Wendell Pierce

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Wendell Pierce
Photograph of actor Wendell Pierce taken in 2007
Pierce in 2007
Born (1963-12-08) December 8, 1963 (age 56)
EducationJuilliard School (BFA)
OccupationActor
Years active1986–present

Wendell Edward Pierce (born December 8, 1963) is an American actor. He is known for his roles in HBO dramas such as Detective Bunk Moreland in The Wire and trombonist Antoine Batiste in Treme, as well as portraying James Greer in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, as high-powered attorney Robert Zane in Suits, and as Michael Davenport in Waiting to Exhale. Pierce also had roles in the films Malcolm X, Ray, and Selma. Pierce performed the lead role of Willy Loman in the 2019 production of Death of a Salesman on the West End in London at the Piccadilly Theatre.

Early life[edit]

Pierce was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, one of three sons of a teacher and a decorated World War II veteran who worked as a maintenance engineer.[1] His father's segregated Army unit helped Marines win the Battle of Saipan in 1944. Pierce has said of his father's experience: "When the country wasn't loving my father, my father was loving his country. It's the ultimate act of patriotism."[2]

Pierce was raised in the black middle-class community of Pontchartrain Park, the first African-American post-war suburb. His father, along with many black veterans, moved into the neighborhood after returning home from the war. The neighborhood was wiped out during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, including Pierce's family home, which was flooded by 14 feet of water.[3][4]

Pierce graduated in 1981[5] from both Benjamin Franklin High School[6] and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (most NOCCA students attend traditional secondary school in the mornings and the arts school in the afternoons). In 1981, Pierce was named a Presidential Scholar of the Arts.[7] As a young actor, he appeared in The Winter's Tale at the Tulane Shakespeare Festival. He produced and hosted Think About It, a youth-themed talk show, for the local NBC affiliate station, and also hosted a weekly jazz show on WYLD-FM Radio called Extensions from Congo Square.[8]

He then attended the Juilliard School's Drama Division from 1981 to 1985, where he graduated as a member of Group 14 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.[9]

Career[edit]

Pierce has been in over 30 films, appeared in nearly 50 television shows and has performed in dozens of stage productions. He worked on the HBO dramas The Wire and Treme. He appeared in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 as "J. Jenks".[10]

For his role in Treme, Pierce learned to play the trombone, though he relied on "sound double" Stafford Agee of the Rebirth Brass Band.[3] Agee played off-camera for Pierce, syncing his trombone with Wendell's motions for authenticity.[11]

Pierce was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead for his portrayal of "Joe" in Four, playing a married, closeted gay man who steps out on his family with a young white man he met online. The film was released on September 13, 2013, around the same time that The Michael J. Fox Show debuted on NBC, in which Pierce played Michael J. Fox's character's boss until the show's cancellation some five months later.[12][13]

From 2015 to 2017, Pierce starred, alongside Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon, in a revival of the sitcom The Odd Couple on CBS, playing the role of Teddy.

Stage[edit]

Pierce has been in numerous stage productions. He was lauded for his performance as Holt Fay in Queenie at the John F. Kennedy Center. He has performed on Broadway in staged productions of The Piano Lesson, Serious Money and The Boys of Winter. He has performed off-Broadway in The Cherry Orchard (for which he was nominated for a VIV Award for Lead Actor), Waiting for Godot (which was set on a New Orleans rooftop post-Hurricane Katrina), and Broke-ology, performed at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.[14]

Other performances include Cymbeline (at The Public Theater), The Good Times Are Killing Me, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Tis Pity She's a Whore, and Ms. Ever's Boys performed at the ACT Theatre.

Pierce is also a theater producer, having produced the Broadway show, Clybourne Park. The show was nominated for four Tony Awards and won the Tony Award for Best Play in 2012.[15]

In 2015, Pierce returned to the stage to star in the Billie Holiday Theatre production of Jackie Alexander's Brothers from the Bottom in New York.[16]

In 2019, Pierce starred in the acclaimed Arthur Miller play Death of a Salesman at the Young Vic Theatre in London, and its successful transfer to the West End.[17] For this performance, he received a nomination for the Olivier Award for Best Actor.[18]

Radio[edit]

In 2009, Pierce became the host of the nationally syndicated, Peabody Award-winning radio program, Jazz at Lincoln Center, which features live recordings from Jazz at Lincoln Center's House of Swing.

