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The Wire: Snoop's Ruthless Character Arc Was Inspired By Felicia Pearson's Real Life

Though it's now been off the air almost twice as long as it was on, HBO's gritty crime drama "The Wire" is still regarded among the most perfect television shows ever to grace the airwaves. Given the passion the show still inspires in viewers, it's likely to remain a fixture on all-time best lists as long as such lists are being made. 

Over six seasons, "The Wire" explored the criminal underbelly of Baltimore, doing so from both sides of the legal line. The series was lauded by critics and viewers alike for its unflinchingly truthful depictions of each. That authenticity was bolstered by the incredible cast of characters "The Wire's" creative team conjured to bring their story to light. And few of those characters were quite as unforgettable as the street-level hustler known as Felicia Pearson. Better known as "Snoop," few characters were quite as feared either, as she developed an unsettling reputation for level-headed brutality during her three-season run.

Reputation aside, Snoop's understanding of underworld machinations was every bit as impressive. That's largely because Pearson herself actually came of age running game on the mean streets of Baltimore. As noted in a 2011 article from The Baltimore Sun, the actor has spoken candidly of her criminal past over the years, detailing much in her 2007 biography "Grace After Midnight." And that background surely informed the character she helped create for "The Wire," including the character's nickname, reportedly given to the real Pearson by a former criminal mentor.

Pearson's criminal past served as foundation for one of the most memorable characters from The Wire

So brutal were Felicia "Snoop" Pearson's feats on "The Wire," famed horror scribe Stephen King once called her "perhaps the most terrifying female villain to ever appear in a television series." And if you saw Snoop at work during her three-season reign of terror, you know it's hard to argue that assessment. It seems Pearson's real-life travails as a drug-dealing teen in Baltimore were considerably less blood-stained, but The Baltimore Sun piece asserts the troubled teen actually served a lengthy prison term after shooting and killing another teen in 1995.

Once out of prison, Pearson reportedly struggled to hold down steady work. That struggle eased in 2004 after Pearson met Michael K. Williams — who played Omar on "The Wire" — at a bar. Intrigued by the tough-talking Pearson, Williams convinced her to come to the set of the show with him for an audition. "The Wire" co-creators Ed Burns and David Simon were impressed enough to write her a small role. After wowing the cast and crew, that role quickly expanded, with Pearson appearing as Snoop in 23 episodes of the series. 

It's safe to assume Pearson wasn't exactly feeding personal stories to "The Wire" creatives, but as series casting director Pat Moran told The Baltimore Sun, the actor no doubt used her own emotional scars in playing the part. "Snoop has total emotional recall," Moran said, later adding, "It's not easy, and not everyone can do it." And Pearson used that unique talent to help craft one of the most memorably villainous characters to ever grace the airwaves.