Wendell Pierce returns home for 'Treme'

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Wendell Pierce's fierce portrayal of Detective Bunk Moreland on David Simon's HBO series "The Wire" marked a turning point in the actor's career. Now he is reunited with Simon for HBO's "Treme," playing a trombonist that brings him back to his hometown, New Orleans.

The Hollywood Reporter: "Treme" is about living in New Orleans post- Hurricane Katrina. Do you feel a responsibility to present it a certain way?

Wendell Pierce: Yes. Just to make sure we represent it authentically and organically. I want people to really understand how front and center culture is in the daily lives of New Orleanians. You ask someone how their day was, and they'll tell you what they ate and what music they heard.

THR: Has working on "Treme" changed your own relationship with the city?
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Pierce: It went to another level. Before, people appreciated the work I was doing--you know, "Hometown kid does well." This was different. Instead of saying, "Good job," people are coming up and saying, "Thank you," as if I've given them something beyond just a good hour of television on a Sunday night. The show is cathartic for a whole community.

THR: Did you grow up with a sense of that community?

Pierce: Definitely. I grew up in a very socially aware neighborhood, Pontchartrain Park, the first area in which blacks could buy houses after World War II. You had a prominent, historic-minded and education focused community, and that neighborhood was destroyed during Katrina. (Recently) I put out a call to action to the people in my generation who benefited from this great life. We created the Pontchartrain Park Community Development Corp., getting all the properties that had been sold back to the government. We're building solar and geothermal homes and selling them affordably to repopulate the neighborhood.

THR: How do the people there feel about all the press Brad Pitt has brought?

Pierce: They're happy about it. Brad Pitt is accepted; he's able to bring attention to the city, and the (locals) are appreciative of all the efforts people have made, famous or not famous, because their efforts seem to be in spite of those who don't have our best interests at heart--the policymakers and the government.

THR: New Orleans is a very musical city. Did you grow up playing music?

Pierce: Every little kid in New Orleans at some stage wants to pick up an instrument. I played trumpet for exactly two weeks in the sixth grade. It has always been a dream to portray a musician and actually learn to play a little. It's a real moment of triumph that I get to play with Allen Toussaint, Rebirth and the Treme Brass Band.
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