News & Politics

An Actor From ‘The Wire’ Says David Simon Shouldn’t Have an Exclusive on the Series’ Stories

Simon says playwright Norris Davis' claim on the TV show's characters is "notably ridiculous"

On Wednesday, the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club postponed a stage play version of The Wire after the show’s creator, David Simon, expressed concern about the title of the production. Despite this decision, one of the creators of the stage play said on Thursday evening that he intends to proceed with the production.

Norris Davis, who co-wrote the stage play with Nadir Abdullah, wrote in an email that he plans on following through with the production, but not at the Bethesda venue. Davis wrote that by “coming into the inner city of Baltimore,” Simon and HBO “made millions off the lives of those people caught in the perils of poverty; drug addiction, mental illness, and drug trafficking.” He expressed dismay that Simon would profit from these stories, and then tell Baltimore natives “that we cannot pursue our creative and artistic talents by staging a stage play about that era and our experiences in that same culture.”

Before creating The Wire, Simon reported on drugs and crime for The Baltimore Sun for more than a decade. Simon wrote in an email that he has known Davis—who played the character “Vinson” on his show—for 30 years, and that he “has his own notable history and he should write and produce whatever is unique to his vision.”

Simon, added, however, that using the same title and content from his series “seems notably ridiculous, and a needless affront to the many people who worked to create that narrative and stand by its themes and purposes, but have no control of or responsibility for the work of others.” He added that “There are plenty of ways to tell a story without not only stealing stuff, but then, incredibly, laying some claim to possession of the work from which you have stolen.”

The play that Davis co-wrote follows central characters from Simon’s hit television show, imagining where Avon Barksdale’s and Chris Partlow’s lives take them after the series finale. Simon wrote that because HBO owns the rights to The Wire, it is their decision as to how to proceed, not his. Davis wrote that he has retained an attorney from the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts to further litigate his position in the matter. The attorney, Adam Holcener, said that while he has spoken to Davis about the situation, he has not yet engaged him as a client.

Courtney Vinopal is a former Washingtonian editorial fellow. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, and previously worked as a press attaché for the Embassy of France in Washington, where she ran the institution’s social media accounts and newsletters. She lives in Woodley Park.