During its run from 2002 to 2008, The Wire kick-started the careers of numerous actors, most notably Idris Elba, who went on to feature in Luther, the Thor movies and millions of women’s fantasies, and Aidan Gillen, whose role as political operator Tommy Carcetti was the perfect preparation for playing the Machiavellian manipulator Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish in Game of Thrones.
But for those keen to see some of their favourite Wire actors back in a gritty urban setting, where the line between the “good” police and the “bad” criminals is sometimes blurred, the best choice right now is Bosch. Based on Michael Connelly’s series of novels about dogged detective Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver), the show, like The Wire, features top-notch acting, realistic settings and hard-boiled crime stories that don’t shy away from the issues of the day.
Who made the move from Baltimore to LA?
A number of Wire alums have appeared in Bosch, but the most recognisable are Jamie Hector and Lance Reddick. Hector, who memorably played dead-eyed drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield in The Wire, is this time on the other side of the law as Bosch’s police partner, Jerry Edgar, who, in season three, is put in a precarious position thanks to Bosch’s relentless pursuit of a suspected serial killer.
Reddick, on the other hand, rose through the ranks of the Baltimore police department as Cedric Daniels in The Wire, but was eventually ousted over his refusal to play ball with the powers that be. As season three of Bosch begins, his character, Irvin Irving, is a grieving father – his son was killed in the line of duty in season two. Irving is trying to keep it together as acting police chief while the new mayor and his unsuccessful opponent engage in a battle for his loyalty.
According to Bosch creator and executive producer Michael Connelly, the Wire/Bosch association is all thanks to showrunner Eric Overmyer.
“He was a writer and producer on The Wire, and had many connections with those actors,” says Connelly. “So, when we were sitting around casting, he didn’t have to say to a casting director, ‘Can you contact Jamie Hector’s people?', he could just shoot him a text or call him up and say, ‘This is what I’m working on. Are you interested?’”
While Hector clearly was, Reddick proved to be a bit more reluctant, worried Irving was too similar to Daniels, but he was persuaded to come on board, and Connelly again credits Overmyer.
“I don’t think we would have ended up with some of these people from The Wire had we not had the direct connection through Eric,” he says.
There are plenty of overlapping themes
While each season of The Wire focused on different aspects of Baltimore society – education, the media, the plight of the working class, politics and crime – the continuing theme was the difficulty of working within the system. The cops were frequently frustrated in their attempts to catch the criminals by the endless red tape they had to wade through to get anything done.
Ultimately, this led to several good cops cutting corners, manufacturing evidence and eventually being forced off the force. Bosch, similarly, has no love for authority, even going so far as to push one of his superiors through a plate-glass window, while his no-nonsense attitude sometimes rubs his fellow officers up the wrong way.
Irving, by contrast, is a slick political operator. In season two he was caught up in the schemes of two mayoral candidates, one of whom, Richard “Ricochet” O’Shea (Steven Culp), is reminiscent of The Wire’s Tommy Carcetti, who would say and do anything he thought would help get him elected. At the beginning of season three, it’s revealed whether or not his mayoral campaign has been successful.
Another of the other major issues in both series is race. The Wire was set in Baltimore where black people make up a much higher percentage of the population than white people, though white people tended to hold positions of power – police, prosecuting attorneys, the mayor – and often made decisions that negatively affected the city’s black folks. The early Bosch novels were set in ’90s LA, which was famously a hotbed of racial tension and, while the series is set in the present day, the racial themes are still as relevant as ever.
“That’s the sad thing,” says Connelly. “There’s still the same divide between those that have and those that don’t, and it’s getting wider and wider. Our show’s an entertaining detective show, but it does have something to say about the times we live in and Los Angeles in particular.”
Both series offer an unmistakable authenticity
Another similarity between the two series is their “realness”. The Wire was set and filmed in Baltimore, often showing the city’s seamier side – the housing projects where the Barksdale crew hung out on dirty, stuffing-spewing couches, the bars and disused rail yards where McNulty (Dominic West) would go to drink, and the grocery store where Omar Little (Michael K Williams) met his demise were all real locations. Their inclusion gave the show even more depth and credibility.
Bosch, likewise, is set and filmed in LA, and while some of the locations are lush – Bosch pursues the rich and powerful as hard as the down and out and deadbeat – the detectives often find themselves investigating crimes in dingy back alleys and rundown apartment blocks. But, at the end of the day, Bosch winds his way back to his own house in the Hollywood Hills, where he observes the city from his balcony, sips his drink and plots his next move against the murderers who do their best to elude him. From up there, he is king of all he surveys and those who go up against him would do well to heed Omar Little’s famous words: “You come at the king, you best not miss.”
Bosch season three starts tonight at 8:30pm on SBS - then airs Thursdays at 9:30pm. Watch the first episode at SBS On Demand: