The Hamilton Spectator

Her Role On TV, Rooted In Her Life

- By JONATHAN ABRAMS

More than two decades ago, the actor Michael K. Williams had asked Felicia “Snoop” Pearson to accompany him onto the set of the TV series “The Wire” after she brazenly introduced herself at a nightclub in Baltimore, Maryland.

Ed Burns, who with David Simon created the show, admired her distinct tattoos and gravelly Baltimore drawl. Mr. Burns had a spot on the show for her, he promised, if she limited any illicit activity.

The day Ms. Pearson was to appear on camera, Mr. Burns received a frantic phone call. “I didn’t know the car was stolen,” Ms. Pearson began.

She had visited New York with friends, and the driver of the car had no idea the vehicle he had purchased was stolen. The police searched Ms. Pearson, discovered a pocketknif­e and took her into custody.

Mr. Burns gave her another chance, and Ms. Pearson became the harrowing character also called Snoop, a detached, calculatin­g street soldier in a drug-dealing crew. To form this character, she reflected on her harsh Baltimore upbringing, conjuring a fictionali­zed version of herself whom the horror writer Stephen King described as “perhaps the most terrifying female villain to ever appear in a television series.”

And Mr. Burns, whom she affectiona­tely calls “Pops,” became her confidant.

Recently, the pair wrote a limited-series television show, “A.K.A. Snoop,” based on Ms. Pearson’s life, that explores the environmen­t she endured growing up, in a poor, racist

society. They plan to shop the show in the spring.

“I’m Black, gay, got a criminal background,” Ms. Pearson said. “Every strike that’s against Black people, I got them.”

The series would showcase pivotal moments in Ms. Pearson’s early life, starting with her being born three months premature to a crack-addicted mother. Later there is Ms. Pearson at 4 years old, wearing a new dress and waiting to meet the absentee mother who quickly locks her in a closet and strips off her clothes to sell in order to buy drugs. By third grade, the impish Ms. Pearson smashes a bully over the head with a bottle.

The altercatio­ns continued. When Ms. Pearson was 14, she killed a 15-year-old, Okia Toomer, whom she said had come after her with a baseball bat in a crowd. Ms. Pearson was convicted of second-degree murder and served nearly seven years in prison.

After her release, she earned her high school equivalenc­y diploma and got a job crafting car bumpers, only to be fired, she says, when her employer learned of her conviction.

Soon after, she found herself on the set of “The Wire,” which many consider one of the best series ever. The show ended in 2008, and afterward, she could not stay out of trouble. In 2011, she was arrested on drug charges and received a suspended seven-year sentence.

Ms. Pearson, 43, now lives in New York, and while she admits the search for new roles can run cold, her acting career is more than she could have dreamed of as a 20-something with no experience.

And in “A.K.A. Snoop,” she is not an ensemble player. She is the center.

“I come from Baltimore, so it ain’t no pressure at all because it’s my life story,” Ms. Pearson said. “Lord have mercy, it’s going to have you crying, laughing.”

 ?? ?? SCHAUN CHAMPION FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES Felicia “Snoop” Pearson was one of TV’s most harrowing characters on “The Wire.”
SCHAUN CHAMPION FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES Felicia “Snoop” Pearson was one of TV’s most harrowing characters on “The Wire.”

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