You know, people step to me and they basically say, ‘you’re playing my life,’” actor Jamie Hector told GO Brooklyn about his role as Marlo Stanfield in HBO’s hit series “The Wire.” “ ‘But thanks for putting a little bit of an intelligent perspective on it, because so many people look at it like a guy from the streets is just not intelligent.’ ”
The fifth and final season of “The Wire” premieres on Jan. 6. The show takes place in East Baltimore where drugs and crime rule the streets while police and educators struggle to keep some semblance of order in the chaotic lives of area residents.
Hector’s character, the circumspect Marlo Stanfield, a quiet but commanding leader, is an up-and-comer in the city’s drug infested corners, a villain to the core but also a prince among those he considers his allies. The Baltimore of “The Wire” could be any post-industrial American city struggling to keep its tax base and repair its crumbling infrastructure.
“The similarities that I see [between Brooklyn and Baltimore] are the love and the struggle,” said Hector, who grew up on the streets of Crown Heights and East Flatbush. “[In] the culture that you have within East Flatbush and Baltimore, you cover each other, you support each other.”
In real life, Hector, now in his 20s, is the youngest of seven children. He described his experience growing up in central Brooklyn as “supportive, and ’hood,” saying that he was lucky to have “a lot of people around me that supported and pushed me, which is what got me to where I’m at today.”
Some of those people include his six older siblings, with whom he attended school in his formative years. Later, Hector attended separate schools, which he said gave him the independence to find out who he was. Having so many older siblings “was drama, arguments, but you’d never know if you didn’t have [enough], because they were always there to give [to] you, or just do without and have fun doing without.”
Although Hector plays a villainous role, the depth of Stanfield’s character development is a credit to the show’s writers, who allow viewers and Hector himself to sympathize with a murderous drug kingpin.
“His want to take care of his people, those that are around him, I think I can identify with that. Also, his discipline,” said Hector. “What don’t I identify with? Everything that took him down the path that he’s on: the row houses full of bodies. I don’t identify with that.”
The new season of “The Wire” will center on the Baltimore media and the problems it faces in our internet age.
“It’s going to show the struggles of the media, and how they have to do more with less, yet accomplish what it is that they have to accomplish,” said Hector. “Also, the fact that you can get media online now — so the writers go and they write these great articles, and they do everything they can do, and you can just get it all online [and] you don’t even have to pay for it no more — is taking people out of positions, out of jobs.”
When he’s not overwhelmed with work — he’s just taken on the role of Benjamin Knox Washington on NBC’s hit “Heroes” — Hector spends his time working with children and is currently seeking a home for his non-profit, “Moving Mountains,” which will be an after-school program dedicated to nurturing the talents of Brooklyn’s youth.
“That’s one thing I do notice about kids: the beauty and truth they come with, what they can deliver. Sometimes the parents are working so hard to put food on the table, they don’t have time to nurture that,” said Hector. “So I’m trying to set up an environment for them where that can be nurtured, and they can know they have this skill and improve on it, instead of going though life trying to figure out what they’re good at.”
A self-described “Brooklyn cat,” Hector loves an evening at Night of the Cookers in Fort Greene. “Wire” watchers might also catch Hector moonlighting at Royal Addiction, a clothing store featuring his fashions, which he opened last year on Tompkins and Decatur streets in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
It is clear from his personal and economic investments in Brooklyn that Hector’s “Wire” character is the antithesis of his real life, community-minded self. Yet, the show’s growing audience just can’t wait until Sunday to find out what lies ahead for his Marlo Stanfield.
The final season of “The Wire” will premiere at 9 pm on Sunday, Jan. 6 on HBO. For information, visit www.hbo.com. Episodes of NBC’s “Heroes,” featuring Jamie Hector, will air in the spring.