Music[edit]

In 2016, Pierce started appearing in several albums recorded in New Orleans. He recorded a song with Delfayeo Marsalis (named "Make America Great Again"), Kermit Ruffins, in his latest album, "A Beautiful World", and Stanton Moore in With You In Mind.

Business and philanthropy[edit]

Pierce considers himself a "true capitalist" and a "classic entrepreneur."[3][4]

In 2013, Fast Company named Pierce one of the "100 Most Creative People in Business."[19]

Pontchartrain Park Community Development Corp.[edit]

Pierce started the non-profit, Pontchartrain Park Community Development Corp., to build new affordable solar and geothermal homes in the area for families displaced by Hurricane Katrina.[20]

Sterling Farms[edit]

Inspired in part by Michelle Obama's initiative to bring more supermarkets to food deserts, where residents lack easy access to fresh produce, Pierce, along with partners Troy Henry and James Hatchett, started a chain of grocery stores named Sterling Farms in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans in 2012.[21] Sterling Farms also has a convenience store division called Sterling Express. The stores are named after Sterling Henry, his business partner's father who ran a pharmacy for about 40 years in the Lower Ninth Ward.[22]

Personal life[edit]

Pierce describes himself as "tri-coastal", splitting his time among Los Angeles, New York City, and New Orleans.[23] He is a supporter of the New Orleans Saints, and locals have nicknamed him "Saints Wendell".[21] He is also an avid supporter of St. Patrick's Athletic FC.[24]

Pierce attended the 2012 Democratic National Convention, was one of President Barack Obama's top campaign fundraisers in 2012, and once escorted Gwen Ifill to a White House State Dinner.[4][25][26]

When first cast in The Wire, Pierce and his castmates doubted the show would be a hit: "I remember the first time we all sat around and watched the pilot. We all turned to each other and said, 'Man, I don't think this shit is going anywhere.'"[21]

On Sunday, May 15, 2016, Pierce was arrested and charged with simple battery for an alleged attack against a female Bernie Sanders supporter outside Atlanta Loews Hotel. He was booked and released on $1,000 bond from Fulton County Jail.[27][28] Pierce subsequently completed a pre-trial diversion program, including counselling and community service, resulting in dismissal of the charge.[29] Pierce has been a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton and was on the board of Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a campaign created by the Clinton Foundation.[30]

Filmography[edit]

