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Interview: George Pelecanos on Heading Back to Baltimore in ‘We Own This City’

Author George Pelecanos is best known in television for his work as co-creator of HBO’s Baltimore-set drama series The Wire with David Simon. After working with the cable network on other projects like The Pacific, Treme, and The Deuce, Pelecanos returns as a writer and executive producer for We Own This City, which looks at the rampant corruption within the Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force.

Awards Radar had the chance to speak with Pelecanos about coming back to Baltimore in his latest project and the value of staying close to the truth:

“It was extremely important. We had the luxury, if anything good came out of the pandemic, it was that we had a lot of time to do this. We had about two years to develop it and research it. Some of the people including David and Bill Zorzi, a former Sun reporter, still have these repertory journalistic instincts, so we actually dug in, and Bill did a ton of research, in addition to what we have in the book, and when it came down to the events surrounding the death of Sean Suiter, David actually went out and did some digging and came up with some things were not known to the public. We just felt like, especially in the case of that incident, we felt like we had a responsibility not only to him but to his family to only depict what we knew.”

On the participation of police officers in the making of the series, Pelecanos shared:

“We had a guy named Dre who was our advisor. He was in the Gun Trace Task Force. He looked up to Jenkins…he came up to me several times during the shoot and said, thanks for that. We had scenes where we gave the police their say in this. For example, Hersl, who’s played by Josh Charles, when he’s talking to Steele in the bar, and she’s talking about the complaints he had. He had like fifty brutality complaints against him. He said, show me a cop who doesn’t have complaints against him, and I’ll show you a cop who doesn’t get out of his car. And Dre was like, that’s the truth, man. Thank you for letting him say that. Even though that guy was a bad guy, what he’s saying is true. The police that do the job are going to get complaints.”

Listen to the full conversation below:

We Own This City is streaming on HBO Max.

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Written by Abe Friedtanzer

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