Robert F. Chew

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Robert F. Chew
Born Robert Frederick Chew
(1960-12-28)December 28, 1960
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Died January 17, 2013(2013-01-17) (aged 52)
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1989–2013

Robert Frederick Chew (December 28, 1960 – January 17, 2013) was an American actor.[1] He was best known for portraying drug kingpin Proposition Joe on the HBO drama series The Wire.


Chew starred in the HBO drama series The Wire as drug kingpin Proposition Joe on all five seasons of the show.[2] The role had drawn acclaim for Chew both for his ability to handle the character's verbose dialogue and the sympathy he drew while playing a "bad guy."[3] Chew recalled that when he auditioned, the other actors were all well groomed, well dressed and thinner than he was. He later learned that the real-life inspiration for the character was a charming and debonair drug dealer so he was surprised to have received the role. He was initially unsure as to how long the character would remain in the series and so he was pleased to be one of the few characters from the drug world who appeared in all five seasons.[4]

Chew also appeared on HBO's The Corner (created by David Simon, as was The Wire) and NBC's Homicide: Life on the Street (based on a book by Simon). He received all three roles through the Pat Moran casting agency. Simon has described Chew as a "smart, elegant actor" and stated that he has one of the most authentic Baltimore accents on the show.[5]

Chew also worked with children's theatre companies throughout his career including Playworks USA and later the Arena Players. Through his association with the Arena Players, Moran began to turn to Chew for help in casting local young actors for the show. He provided more than twenty actors and more than six have had recurring roles including Melvin Russell (who plays Jamal) and brother and sister Rashad Orange (who plays Sherrod) and Rakiya Orange who plays Charlene Young.[4][6]

Chew worked as an acting coach with several of the young actors joining the show in the fourth season and with non-professional actor Felicia "Snoop" Pearson.[4][5][7] As acting coach Chew was responsible for preparing the core of four new young actors Tristan Wilds, Julito McCullum, Maestro Harrell and Jermaine Crawford for their major roles in the fourth season.[8] Chew described his aim as helping the young actors find the roles within themselves and looking for what is real.[9] Chew worked with Wilds to perfect the internalized build-up of emotion in his character, Michael Lee, and to convey the character through looks and physical acting rather than dialogue.[9] Chew remarked that he was also impressed with Wilds' professionalism and commitment, McCullum's natural ability as Namond Brice, Harrell's charm as Randy Wagstaff and Crawford's honesty of performance as Duquan "Dukie" Weems.[10] Chew found working with young people rewarding because it allowed him to see them develop and bring them to their full potential.[10]

Chew also appeared in HBO films' Something the Lord Made. Chew appeared on Homicide, in the three part episode "Blood Ties", playing Wilkie Collins, a drug kingpin who hates violence.


Chew died on January 17, 2013, at the age of 52. He suffered a heart attack and died at his Baltimore home.[11]


  1. ^ "Robert F. Chew dies at 52: 'The Wire' alums mourn Proposition Joe". OTRC. 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-18. 
  2. ^ "Robert F. Chew as Proposition Joe Stewart". HBO. 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  3. ^ Steven Daly (2007-02-25). "Barbed wire". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-03-16. 
  4. ^ a b c "Listening in: Part II". HBO. 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  5. ^ a b Bethlehem Shoals (2007). "For the City - Davd Simon Q&A". Heaven and Here. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  6. ^ "Listening in Part III". The Fader. 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  7. ^ "The Wire season 4 crew". HBO. 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  8. ^ Stuart Levine (2007-10-04). "Alexa Fogel - Casting director knows how to pick 'em". Variety. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  9. ^ a b Bret McCabe (2007). "Back To School". Baltimore City Paper. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  10. ^ a b "Behind the Scenes Part 10 - The Coach". HBO. 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-03. 
  11. ^ "ROBERT CHEW, ACTOR ON 'THE WIRE' DIES AT 52". USA Today/AP. 2013-01-19. Retrieved 19 January 2013. 

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