Show & Tell

Take Two Is The Wire headed south?

Guns N’ Poses: Lamont Carey serves and directs.
Darrow Montgomery

Last November, 34-year-old Lamont Carey was struck with an idea for a new television series: He would employ amateur actors and guerrilla camera techniques to take an ear-to-the-ground look into the lives of D.C.’s drug lords and lawmen. That concept sounded familiar to one visitor to Carey’s Web site, who posed the question (though not the question mark): “Is it a wannabe The Wire.”

In the eight months since its conception, the “W” word has become a bit of a sore spot for Carey’s cast and crew. Stan Coles, who plays drug dealer “M.T.” on the show—character motivations include attempting to “stay pretty” in a “dirty game”—responded to the hater: “IN NO SHAPE, FORM, OR FASHION IS OUR SHOW LIKE THE WIRE. IS IT THE SAME CONCEPT? YES? BUT IT’S NOT CALLED THE WIRE 2?”

The series, in fact, is called Laws of the STREET, and it is nothing like David Simon’s television series, which employed amateur actors and guerrilla camera techniques to take an ear-to-the-ground look into the lives of Baltimore’s drug lords and lawmen. Laws of the STREET’s actors, for one, are real amateurs. “We don’t have any A-listers or any B-listers,” says Carey. “I’m reaching out to the pool of talent in Washington, not only the youth, not only the elders, but also the ex-offenders,” says Carey.

Many castmembers’ only film credits are bit parts on a television program shot not far from D.C. The guy who plays a drug enforcer on Laws of the STREET can be spied in the background of an episode of The Wire as (spoiler alert!) Omar stabs a guy in a prison lunch line. Laws actors Charles Smith and Keith Erik both appeared briefly on The Wire as Baltimore Sun reporters. Eight-year-old Roland Haywood, who plays good-hearted street kid Divine on Laws, never appeared on The Wire; according to his résumé, he has made his way by “befriending well-known insiders like Nathan Corbett from HBO’s The Wire.”

Antwon Temoney, who plays drug kingpin “Light Skin” on Laws of the STREET—definitely nothing like Wire drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield—insists that some castmembers’ experience on Simon’s show won’t affect Carey’s product. “It’s gonna be different from The Wire because it’s gonna be better than The Wire,” says Temoney, whose acting credits include three episodes as a drug dealer on The Wire. “I don’t know where David Simon got his information from, but Lamont Carey knows what he’s talking about.”

Carey—a spoken word artist, television producer, writer, actor, Internet radio host, talent agent, author, and activist—knows what he’s talking about because he’s also an ex-con. When Carey was 16 years old, he was charged with robbery and assault with intent to murder in Prince George’s County and served 11 years in prison. Robbery, attempted murder, and prison life are just a few of the many issues Carey hopes to address on the show, which will also delve into drug dealing, pedophilia, rape, gambling, child abuse, and depression. Take that, David Simon!

Since his release from prison, Carey has quietly built an alternate empire, one of actors and performers instead of addicts and dealers. Carey’s own accomplishments include a stint on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, a book of poetry, Why I Keep U a Secret, an Internet radio show “for crazy people with issues,” a prison pen-pal outreach program, and a three-episode arc on The Wire, where he played a drug dealer who loses a game of craps and exclaims “Oh, shit!”

But in his six years and three months on parole, Carey says he hasn’t forgotten his upbringing. “I was born in Southeast, but I was really raised in prison,” explains Carey. The pilot will be shot in some of Carey’s old District haunts, from the area behind Cardozo High School to Benning Road NE, which Carey is petitioning the government to close off for a scene where actors will wield fake weapons in the middle of the street. “I don’t want to get shot by accident by the real police,” says Carey. According to Temoney, the local locations give Laws of the STREETS another one-up on Simon’s enterprise. “All the scenes are filmed here in Washington, D.C.,” says Temoney. “The Wire was filmed in Baltimore. So this is authentic. This is all right here.”

For Carey, authenticity is a matter of depth, not location. “The Wire, the episodes I saw were realistic, but I don’t think it went deep enough,” he says. “We’re gonna show the hows and the whys. In some shows there’s no other way but to deal drugs and to kill. We’re gonna show some other options.” On the series’ Web site, each of Laws’ 42 roles is described with a character-forming question next to a nickname. Some questions, like the one for hit man “Madness,” are hypothetical: “They say pressure burst pipe or make diamonds but what does pulling a trigger do?” The plight of low-level drug dealer “Earl” is more straight-forward: “What happens when a killer has an appettite for underaged girls? What happens with both of his desires take control?”

