugs, he had been shot 13 times.
Glover, along with D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty, used his profile to call for an end to revenge shootings.
There was more painful drama in 2011 when his teenage son survived being shot in the back at a suburban pool party.
Then in 2014, Glover was kicked, beaten and stabbed in his right side during what he described as "an altercation with some unknown people" following a gig with his band, the BackYard Band, in D.C.
Writing on Instagram after the incident, he said: "While defending myself, I was stabbed.
"I am recovering and will be back soon. I am not a stranger to adversity and when shown hate, I'm going to spread love."
Glover, 49, who campaigns against street violence, was arrested in 2019 after police alleged they found a loaded gun in his car during a traffic stop. Following the arrest, he spent a week in jail.
In The Wire, Melvin Williams portrays the Deacon, a wise and gentle soul who steers youths away from drugs.
And in his later years, he did much the same in real life.
But in the 1970s and 80s, 'Little Melvin' was instrumental in flooding the streets of West Baltimore with heroin and cocaine.
The Wire creator David Simon says the former drug kingpin was one of several people who inspired the Avon Barksdale character.
By the time Williams was 21, he had been arrested 10 times on charges including auto theft and assault.
He was first jailed on drug charges in the 1967 but was released on bail when the assassination of Martin Luther King sparked riots. He went back to prison in 1969 after being convicted of drug possession.
Over the next three decades he was heavily involved in heroin and cocaine trafficking and spent more than 20 years behind bars.
In the FX documentary Tapping the Wire, he claimed he made at least "a couple hundred million" through heroin trafficking.
David Simon, while still a reporter for the Baltimore Sun in the late 1980s, did a series of interviews with Williams from inside jail. Those interviews formed five articles telling Williams' life story.
When he was released from prison for the last time in 2003, after serving a short sentence for pistol-whipping a man over a $500 debt, Simon sought to cast him in The Wire.
Williams died of cancer in 2015 at the age of 73.
Stephen King described Felicia 'Snoop' Pearson as "perhaps the most terrifying female villain to ever appear in a television series”.
But while there are undeniably parallels between the real-life Pearson and her character in The Wire – the name, habitat and industry, to reference a few – she insists they're not the same.
To be more specific, she isn't the cold-blooded, remorseless killer she portrays on screen.
Pearson was born in Baltimore to drug-addicted parents, premature, weighing just three pounds and not expected to live. She was raised in the city by church-going foster parents.
However, they weren't able to keep her on the straight and narrow. She rebelled and began selling drugs at a very young age. By 14, she was charging $100 to pistol-whip victims.
In her memoir, Grace After Midnight, she said: “I was being turned the wrong way. I saw it, but I wasn’t about to stop it.
"Something like a fever had come over me. But it wasn’t no 24-hour fever. The fever felt permanent. The fever provided chills and thrills. Even when Mama was talking good sense to me, I felt the fever. The fever had more power over me than Mama’s warnings.”
Then on April 27, 1995, came what she describes as "the worst day of my life".
Pearson's version of events is that she was walking through her neighbourhood when she spotted a fight and decided to move closer for a better look.
In the moments that followed, she claims Okia 'Kia' Toomer, a 15-year-old girl, attacked her with a lead bat. In the struggle to get away, she fired her gun and Kia was hit.
The teenager died and Pearson, then 16, was charged with her murder as an adult. She was sentenced to two eight-year terms and was released from jail after six-and-a-half years.
On her release from prison, she tried to go straight but after losing jobs because of her criminal record, she fell back into drug dealing.
Her big break came when Michael K Williams spotted her in a nightclub and approached her about meeting producers with a view to appearing in The Wire.
Within two weeks, she was playing Snoop.
Sadly, old habits die hard and in 2011, Pearson was arrested as part of a huge police operation to smash a drug dealing ring. She was sentenced to seven years in jail for conspiracy to sell heroin.
According to her IMDB page, she's involved in various acting projects.
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