Walking the wire


Season 4 of HBO’s critically acclaimed drama The Wire wrapped up last December, and the show’s fifth and final season isn’t slated to premiere until this fall, but the Washington Post has recently published a fascinating article about one of the show’s actors, Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, who happens to play a character of the same name on the show.

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.

The Post story goes into detail about the homicide that changed the lives of Pearson, Toomer and their respective families, painting a complicated picture about crime, punishment and privilege. Toomer’s family is horrified, understandably, by seeing Pearson portraying a murderer on TV. Simultaneously, Pearson understands this acting gig has been the opportunity to change her life. The question, of course, is can someone with Pearson’s background — not to mention her butch appearance — make it in an industry better known for glam than for grittiness? Beyond that, is it possible to reconcile Pearson’s success with Toomer’s death? Perhaps, as her godmother says to the Post, “Anything to keep her off the streets.”

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