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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Tory Lanez Sued For Alleged Attack In Miami Nightclub

Tory Lanez is facing legal trouble over an alleged altercation that went down inside Miami’s LIV nightclub last year. Christopher “Prince” Harty, an up-and-coming artist and Miami promoter who appeared on Love & Hip-Hop: Miami claims that Lanez attacked him last November.

The onetime reality star alleges that Lanez, along with his entourage and security team, punched and attacked him in the nightclub. According to reports, Prince claims to have suffered blunt force trauma to his head, neck, and chest, in addition to contusions, bruises and anxiety, as a result of the incident. He is suing for unspecified damages.

“They backed me into a corner, and once I was there, they started stomping on me, jumping me,” he recalled to NBC Miami.

He believes that the friction stemmed from an Instagram post about music. “They felt that I was insinuating that they stole the record from me, and I was just like, no, I would never do that, that was never my intention. I had no issue with him at all.”

A portion of the incident was captured on cellphone video. Prince stated that he knew Lanez prior to the run-in, and helped get him into clubs before.

His attorney, Marwan Porter of Porter Law Firm, called the violent incident “a chronic problem” with Lanez who is accused of shooting Megan Thee Stallion in July. The 28-year-old recording artist has yet to publicly address either incident.

Hear more from Prince in the video below.

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Cardi B Opens Up About Filing For Divorce From Offset

Cardi B took to Instagram Live on Friday (Sept. 18) to air out a few things about filing for divorce from Offset.

The Bronx rapper made it clear that she didn’t file for divorce as a publicity stunt to promote her upcoming album. “I’m not doing it for clout and on top of that I don’t need stunts to sell music,” she said. “I’m not [trying to] brag but don’t ever say I’m doing anything for clout. My first album is three-times platinum and I didn’t need no stunts to do that. My [“Wap”] single is no. 1 worldwide why would I need stunts to sell music? I don’t need stunts — [especially] when it comes to family — to sell anything, so don’t play yourself.”

As for the reason for the divorce filing, the estranged couple simply grew apart. “Nothing crazy out of this world happened, sometimes people really do grow apart. I been with this man for four years. I have a kid with this man, I have a household with this man…sometimes you’re just tired of the arguments and the build up. You get tired sometimes and before something happens, you leave.”

“I just wanna' be a free bird,” Cardi said after questioning whether people secretly want infidelity to be the reason for the split.

“I am the f**king clout,” she added. “I never needed anything. I never needed no stunts to sell sh*t.Why would I need anything to sell my next album?”

Speaking of the new album, Cardi has been indecisive about choosing her next single because “WAP” did so well. “That means that my second single has to be even better.”

Towards the end of her venting session, Cardi reiterated that she’s focusing on her work, and revealed that she's starting new business for her daughter Kulture.


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Barack Obama Announces Release Date For ‘A Promised Land’ Memoir

Following the mega-success of his wife’s Becoming release, Barack Obama is poised to debut his own memoir, A Promised Land, this fall. The former president made the literary announcement on Twitter on Thursday (Sept. 17).

“There’s no feeling like finishing a book and I’m proud of this one,” Obama tweeted while explaining that he tries to give an “honest account” of his presidency in the book. The release will also touch on “the forces we grapple with as a nation, and how we can heal our division and make democracy work for everybody.”

There’s no feeling like finishing a book, and I’m proud of this one. In 'A Promised Land,' I try to provide an honest accounting of my presidency, the forces we grapple with as a nation, and how we can heal our divisions and make democracy work for everybody. pic.twitter.com/T1QSZVDvOm

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 17, 2020

The highly anticipated and introspective release takes readers on a “compelling journey” and details Obama’s “improbable odyssey from a young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world.” Included in the memoir are striking personal details about his political education, as well as landmark moments from his first term presidency.

The Obamas secured the reported $60 million book deals around a year after ending their tenure in the White House. Michelle Obama’s book became the best-selling memoir in history.

A Promised Land is currently available for pre-order at Obamabook.com. The memoir will be released on Nov. 17.

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