Film
Year Title Role Notes
1986 The Money Pit Paramedic
1989 Casualties of War MacIntire
Family Business Prosecutor
1990 A Matter of Degrees Wells Dennard
1991 A Rage in Harlem Louis
1992 Malcolm X Ben Thomas
1993 Manhattan Murder Mystery Policeman
1994 It Could Happen to You Bo Williams
1995 Bye Bye Love Hector
Hackers Agent Dick Gill
Waiting to Exhale Michael Davenport
1996 Get on the Bus Wendell
Sleepers Little Caesar
1998 Bulworth Fred
1999 The 24 Hour Woman Roy Labelle
Shadows of the Past (aka Abilene) Reverend Tillis
2002 Brown Sugar Simon
2003 The Fighting Temptations Reverend Lewis
2004 A Hole in One Dan
Land of Plenty Henry
Ray Wilbur Brassfield
2006 Stay Alive Detective Thibodeaux
2007 I Think I Love My Wife Sean
2009 The Storm Inside Narrator Documentary
2010 Night Catches Us David Gordon
Love Ranch Naasih Mohammed
The Big Uneasy Himself (narration) Documentary
2011 The Mortician Wendell Simms
Horrible Bosses Detective Hagan
2012 Lay the Favorite Dave the Rave
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 J. Jenks
Four Joe
2013 Parker Carlson
Möbius Bob
2014 Elsa & Fred Armande
Selma Hosea Williams
Foreclosure Virgil
2015 The Runner Frank Legrand
Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band Andy Kirk (voice) Documentary
Runaway Hearts Paul
The Gift Detective Mills
2016 Bad Moms Principal Daryl Burr
2017 Rodents of Unusual Size Narrator Documentary
2018 Piercing Doctor
One Last Thing Dylan Derringer
2019 Clemency Jonathan Williams
Burning Cane Reverend Tillman
Television
Year Title Role Notes
1987 Vietnam War Story French Episode: "The Pass"
1989 A Man Called Hawk Derrick West Episode: "Never My Love"
1988–1989 The Equalizer Dr. Wolff Episodes: ""The Last Campaign" and "Starfire"
1990 Capital News Conrad White 13 episodes
1991 General Motors Playwrights Theater Sergeant Kelly Episode: "Avenue Z Afternoon"
The 10 Million Dollar Getaway Parnell "Stacks" Edwards TV movie
I'll Fly Away Charles Episode: "Coming Home"
1992 Law & Order Chief Ola-Gimju Nwaka Episode: "Consultation"
Unnatural Pursuits Cabbie Episode: "I Don't Do Cuddles"
1993 Strapped TV movie
1995 Law & Order Jerome Bryant Episode: "Rage"
New York News Jesus Episode: "The Using Game"
1996 New York Undercover Dr. Anthony Fisher Episode: "Bad Blood"
Never Give Up: The Jimmy V Story John Saunders TV movie
1996–1997 Moloney DA Calvin Patterson 5 episodes
1997 413 Hope Taffy Pilot episode
The Advocate's Devil Justin TV movie
1997–1999 The Gregory Hines Show Carl Stevenson 20 episodes
1999 The Expert Dr. Worseley Pilot episode
Law & Order Mr. Wade "Disciple"
1998–2000 The Brian Benben Show Kevin La Rue 7 episodes
2000 God, the Devil and Bob Voice role
Episodes: "In the Beginning" and "Date from Hell"
Third Watch Officer Conrad "Candyman" Jones 5 episodes
City of Angels Norbert Grimly Episode: "Straight Flush"
2001 My Wife and Kids Dr. Boucher Pilot episode
2000–2001 The Weber Show/Cursed Wendell Simms 17 episodes
2002 Girlfriends Anthony Jackson Episode: "Childs in Charge"
2002–2008 The Wire Det. William "Bunk" Moreland 54 episodes
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
2004 Judging Amy Harry Benton "Sins of the Father"
Law & Order Roger Porter "Gunplay"
Law & Order: Trial by Jury Dr. Richard Link Episodes: "The Line" and "Eros in the Upper Eighties"
2006 Close to Home Sam Carter Episode: "Prodigal Son"
2007 Life Support Slick TV movie
The Wire: The Chronicles Det. William "Bunk" Moreland Episode: "2000: Bunk and McNulty"
2007–2008 Numb3rs William Bradford 4 episodes
2008 Women's Murder Club Bill Schroeder Episode: "Father's Day"
In Plain Sight Dr. Warren McBride/Warren Morris Episode: "It Doesn't Live Here Anymore"
House of Payne Jeffrey Lucas Episodes: "The Last Supper" and "We've Come this Far by Faith: Part 2"
2009 Fear Itself Wiilbur Orwell "Something with Bite"
Hawthorne Michael Schilling Episode: "Trust Me"
Drop Dead Diva Neal David Episode: "Grayson's Anatomy"
2010 Tim & Eric Awesome Show Detective Episode: "Re-Animated"
2010–2013 Treme Antoine Batiste 36 episodes
2013–2019 Suits Robert Zane Recurring role
36 episodes
2013–2014 The Michael J. Fox Show Harris Green Regular cast
22 episodes
2014–2015 Ray Donovan Ronald Keith Recurring role
11 episodes
2015–2017 The Odd Couple Teddy Regular cast
38 episodes
2015 The Night Shift Walt Episode: "Moving On"
2016 Grease: Live Coach Calhoun Live TV musical
Confirmation Clarence Thomas TV movie
Pickle and Peanut Dr. Craig Voice only
Episode: "Night Shift/Scalped"
2017 Archer Verl Voice only
Episode: "Archer Dreamland: Jane Doe"
2017-present Chicago P.D. Alderman Ray Price 10 episodes
2018 Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. Detective Lee Tucker 3 episodes
2018–present Jack Ryan James Greer Regular cast

