Is 'Treme' Better Than 'The Wire'? David Simon Answers

A series about everyday life in post-Katrina New Orleans could be a hard sell. But The Wire maestro David Simon knows how to build characters full of quirks, flaws and texture. The producer explains why his new HBO drama Tremé (pronounced Truh-MAY) will be the pride of New Orleans


You’re from Baltimore. It’s 2010. You’re depicting New Orleans, starting in December 2005. Why there and why now?

[Show co-creator] Eric Overmyer and I actually started talking about doing a show rooted in New Orleans culture back in the mid-’90s when we were working on Homicide together. But we never planned a proper pitch meeting because we couldn’t imagine selling it to people in L.A. Then, during season four of The Wire, Katrina hit. Suddenly, this show Eric and I had been discussing had instant gravitas. We pitched it right after the storm, finished up other gigs and started shooting last year. 

It seems tricky to capture the feel of a city that, in many ways, has been radically altered.

We’re just being very accurate with the history of the city. Three months after the storm, some musical acts were back, some were not. Some bars were open, some Mardi Gras Indian tribes had returned, some second line parades went off, but others didn’t. And of course some people died before they could get back. But it was amazing how resilient people were and are. It’s hard to express, but the allegiance that people feel toward that city is incredible.

Failed systems were a major theme of The Wire. Will Tremé cover similar ground?

I’m really interested in big-city values. How we live together, coming from different cultural reference points, is the question for the 21st Century. But is Tremé going to have the same sprawl as The Wire? Is it going to have drug dealers and lawyers and the mayor? God, I hope not because that would mean that I was telling the same story twice. And that would be a fool’s errand. Even if that would be a recipe for success, and I don’t necessarily think it would, I wouldn’t want to do it. The Wire was nine years of my life, from planning to execution. I have no intention of spending more than nine years. There are other stories to tell, generation kill was a different story. Whatever comes after Treme will not be about the life and death of a city as told through its culture. Different story, different purporse.

What role does New York play in this? I ask because there are all of these references to the city.

Well to new Orleans musicians, New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, for the entire history of jazz, these places have represented the fulfillment of the highest career opportunities. The ability to take your music to the world. You know Louis Armstrong and Louie Prima and Wynton Marsalis and others had to leave in order to have their music seen in the brightest possible light by the nation as a whole. New Orleans throughout its lifetime has bred some of the best musicians nationally and yet it is not a place that is particularly welcoming to musicians. It’s not a place that holds them in particularly high regard institutionally as a city.

Are you worried about satisfying viewers who want more Stringer Bell and Snoop-type action?

I’m not trying to second-guess what I’m making based on what people want. This is a good story. Eric and I have researched it and want to tell it. We hope you come back—if nobody comes back we’re shit out of luck. But we don’t need all of you; just some of you. [Laughs]

Critics rallied around The Wire. They wanted the Emmy committee to validate that show so bad.

We probably got more ink out of that than if we’d won some awards. So on some level I was just glad they were talking about the show because we want more people to watch it. And we did have a lot of people watching it. At the end on dvd, you know listen, the dvd sales are actually increasing. So it’s sort of—it’s almost ridiculous the long tail that the show has demonstrated when, you’re right, in the beginning nobody was watching. [Just] a small cadre of people were watching it but word of mouth sold that thing.

Outside of telling a good story, what else do you want Tremé to accomplish?

Maybe, on a practical level, if we execute the show well and really capture some of the dance, music and cuisine, a few more people will take their kids down to New Orleans for spring break or make a restaurant reservation. I’m serious—it’s a tourism economy. But on a larger level, I want a few more people to think about America’s urban policies. I want people to think [twice] when [politicians] who are on the wrong side of history talk about the “real Americans” living in rural towns when 80 percent of us live in cities. —Akiba Solomon


 

This Q&A appears in the April/May 2010 issue of VIBE, on stands now.

 

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Kehlani Plays Bryson Tiller’s Love Interest In “Always Forever” Video

Kehlani stars as Tiller’s love interest in the intimate new music video for “Always Forever,” released on Thursday (Oct. 22).

The stunning visual, directed by Glenn Michael of Toronto’s Kid Studio, is a creative take on how a relationship can become your entire universe. Tyler and Kehlani cuddle up, kiss, and hold hand in the steamy visual, prompting some fans to question the chemistry between the two. They might look pretty cozy, but Kehlani and Tiller are just friends (Tiller welcomed a child with girlfriend Kendra Bailey last year).

 

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🌎🎥💫Thanks Guys. #alwaysforever @kidstudio_ @ichiki @kehlani

A post shared by [ Bryson ] (@brysontiller) on Oct 22, 2020 at 12:35pm PDT

Kehlani shared some close-up stills from the music video on Instagram along with a message thanking Tiller for being a “solid” friend. “To one of my dearest friends…matching tattoos, years worth of stories, nights of dying laughter and holding each other down in the roughest times…I’m so proud of you. Thank you for being solid.”

