I started watching The Wire because of Felicia “Snoop” Pearson (or more properly, this post about her on AfterEllen). She plays a character of the same name on the show, which is probably some of the best television to come out of the US in a very, very long time. For those who haven’t sat rapt through every season, The Wire is about Baltimore – one of the most dangerous cities in the US. It was created by David Simon, who worked for years as a crime reporter for the local paper, and follows the efforts of the local police force to track down criminals.
But Snoop shares more than a name with her character, who you can see in action here:
The thing is, Pearson, who is a lesbian, killed Okia “Kia” Toomer, age 15, in 1995. Pearson was 14 years old at the time and was later convicted of second-degree murder. She served five years of her two consecutive eight-year sentences, emerging with a GED and, reportedly, a much calmer outlook on life. Two years ago, actor Michael K. Williams, who plays gay thug Omar Little on The Wire, caught sight of Pearson out at a club in Baltimore, and on first sight, he knew that she would be perfect for the series.
“I got intoxicated with her,” Williams told the Washington Post. “I said, ‘This woman deserves a shot at something more than what the Baltimore streets have to offer.’ I felt compelled to give her an option, just in case she wanted to try something else.” The option turned into a recurring role on The Wire.
As might be expected, the family of the teenager she murdered is not very happy about seeing her shoot to fame on the back of a role where she plays a murderer. The decision treads a dubious line between fact and fiction, especially in a show that – if it doesn’t condone murder, drug dealing and general violence – at least lets you suspend your moral outrage enough to like and sympathise with some quite vicious characters. So, you can see why it would be interesting to read her autobiography.
Jasmyne Cannick has reviewed an advanced copy of the book, and you can also find extracts and a link to where you can buy it yourself on her post.