Sharon Knolle Freelance Writer

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Complex Magazine, Feb/Mar 2003


With groundbreaking shows like The Sopranos and Oz, and a roster of A-list talent, HBO is the envy of other television networks and film studios. "They have a rawness to their approach and a fearlessness about their subject matter that even movies wouldn't address," says Tom Hanks, who, along with Steven Spielberg, produced Emmy-winner Band of Brothers for the cable net. Among the others who've flocked to HBO are Oscar-winning American Beauty scribe Alan Ball, whose Six Feet Under is a critical hit; and Halle Berry, whose road to Oscar gold started with the HBO film she produced and starred in, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. While TV struggles to garner the respect of the film community, HBO has Hollywood knocking on its door. Why the interest? HBO films president Colin Callender explained to Variety, "We now look at the movies we make as filling a gap in the theatrical landscape rather than TV." Adds Adewale Akkinouye-Agbaje, who, thanks to his memorable performance on HBO's Oz, is concentrating on a burgeoning film career, "You don't get that kind of freedom anywhere." Complex caught up with Akkinouye-Agbaje (The Mummy Returns, The Bourne Identity), Robert Iler (The Sopranos, Daredevil), and Wood Harris (The Wire, Remember the Titans, Paid in Full) to find out more. — Sharon Knolle


What kind of fan encounters do you get? They think I really am A.J., and they'll ask 'Oh, how's Meadow?' I don't know how to react to that.
Have you become a real family on the show? Yes. It's scary how much we have. Even the new people fit in right away. Especially when Joey Pants came in, I think it took about 15 minutes for him to warm up to us.
Ever been approached by a real member of the Mafia? Oh, I get that, like, every day. They say, 'My life is like yours.' Usually the guys who I think are really mobsters, won't say that. They'll just say, 'Hey, how you doin'?"
Are you more into gangster movies than before? The only mob movie I saw before I did The Sopranos was Donnie Brasco, but then after a week on the set and talking to Tony Sirico and Vinnie Pastore, I wound up watching GoodFellas and the three Godfather films all in the same day.


Has being on Oz helped your career? As a black actor, it's still difficult. All they want to do is typecast you. But I'm not a villain, am I? I'm a lover, not a fighter.
Most disturbing scene you had to film for Oz? The one where I fucked the guy. He was crying afterwards. I don't even remember his name. I fucked so many guys on that show. (Laughing). He was just another bitch to me. But I remember that scene.
How did you get into Adebisi's mindset? I didn't speak to anybody on the set. They all thought I was an asshole. I got really immersed in it.
So, is Adebisi still in your system? Adebesi's always in my system; he's in everybody's system.
Adebisi vs. Tony Soprano. Who would win? Oh, who do you think? Set it up!
Pet peeve? When there's a scratch on the CD and it jumps. Especially when I'm in the middle of a groove.


How'd you get the nickname Wood? It's just a childhood nickname that stuck. It's kind of a ghetto thing. It's easy to remember and it's the only name I know.
Your brother, Steve Harris is also an actor on The Practice. I saw my brother successful, and just for a moment, I thought, 'Damn, I wonder if it's just meant to be my brother.' And then all of a sudden, I'm doing a ton of interviews and it's crazy. And that's because of The Wire.
How is it shooting The Wire in Baltimore? Baltimore's a little rough. That's what's so great about shooting on location. It looks really shitty. It's real. It's a real lowdown place, it's hard times.
Do you feel like a positive role model, even playing a drug dealer? I am a positive role model. But I hate it when kids come up to me and say they watch The Wire. I'm not just talking about Baltimore, but Beverly Hills! I'm like "You're too young to watch it!"