We Own This City: 3 reasons to watch gritty police drama from the creators of The Wire

The creators of The Wire - and a few of its stars - are back in Baltimore after 14 years with six-part drama We Own This City, a shocking tale of police corruption based on real-life events.

By Lizzie Larkum Published: 1 June 2022 - 4.26pm
We Own This City

Stream every episode on Sky Atlantic with NOW from Tuesday 7 June.

Fourteen years after its fifth and final season came to a close, The Wire is often held up as one of the greatest TV shows of all time. Now new series We Own This City is taking us back to the streets of Baltimore for a thrilling six-part drama based on a true story and set once more in the city's Police Department. 

We Own This City is based on the non-fiction book of the same name by journalist Justin Fenton. Set in Baltimore between 2015 to 2017, it centres around the now defunct Baltimore Gun Trace Task Force, a department whose original aim was to get guns and criminals off the street but which became a hub for greed, corruption and violence.

This new miniseries looks at the rise and fall of this largely unnoticed department and how the corruption was exposed. 

Here are our three reasons to watch We Own This City on Sky Atlantic with NOW from Tuesday 7 June.

1. It's made by the creators of The Wire

We Own This City isn't just set in the same Police Department as The Wire - it’s created by The Wire's showrunners David Simon and George Pelecanos.

The Wire was groundbreaking TV, running for 5 seasons from 2002 to 2008 focusing on the war on drugs as seen from the point of view of both the police and the criminals of Baltimore. 

We Own This City brings Simon and Pelecanos back to their old stomping ground of Baltimore, along with former writers and cast members of The Wire. 

“Somebody from HBO called me and said, ‘Would you like to adapt this (Fenton’s book ‘We Own This City’) for a mini-series?’, Pelecanos said in an interview with Decider.

"After I read the manuscript, I said, ‘Well, I will, but on the condition that I can bring in David Simon and our other partner, Nina Noble, and some writers from The Wire‘, because I thought it’s good karma to bring everybody back together to revisit the city as we did 20 years ago.”

Joining the writing team is D. Watkins, an acclaimed author who grew up on the streets of Baltimore and who, after becoming involved in drugs as a youth and losing his brother at 18, saw his own life reflected in the original show.

“My real life and my community intersected with The Wire, long before I met the people responsible for making it," Watkins told the We Own This City podcast.

"And writing about my life and community has brought me on to their team to build We Own This City.”

Watch all the shows you love on BT TV

Take a BT TV Entertainment pack and catch all the latest shows including The Flight Attendant, The Midwich Cuckoos and The Staircase.

2. The cast features some familiar faces

Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead, Punisher) heads up the cast as the corrupt Sgt Wayne Jenkins, above, instigator of much of the corruption within the Gun Trace Task Force.

But fans of The Wire will recognise a lot of his cast mates from the earlier show - although none of The Wire's characters feature in We Own This City.

Here's which actors made it from The Wire onto We Own This City:

Jamie Hector, drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield in The Wire, switches sides to play Detective Sean Suiter.

Delaney Williams, previously lazy Sgt Jay Landsman, plays Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.

Domenick Lombardozzi, inept Detective Thomas 'Herc' Hauk in The Wire, plays Stephen Brady, head of Fraternal Order of Police.

Nathan Corbett, who played diminutive car thief Donut, plays activist Tariq Toure.

Bobby J. Brown, who played officer Bobby Brown, now plays Thomas Alliers.

Jermaine Crawford, who played unlucky kid Dukie, Tray Chaney formerly ‘Poot’ Carr, and 'foot soldiers' Darrell Britt-Gibson and Chris Clanton all portray police officers in We Own This City.

Anwan Glover who played Slim Charles, Maria Broom who played Marla Daniels and Michael Salconi, cop Santangelo, all also appear in the new series.

The Wire helped launch the international careers of two major British actors: Idris Elba, who played drug dealer turned wannabe businessman Stringer Bell, and Dominic West, anti-establishment loose cannon officer Jimmy McNulty.

Following in their footsteps, We Own This City sees Nigerian-born British actress Wunmi Mosaku (Loki, Luther) play Baltimore lawyer Nicole Steele, above. While Mosaku has already had some pretty big roles, We Own This City is another prominent role for the accomplished actor.

3. We Own This City is based on a shocking true story

We Own This City, based on the book by Pultizer prize-nominated reporter Justin Fenton, looks at the shocking abuses of power that occured in the Baltimore Police's Gun Trace Task Force and how they were eventually brought to justice.

Fenton worked as a consultant on the show, bringing his in-depth knowledge to the production. Having reported on the original case, he got access to many of the officers on trial.

“Through the people cooperating and telling the truth, we gained a new level of understanding of how these things work that I don’t think we’ve had previously," he explained in an interview with the The Guardian.

"They told us not just what they did but how and that was very eye-opening testimony. It’s like someone describing how they first stole money."

We Own the City has been compared to The Wire but according to George Pelecanos, the main difference is that The Wire was a fictional account of police corruption, where the true story of the GTTF takes it to another level. 

“The GTTF were doing home invasions and most outrageously, they were seizing drugs and selling them back on the street. That’s a huge leap from when we did The Wire, in fact the level of corruption on the GTTF was unprecedented in policing," Pelecanos told the We Own This City podcast.

The Wire also gave a sweeping view of a City’s endemic problems looking at education, politics and the media. We Own This City looks forensically at a microcosm of police corruption and how it was allowed to happen.

Ironically, the whole scandal was unravelled almost by accident by a wiretap, bringing the relationship with We Own This City and The Wire full circle.

Stream every episode of We Own This City on Sky Atlantic with NOW from 7 June.

Watch The Wire seasons 1-5 on NOW.

 

Main image: ©2022 Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved.