Sterling K. Brown Was Super Close to Getting an Iconic Role in HBO's 'The Wire'

Sterling K. Brown has been doing his thing in Hollywood for years. Before dazzling us all as Randall Pearson on This Is Us or becoming an animated character in Frozen II, Brown stared in American Crime Story: The People v O.J. Simpson, Army Wives, Supernatural, and countless other credits.

However, before snagging a role in any of these projects, Brown went out for a role in the acclaimed HBO crime series, The Wire. Set in inner-city Baltimore, David Simon’s award-winning series chronicles the drug scene through the eye of law enforcement, the drug dealers, the neighborhood, the press, politicians, and the school system.

Running for five seasons, The Wire is still heralded as one of the best TV shows of all time. In fact, Brown was nearly apart of the series before the role went to someone else.

RELATED: HBO’S The Wire’ Was Loosely Based On Series Co-Writer’s Work In Law Enforcement and Education

‘The Wire’ got people to watch TV in a different way

Though the series is beloved now, HBO’s The Wire got off to a rocky start when it first debuted. Simon explained that in order to get people to buy into the series he had to “teach folks to watch television in a different way.”

With so many characters, The Wire didn’t have a main character and though there were many explosive moments, there were also slower moments for context and story. As a result, ratings for The Wire struggled in the beginning.

RELATED: Why Did ‘The Wire’ Have Low Ratings When It First Aired on HBO?

‘The Wire’ is still praised for its realism

As The Wire earned recognition, one thing that it’s been praised for is how realistic it is especially in its depictions of crime, poverty, and drugs in Baltimore. Many of the stories came from Simon’s co-writer, Ed Burns who had worked in law enforcement and education. Meanwhile, Simon was able to bring in his experiences from working for The Baltimore Sun newspaper. 

“[Ed] did a lot of these protracted investigations, often of more than a year’s time, into violent drug traffickers,” Simon explained to Salon. “It was largely based on his experiences and his frustrations in the department. It became more of a treatise about institutions and individuals than a straight cop show.”

RELATED: Idris Elba Had to Lie to Get His Iconic Role in ‘The Wire’

Sterling K. Brown auditioned for the role of Stringer Bell

Though the role of Stringer Bell, the ruthless, but business-minded gangster ultimately went to Idris Elba, Brown came pretty close to snagging the role.

He revealed to Men’s Health Journal that he along with Mahershala Ali, Anthony Mackie, and Mike Colter, all well-known for their work now, all auditioned for the role.

“I remember auditioning for The Wire and being very close to Stringer Bell,” Brown revealed. “What’s been really cool for me in terms of the usual suspects is that it has been a situation of all love. We were like, ‘Somebody’s gonna get the gig. I hope it’s you.’ At any point 90 percent of all the acting-union members are unemployed, and you’re just fighting to be part of the rotating two percent. There’s so much rejection that you have to be willing to deal with and let it sort of roll off your back. There are people I know who are absolutely brilliant who had to segue into something else in life.”

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