‘The Wire’ 20 Years Later: Tray Chaney Played a Drug Dealer and It Changed His Life

Tray Chaney and The Wire (Credit: Handout Photo/HBO)

When Tray Chaney auditioned for a role on The Wire, he never imagined his connection to the series would last over two decades.

The Forestville, Maryland native played street-level drug dealer Malik “Poot” Carr — a part that would change the trajectory of his career.

“I’m honored to say that ‘Poot’ survived all five seasons,” Chaney recently told Urban Hollywood 411.

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The actor currently has a role on HBO police drama We Own This City, from The Wire producers George Pelecanos and David Simon. This time instead of playing a drug dealer, Chaney co-stars as a cop.

He got his big break on The Wire, which aired on HBO from June 2002 to March 2008. Over five seasons, the series offered a realistic portrayal of the crime, blight and corruption in Baltimore.

While the series was never a ratings hit, it drew praise from television critics, gained a loyal following and is now considered one of the best TV dramas of all time.

Chaney auditioned to play Wee-Bey Brice, an enforcer in the Barksdale drug organization. The part ultimately went to Hassan Johnson, but the casting directors saw something in Chaney and brought him back to play corner boy “Poot.”

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Chaney, who is also a rapper, recently released a music video celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Wire. The video offers an oral history of the series and features J.D. Williams, who played Preston “Bodie” Broadus on the show. The song includes a line about having to kill “Wallace,” played by a young Michael B. Jordan.

[Watch the music video below]

Urban Hollywood 411 spoke with Chaney about working on The Wire and the impact the show had on his career.

Urban Hollywood 411: Did you expect The Wire to take off the way it did and become part of TV history?
Tray Chaney: To be honest, I had no idea what I was a part of when I was cast to play “Poot” back in 2001. A lot of people don’t know The Wire was my first audition ever, first job as an actor! To see people talking about it 20 years later is amazing! It’s a dream come true to be part of history, the most iconic, groundbreaking television series of all time.

What did being on the show mean to you?
It means a lot as an actor because we all strive to be part of projects that really mean something and David Simon, Ed Burns, Nina Noble and George Pelecanos got it right. It’s like they just don’t miss and to be part of history, I’m very grateful and thankful. Gratitude is my attitude.

Have you stayed in touch with any of the cast and crew?
Yes. We all became family. Me and J.D. Williams, who played “Bodie,” work together on Bounce TV’s hit show Saints & Sinners and a bunch of other projects. Anwan “Big G” Glover, who played Slim Charles, is my family. He’s from D.C. which is where I’m originally from (Forestville, MD, Washington D.C.), the DMV, but overall I have almost the whole cast’s [contact] information and we keep in touch.

You auditioned for a different role initially, did they give you a reason why they saw you instead as Poot?
Initially I auditioned for Wee-Bey. Shout out to my brother Hassan Johnson, but I ended up landing Malik “Poot” Carr, which was just the right role for me. I’m honored to say that “Poot” survived all five seasons.

How many episodes was Poot originally supposed to be in?
“Poot” was only supposed to be in maybe two or three episodes of the first season, but to say that I ended up becoming the last man standing and made it all five seasons is incredible.

What was it like working on We Own This City and returning to Baltimore?
The experience was incredible reuniting with some of the cast and the crew from The Wire. It was a full circle moment for me going from playing a drug dealer to now Police Officer Gordon Hawk. I had so much fun and again to be a part of another story in groundbreaking television, that truly means something. Again, I’m honored.

Watch Chaney’s music video below.