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Q&A (Excerpt): ANWAN GLOVER

Highlights from The DC Issue

Photograph by IAN ALLEN

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Saturday, November 22, 2008


The complete Stop Smiling Interview with Anwan Glover appears in
The DC Issue. Here we present an excerpt of that interview


THE EMANCIPATION OF BIG G

The Stop Smiling Interview with Anwan Glover

By Walker Lamond

You can’t miss Anwan Glover. Just follow the turning heads as he strolls across U Street and under the marquee of the Lincoln Theatre in the Shaw neighborhood of Northwest. Tall and lithe, the 35-year-old moves with the patience of a man who has lived many lives. Glover, who was born and raised just blocks from where we are standing, is a familiar face to the locals here who call him out by name. To some he’s Genghis Glover or Big G, the wild-eyed MC for the Backyard Band, a popular go-go act that’s been packing clubs consistently for the better part of two decades. To others he’s the Ghetto Prince, the raspy-voiced DJ on the local FM station KYS. And then there’s the new nickname. Slim. That’s the one I’m here to talk to him about. That’s the one that’s been ringing out. Nationwide.

Even though Glover has enjoyed local celebrity status since he was a teenager, his smile betrays the eagerness of a rising star. And coming off three seasons as Slim Charles on HBO’s masterful drama The Wire, he has every right to be excited. In what was not supposed to be a recurring role, Glover stole every scene he was in, and he did it not with a hyperkinetic caricature of a slang-slinging street thug, but with the same gravitas he displays as he slides past the Sunday morning throngs four-deep at the counter of Ben’s Chili Bowl. And then there’s his voice — deep and rough, battle-worn from years onstage. From his first lines as the cool-headed enforcer for the Barksdale crew, you knew Slim Charles would be a star.

Like many of the talented newcomers from the cast of The Wire, Glover finds himself in high demand these days, fielding offers from casting directors in search of the kind of authenticity that remains so elusive in Hollywood, especially in roles for African-Americans. But as Glover tells me, that authenticity comes at a price. In 2004 his career was almost derailed by an arrest for gun possession, a charge that ended in a suspended sentence and unsupervised probation. In 2007, a week before production wrapped on the series finale of The Wire, his brother, Tayon, was shot and killed just blocks from where the two boys grew up. We meet for lunch amid no less than three family reunions — identified as such by their matching T-shirts — to talk about growing up in Washington, The Wire and who Anwan Glover will become next.


Stop Smiling: Did you just get back from an audition?

Anwan Glover
: Yeah, I’m confident on this one. I’m confident as hell. I got a call back from the casting director and he was like, “Man, awesome. You was so natural. You just jumped into that character.” Once you can really jump into a character and really bring that character to film, it’s incredible.

SS: What’s going on with the Backyard Band?

AG: I’m still focused on my music. We just put a street CD out called The ’08 Ticket. New songs, all new stuff on it. For me just getting my stuff out there, sending my headshot out to different casting people, it’s like the best of both worlds. And then go in on Sunday on my radio show and knock that down. It’s hard to explain, because one minute nobody can see me and I’m going over the air. The next minute, everybody can see me in the club. Then the world can see me on TV.

SS
: Are you getting recognized outside of Washington now?

AG: Yeah, yeah. It’s like everywhere I go, it’s incredible — I mean the response. I could be in a grocery store and it’s like, “Slim! I love your character!” I could be in the airport or in the train station. I didn’t think I would ever get that much love, especially from New York. New York is tough. I met Wesley Snipes in like 2006 at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in LA. He was just like, “Man! [chest thump] What you doing with that character?” I was like, “You know who I am?” He was like, “Man, you’re my favorite! When you came on in season three, you did the damn thing!”

SS: You weren’t even supposed to have a recurring role, but people responded to the character. Why do you think that is?

AG: I think because the writing on the show was incredible. When I was introduced on the show, one of my first lines was, “What if they don’t cop our re-up?” People were like, “Damn. Who was that kid? His look and his voice.” And when everything came about, it just kept coming. One day I was in my trailer and I got there and they gave me a script — they’d changed all the lines up. I was like, “Well, just let me lock my door.” We were filming at midday and they were like, “Rehearsal’s up. You all right, Anwan?” I was like, “I’m great. Straight.” I knew all the lines. I think there, the director was like “Yo, Anwan, I really loved what you did today.” George Pelecanos had his earphones on. He said, “Look, I just want to commend you on catching that pass.” Then they just kept writing me in. And it went from there.

SS: When you heard they were going to end The Wire after season five, were you disappointed?

AG: Actually, I wasn’t that upset, because it’s a stepping stone. Now it’s time to really walk down and get all of it. From George Pelecanos to David Simon to Ed Burns to Nina Kostroff Noble, they’re really up-front people, they’re going to let you know. Like Dave, he said: “Anwan, you’re really a good actor. Just put yourself in the right places and the right times, and they’ll let you know. I can’t really do too much for you. You have to do it for yourself.” That’s just like a lion and his cubs. He’s got to send them out into the world to eventually fend for themselves. They can’t stay on the pop. Pops don’t care. He’s a rolling stone, he’s gonna get out and do what he do. But you have to be able to be among the elite. So I just practice how I’m gonna talk around certain people. I practice body movement, eye contact.

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