On-set, Laws’ castmembers have embraced their street alter-egos, forming joking rivalries between on-air crews and calling one another by their nicknames on the show. Says Fabian Scott, who plays “Squirrel,” a man looking to “find out what true success is before his rap sheet becomes longer than he freedom”: “They call me Squirrel because I’m crazy. I’m like a crazy person.” Chris Kennedy, who plays a character simply known as “Whisper,” doesn’t know why he’s called that. “I have no idea. Maybe he’s, you know, kind of quiet.” Carey’s own character is a bit closer to his own experience; in addition to his writing and directing duties, Carey also plays “Slim,” a man who struggles between “returning to the street” and “going straight” and is totally nothing like The Wire’s Dennis “Cutty” Wise.

Still, trading Simon’s television pedigree for street cred means that getting network attention has been significantly more difficult for Carey and company. Carey has already written 11 episodes of a planned 13 for Laws’ first season, but he has been filming the pilot episode since February. Carey hopes to finish the pilot within the year and start shopping it around to networks like Showtime and HBO (home of The Wire). For now, the cast has started rehearsing a reworked stage version of the pilot, which Carey plans to present at the Page-to-Stage Festival at the Kennedy Center in February. “We never planned to have this onstage, but whatever door we can open, I’m gonna go through,” says Carey. “We’re gonna steal that shit.”

With no budget, elementary equipment, and a cast of 42 amateur actors, the road to television has been slow. Carey has already lost some of his unpaid actors to homework, double shifts, or other extenuating circumstances. Months ago, one principal—the actor who played hitman “Madness”—had to be replaced suddenly in the middle of shooting. “For whatever reason, we had to replace him,” says production coordinator Andrea Camille. Castmember Lorita Jackson gets more specific: “Madness was arrested,” she says. (A new “Madness,” Rob Green, is now on duty.)

Despite the setbacks, Carey is confident the show will find a home on the air—and become a hit. “It’s gonna be like nothing you’ve ever seen,” he says. “I would absolutely compare it to nothing at all.”

Got Something for Show & Tell? Send tips to show@washingtoncitypaper.com. Or call (202) 332-2100, x 473.

Our Readers Say

Carey and company's self-delusion is just stunning. This project will go nowhere because the talent level is zero. Sad but true.
How can you say any thing about what we are doing with out meeting us first?
We are doing this for the love of the craft!!!! and you are calling us zeros because we are telling the real story of the hard times in DC? So with that said
have a good day and if were so wack make us better.

ps: Real Men and Women put thier names up by what they stand for !!

Christopher M. Bair

remeber that name I'll be writeing that on your childs "ROB" poster.

thanks to all the people that show us love. To my Laws family it gets like this sometime but all the hard work will pay off.
This looks like a cheap imitation of Master P' s criticially praised, Oscar nominated "Bout it, Bout it". Try again fellas
Christopher-

I'm not knocking your hard work. The issue I have is how you seem to try downplaying The Wire to big up your project. Just ignore the comparison and do what you do. If its really what you say it is, then you shouldn't worry.

Peace

T
My feeling is "nothing beats a failure but a try"......................you never know. Atleast he's trying to do something instead of sitting around waiting for something to come to him. I can relate to having to build a new life for yourself and folks saying don't do this or don't do that. Sometimes you just gotta do it, roll forward and not listen to the naysayers. I may like the show, I may not but I'll wait until I see it before I decide.
It is amazing to me how much negativity there is. . .why put people and efforts down, especially before you've seen a product? I doubt that any of us would feel that was fair if it was our project that others were putting down, sight unseen.

Here are people trying to do something positive. What would you have them do? Nothing? And if they did, there would probably be complaints about that ("Why don't those people get up and DO SOMETHING??!!")

I understand that some might feel that those interviewed made comments that denigrated "The Wire." But understand that reporters -- not those being interviewed -- frame stories. They also frame context.

I'm assuming that folk are media-savvy enough to know that.

At the very least, save the "hate" until you've actually seen the product.

Or be more up-front about your real agenda.

