Pastor helps put spirit into the script

'The Wire' Watch : The Rev. Frank Reid

October 15, 2006|By David Zurawik

Each Sunday throughout the HBO drama's 13-week season, TV critic David Zurawik will highlight a must-see character or story element appearing in the current episode.

The gospel choir is rocking, and the call of the drummer's backbeat is impossible to resist in the opening of tonight's episode of The Wire, titled "Margin of Error." It all is a prelude to powerful words coming from the pulpit of one of Baltimore's most widely known real-life clergymen, the Rev. Frank M. Reid III, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Reid plays himself in the episode that begins on the Sunday before the Democratic primary for Baltimore mayor, and ends late on the evening of Election Day with a winner declared. One of the candidates, City Councilman Thomas Carcetti (Aidan Gillen), sits as a guest in the church as Reid departs from his prepared text to ask, "Can I preach it like I feel it?"

In response to the loud encouragement from the congregation, he proclaims in a thundering voice: "When we choose the men and women who will lead our city, we would do well to keep those standards in mind: men of truth who fear God and hate covetousness."

Despite all the energy and emotion in the Bethel church at 1300 Druid Hill Ave., where the segment was filmed over the course of a day, Reid says he did no improvising with the script by Eric Overmyer: "Those were lines that were written for me, but they were such good lines, and it was so natural, that it felt like it was part of regular worship service."

Reid says that the feeling was so elevated in the church during the filming that some members of the congregation and the crew "were still in celebration" after the cameras and lights were shut down.

"It was written for television, done for television, but the spirit got in it," he says of the segment. "It shows one of the strengths of The Wire: how in touch the writers are with the reality of the city."

Indeed, and the political power of clergy like the Rev. Frank M. Reid III.

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