The Wire: Jimmy McNulty Originally Had a Different Name – Here’s What It Was - Bliteoc

The Wire: Jimmy McNulty Originally Had a Different Name – Here’s What It Was

5 months ago 117

The Wire has a reputation as one of the greatest TV shows of all time, but just like any other show, it went through a developmental process that can be awkward at times. Looking over a piece of the series’ show bible reveals just how much of the ending was present in the planning stages while also revealing how characters may have been totally different. Even surface-level changes can make all the difference. For the perfect case in point, look no further than Jimmy McNulty’s original name: McArdle.

Part of The Wire’s cleverness comes from the way it introduces the audience to the world of Baltimore crime as though it were a familiar cop show with many of the same trappings and tropes. Viewers eventually learn that the show is the furthest thing from a typical TV drama and instead takes an immersive look into the lives of an extensive cast across Baltimore’s social strata. In the early episodes, the show follows a hard-boiled and heavy drinking detective who plays by his own rules. Viewers came to know and love the character known as Jimmy McNulty, but it was very nearly Jimmy McArdle.

Portrayed by English actor Dominic West, “McNulty” as named helped hammer home the Irish-American aspect to the character that would prove an integral part of who he was. “McNulty” sounds exactly like the kind of guy who would refer to Bushmills as “protestant whiskey,” but the character did not earn the name until later on in production when it was changed to that of The Wire co-creator Robert Colesberry’s grandmother.

The McArdle name would later be recycled for a different character, a drug dealer working with the Sobotkas and The Greek in season 2, but it’s odd to think of how such a minor detail could have affected such a central character to the show. It was McNulty’s offhand remarks and dogged dedication that would later drive much of the series’ main plot, but viewers untrained in immersive storytelling like The Wire’s needed the more typical hero McNulty represents in order to acclimate to the show’s nuances.

As co-creator David Simon himself puts it “The first thing we had to do was teach folks to watch television in a different way, to slow themselves down and pay attention, to immerse themselves in a way that the medium had long ago ceased to demand. And we had to do this, problematically enough, using a genre and its tropes that for decades have been accepted as basic, obvious storytelling terrain.” Many of those elements are clear in McArdle’s description in the series’ bible right from the earliest stages of the planning process.

The series bible notes that McNulty is “very good at his job, arrogant but with just enough charm to carry it” and “Divorced, iconoclastic and indifferent to the caprices of authority, he unmakes what remains of his police career even as he builds the case.” These elements hold true through much of the series’ 5 seasons. There is a curious charm to seeing The Wire’s complex characters reduced to such small paragraphical descriptions. Nevertheless, even longtime fans can grow a deeper appreciation for just how much thought went into the characters that made the show was it is.

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