Peace. . .
Christopher-

I'm not knocking your hard work. The issue I have is how you seem to try downplaying The Wire to big up your project. Just ignore the comparison and do what you do. If its really what you say it is, then you shouldn't worry.

Peace

T






Treez-

Brother you know the messed up part of all that ... No one was trying to down play an icon show like "The Wire" my cast members just wanted to let people know that we are not "The Wire" we are trying to bring some thing to light about the deeper story of the Ills of the most powerful piece of land in the world! (DC) you got to fell that bro. Imagine in your mind right now that here’s this place were the worlds rules are made! and you have people living in fu ck ed up conditions this our time to take it to America that sees this place only for monuments and were the president lives. the story is going to be something to see! But in no way of form am I mad at any one that post bad thins about us we just ask you to take time to use our minds to look deeper than the drugs and killing. I know this was long but that’s the way I fell.

Peace and love to our fans, critics and the people with the opportunity to get know us!
Christopher,

True, I haven't met you, but I have thoroughly viewed the Law of the Streets website, all the video clips and "trailers" and all the online information available about Lamont Carey.

I made my rather crass judgement based on that and the direct quotes from Carey in the CityPaper article. The vast majority of the public makes judgements about a company based on the quality of their website and, as an advertising professional, I can say with some authority that the Law of the Streets website is just plain awful. The "series" trailer is even worse.

Many say I shouldn't criticize before seeing the final product, but part of my belief is that there will never be a final product. How long have you been working on the premiere episode? How close are you to finishing it and actually securing a pitch-meeting with a network? I don't want to discourage people from trying, but I do want to urge people to be more realistic about their talent level. It will save loads of depression-inducing discouragement and disillusionment in the future.

If you're confident in your ability to get this show picked up by a network, one comment from me shouldn't even warrant a response. You need a very thick skin to succeed in the television/movie businesss where rejection is far, far more common than success.

From the 6 pages of comments/postings that I read on the "Streets" website you seem to be getting nothing but support and "love" from your peers. Why don't you listen to them and ignore me? That you even care about what I think is another reason why I'm convinced you will fail.

Good luck to you, sincerely. I'm looking forward to the Page-to-Stage festival at the Kennedy Center and will definitely be in the audience either cheering for you or laughing at you. It would be fantastic if you proved my complete lack of confidence in you to be wrong, and I will be front and center to congratulate you and apologize for my previous doubts if you, as Lamont stated, "steal that shit." You just have to promise you won't beat the crap out of me on the spot (I'm a 44 year old woman) for having the audacity to doubt you.

Sorry for coming across as so mean (as "a hater"). This is the first and LAST time I will EVER post a comment online. Lesson learned. And I really do want a fellow DC resident to succeed --- honestly. Please, prove my critcizims wrong. I'd love to be come a Lamont Carey supporter

PS: On anothe note... I have no idea what a "ROB" is, but I'm child-free by choice, so whatever it is there's no chance you'll be "writeing" it on my "childs poster." I didn't post my name because, as a DC resident, I was fearful of overblown retaliation --- which is pretty much what I received. As I said before, you need a really thick skin to succeed in the entertainment business. I suggest you start growing that skin now. It will undoubtedly help you in the future.
HI, bragging does not equal talent

Well Miss we hope that you'll be there for the show, and as far as the beat down goes we wold never do any thing like that. like i said befor get to know us i wish you could come to a practice run and see what we are realy all about.

Also i asked you if you this cast has zero talent or the ads are bad HELP us
don't diss US!! if you been in the ad indusutrie that long then take some of talent and give advise not hate (please) thats all we ask of you.

as far as thick skin goes well thats easy, belive me I've heard worst.
and being 40 and a woman hey were not mad at you at all.

and why do we listen to you? well duh we need all the feed we can get we thank you for it because we know that the dialog with the good and the bad can only make us better and we love you for it.

thanks for the feed back and we hope to put on a great show for you 8/30/08

see you soon,

love ,
The Cast

www.lawsofthe street.com
Lay's evidence comes down to the wiring divers found two months ago while

examining the site scientists identified as the last resting place of the M24, the

two-man submarine piloted by Sub-Lieutenant Katsuhisa Ban and Petty Officer

Mamoru Ashibe. Unable to disturb the sands for fear of interfering with a war

grave, the divers took photos of the one thing they could see: copper wiring

with rubber insulation and an outer coating of waxed paper.

-------------

gillberk

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