The post was deleted after fans in the comments continued to speculate if the two were an item. Kehlani shared a follow-up message on her Instagram Story explaining in part, “I post lengthy captions about all my friends. You would have to follow me to know that.”

 

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#Roommates, #Kehlani explains her previous message to #BrysonTiller. (SWIPE for previous post)

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“Always Forever” is the latest single from Tiller’s newly released ANNIVERSARY LP.

Watch the video below.

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Jeezy Seemingly Challenges T.I. To A Verzuz Battle

An ATLien edition of Verzuz could be on the way. Jeezy appeared to challenge T.I. to a friendly battle after the Grand Hustle frontman “respectfully” shot down an offer from Busta Rhymes.

Without directly naming Tip, Jeezy posted a cryptic video message on Instagram on Wednesday (Oct. 21) subtly calling out his potential rival. “I don’t know what you’re avoiding me for. I’ll tell you what though, since it means that much to you put a date on it,” said Jeezy.

Tip jokingly replied in the comments, “Could this long time constituent of mine be referring to me???”

 

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PUT A DATE ON IT ☃️ @therealswizzz @timbaland @verzuztv

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The Verzuz battle isn’t confirmed just yet but fans are already excited at the thought of two of ATL’s finest going toe-to-toe. In the meantime, Swizzy and Timbaland are still prepping the lineup for Verzuz season two, and revealed that Busta threw his hat in the ring. “He’s ready for any type of Verzuz action coming his way,” Swizzy told Jimmy Fallon.

Busta also confirmed to Fat Joe that’s he's down to go up against T.I.

KING T.I. aka KING OF THE SOUTH aka @Tip aka MR. EXPEDITIOUSLY aka YOU SAID YOU WANTED THAT N.Y. ENERGY/SLASH NEW YORK SMOKE 💨? I’M HERE FOR YOU WITH OPEN ARMS... DON’T GET SHOOK NOW SHAWTY!!RESPECTFULLY (IN MY @RealSway voice) HARLEM!! @fatjoe #ITSTHESILENCEFORME @verzuzonline pic.twitter.com/O1fFmJYsYe

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TI declines Busta Rhymes’ #Verzuz Battle challenge due to generational gap 👀🤔👀 via: @hiphopdx pic.twitter.com/n9nLyNBF5c

— 935 KDAY (@935KDAY) October 22, 2020

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Beyonce Shows Solidarity With Nigeria Amid Protests Over Police Brutality

Beyonce is showing solidarity with Nigeria following Tuesday’s (Oct. 20) brutal massacre in the country’s capital city of Lagos. The Bey Good Foundation has been partnering with local youth organizations supporting the protests, and working with coalitions to provide food, shelter and healthcare to those in need, Beyonce revealed in a statement.

“I am heartbroken to see the senseless brutality taking place in Nigeria,” she said. “There has to be an end to SARS (Special Anti-Robber Squad). We have been working in partnerships with youth organizations to support those protesting for change. We are collaborating with coalitions to provide emergency healthcare, food and shelter.”

Bey added in closing, “To our Nigerian sisters and brothers, we stand with you.”

A message from Beyoncé. pic.twitter.com/5Ng7JF2stf

— BeyGOOD (@BeyGood) October 21, 2020

The statement directs viewers to her website where they will find links to donate or get involved in the movement to end SARS. Graphic videos and images of the brutality in the Lekki region of Lagos, have been circulating the web, but despite overwhelming evidence of corrupt and violent government forces, kidnapping, murders, non-fatal shootings, and other violent attacks on peaceful protestors,  the Nigerian government continues to downplay the issue. Lagos state governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu claimed only one fatality in the massacre, and roughly 25 people wounded.

The #EndSARS movement has been amplified across social media, and prompted numerous protests around the globe Wednesday (Oct. 21). Also on Wednesday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the violence and expressed condolences to the families of the bereaved. Guterres encouraged Nigerian authorities to investigate instances of police brutality and “hold the perpetrators accountable.” Guterres went on to urge security forces to “act with maximum restraint,” and encouraged protestors to remain peaceful.

“While the number of casualties of yesterday’s shooting at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos is still not clear, there is little doubt that this was a case of excessive use of force, resulting in unlawful killings with live ammunition, by Nigerian armed forces,” said UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet. “Reports that CCTV cameras and lighting were deliberately disabled prior to the shooting are even more disturbing as, if confirmed, they suggest this deplorable attack on peaceful protestors was premeditated, planned and coordinated.”

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