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Wendell Pierce profile". Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  2. ^ "Seen and Heard in New York: Wendell Pierce, Cory Booker, Alan Rickman". Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c "Pierce's New Orleans". Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Halperin, Shirley (March 20, 2012). "Why "Treme" Star Wendell Pierce is Getting into the Supermarket Business". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  5. ^ "Digital Yearbooks". www.bfhsla.org. Benjamin Franklin High School. Retrieved August 11, 2017.
  6. ^ Associated Press (2008). "Actor wants to revive Pontchartrain Park". KATC Channel 3. Archived from the original on August 27, 2008. Retrieved August 27, 2008.
  7. ^ Brown, Ethan (November 12, 2007). "The lower ninth ward meets Samuel Beckett". The Guardian. Retrieved August 11, 2017.
  8. ^ "Wendell Pierce Award Winning Actor and President of the Pontchartrain Park Community Development Corp" (PDF). Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  9. ^ "Alumni News". The Juilliard School. September 2007. Archived from the original on November 11, 2011.
  10. ^ "Wendell Pierce". IMDb. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
  11. ^ "'Treme's' Antoine Batiste gets his horn sound from Rebirth's Stafford Agee". NOLA.com. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
  12. ^ "Controversial Award-Winning Film". Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  13. ^ "NBC Announces Fall Premiere Dates for New Season". The Futon Critic. June 21, 2013. Retrieved July 3, 2013.
  14. ^ "Cast: Wendell Pierce". Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  15. ^ "New Orleans Natives Bring Home Tony Award". Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  16. ^ Pierce, Wendell (March 5, 2015). "Wendell Pierce Back on Stage in 'Brothers From the Bottom" (Interview). Interviewed by Derrick Hemphill. nbcnews.com.
  17. ^ "Death of a Salesman". Young Vic website. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  18. ^ "Olivier Awards 2020 nominees include & Juliet, Dear Evan Hansen, James McAvoy and Andrew Scott". WhatsOnStage. Retrieved March 3, 2020.
  19. ^ "100 Most Creative People in Business 2013 Business". Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  20. ^ Rice, Alison. "Exploring the Big Easy: Wendell Pierce, Hometown Hero". Pool & Spa News. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  21. ^ a b c "Treme's Wendell Pierce". Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  22. ^ "Wendell Pierce on "The Wire", "Treme" and Food". NPR. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
  23. ^ "New Orleans' Favorite Son". Scene Magazine. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  24. ^ "'Bunk' from The Wire revels in St Pats' FAI Cup triumph". November 2, 2014. Retrieved November 2, 2014.
  25. ^ Tran, Vivyan (September 7, 2012). "Celebrities spotted at the Democratic National Convention". Politico.
  26. ^ "Obama Campaign Releases List of Top Campaign Fundraisers". CBS News. March 2, 2013. Retrieved March 26, 2018.
  27. ^ McKenzie, Joi-Marie (May 16, 2016). "'The Wire' Actor Wendell Pierce Arrested at Atlanta Hotel". ABC News. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
  28. ^ "'The Wire' Star -- Arrested for Allegedly Attacking Bernie Sanders Supporter". TMZ. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
  29. ^ "'The Wire' star Wendell Pierce's 2016 assault case finally closed (via Wayback Machine)". New York Post. Retrieved April 24, 2020.
  30. ^ "Board of Directors". Alliance for a Healthier Generation (via Wayback Machine). Retrieved April 25, 2020.

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