Actors from The Wire Star in a Short Film Adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s “The Gilded Six-Bits” (2001)

After the cult suc­cess of HBO’s grit­ty Bal­ti­more crime dra­ma, The Wire, the obses­sive­ness of the show’s fan­base became a run­ning joke. Devot­ed Wire-lovers brow­beat friends, fam­i­ly, and cowork­ers with the show’s many virtues. Wire fans became emo­tion­al­ly attached not only to the show’s char­ac­ters, but also to the actors who played them. Though I man­aged to shun Wire evan­ge­lists for a time, I too final­ly became a con­vert after its six-year run end­ed in 2008. Like many a fan I was thrilled to see actors Michael K. Williams and Michael B. Jor­dan land juicy post-Wire roles (and sad­dened to see some of the show’s oth­er fine actors seem to dis­ap­pear from view).

And, like many a fan, I also want­ed to know these actors’ back­sto­ries. What had they been up to before The Wire? We get one answer to that ques­tion above, in the adap­ta­tion of Zora Neale Hurston’s 1933 short sto­ry “The Gild­ed Six-Bits.” In the star­ring role, you’ll rec­og­nize The Wire’s (even­tu­al­ly) reformed ex-con Den­nis “Cut­ty” Wise, or Chad Cole­man, in his first star­ring role. Play­ing oppo­site him you’ll be hap­py to see your favorite wiseass, phi­lan­der­ing, cig­ar-chomp­ing detec­tive, Bunk More­land, or Wen­dell Pierce, who has land­ed many juicy roles of his own, both pre- and post-Wire. (Here, play­ing a wiseass, cig­ar-chomp­ing wom­an­iz­er.) Adapt­ed and direct­ed by author and film­mak­er Book­er T. Mat­ti­son, the short film debuted on Show­time in 2001.

The sto­ry is an ear­ly exam­ple of Hurston’s genius, writ­ten four years before the pub­li­ca­tion of her break­out nov­el Their Eyes Were Watch­ing God and two years before her ground­break­ing study of African-Amer­i­can folk­lore, Mules and Men. Pub­lished in the influ­en­tial lit­er­ary mag­a­zine Sto­ry—which also served as an impor­tant venue for writ­ers like J.D. Salinger and Richard Wright—“The Gild­ed Six-Bits” so impressed the magazine’s edi­tor that he asked Hurston if she had a nov­el in progress. She didn’t, but told him she did, and imme­di­ate­ly began work on Jonah’s Gourd Vine, pub­lished the fol­low­ing year. A sto­ry of infi­deli­ty and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, “The Gild­ed Six-Bits” fea­tures char­ac­ters and a set­ting famil­iar to Hurston readers—ordinary African-Amer­i­cans caught up in the tra­vails of rur­al life in the Jim Crow South. But as in all of her work, the seem­ing sim­plic­i­ty of her char­ac­ters and lan­guage slow­ly reveal com­pli­cat­ed truths about the nature of lan­guage, mar­riage, sex­u­al­i­ty, and mon­ey. And few could bring her char­ac­ters to life bet­ter than your favorite Wire actors.

Find more films in our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

via Bib­liok­lept

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Zora Neale Hurston Sing the Bawdy Prison Blues Song “Uncle Bud” (1940)

Hear Zora Neale Hurston Sing Tra­di­tion­al Amer­i­can Folk Song “Mule on the Mount” (1939)

An Art­ful, Ani­mat­ed Trib­ute to The Wire, Cre­at­ed by a Fan of the Crit­i­cal­ly-Acclaimed TV Series

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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