HBO's The Wire is one of the most important shows in television history and Felicia "Snoop" Pearson played one of its most iconic roles. Stephen King called her "Perhaps the most terrifying female villain to ever appear in a television series." (Stephen King knows a little something about terrifying.) That's high praise for any actress, but particularly for one with no prior acting experience. Pearson was fresh off the streets when David Simon wrote in her character in the show's third season. She's had a tumultuous past, from being born addicted to crack cocaine to serving six and a half years for attempted murder when she was just a teenager. Through it all, Felicia Pearson is still standing tall.
The little lady with the big personality is set to appear in Spike Lee's latest joint, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus—a remake of the 1973 blaxploitation flick Ganja & Hess—which you can rent or buy on Lee's website now, and will be in limited theaters starting today. It's about a doctor that comes in contact with an ancient artifact that curses him with a fixation for blood.
This film marks different territory for the 34-year-old Pearson. Instead of playing a hustler, she's a prostitute. Now ready to flex her acting chops, Snoop stopped by to talk her past, The Wire, and her challenging new role.
You haven’t been in a film in a while, right? Since...
What, since The Wire? I did Must Be the Music with Charles Dutton. But, other than that, nah. I got this movie I’m dropping with Spike Lee, the 13th of this month, February. I’m working on a documentary too.
The documentary’s based on a book that you wrote, Grace After Midnight?
Yeah, exactly, but where it left off. So, you know, my documentary just gives you a whole other outlook of how Baltimore is instead of The Wire. And then, just to get all the way familiar with me.
The Wire wasn’t accurate?
Uh, except for the abandoned buildings. Ain’t nobody kill nobody in no abandoned buildings. But, you know, yeah for the most part.
How was it working with Spike?
It was amazing, man, but it was also challenging because everybody knows I’m gay. I had to sit there and kiss a nigga. [Laughs.] This shit crazy, man. That was challenging.
You see my versatility, like I’m playing a prostitute. You wouldn’t think that about "Snoop."
You had to flex your acting chops.
Yeah, put my versatility skills to work.
Spike sought you out for the role?
Yeah he came looking for me. He didn’t even know that I was home and the reason why he knew that was because my brother Mike was at one of Spike’s charity events. And Spike was just saying, “How’s Snoop doing? You talk to her? She call you?” And he was like, “Yeah, she’s in New York, she’s lives here.” And Spike was like, “Oh she home? Ask her if she trying to come and audition for this role.” After that Spike took me shopping for this role and audition to see how was I gonna come off on the screen.
Did you see the original film that it’s based on?
Nah, I haven’t.
The original is Ganja & Hess. It's about the same thing—a doctor that's in love with blood because of some crazy spiritual shit. So what is your role in the film?
Yeah, he’s addicted to bloodsucking and all that. I play Lucky Maze, a prostitute. So, you know what a prostitute does. It’s gonna be exciting. My part's funny though. The film is supposed to be suspense, horror, and comedy. My part's comedy.
You're wearing high heels and shit?
All that, all that. Spike got me doing some wild shit, man.
Does this mean that you’re back now?
Yessir, in full effect. You see my versatility, like I’m playing a prostitute. You wouldn’t think that about "Snoop." Some people look at a picture, look at me, and be like, “Nah, that’s not her.” So that’s good.
How have things changed for you since doing The Wire? Why this hiatus?
My life changed dramatically. Me being on The Wire and my old lifestyle didn’t mix. I got in trouble. The police always wanna lock you up and knock you down. I wasn’t even doing nothing, but I got a background. I have a past. It’s OK. I mean everybody has a past, but don’t keep on trying to put me in my past, when I’m trying to move forward. And I feel as though that’s what they did when they arrested me last time.
I didn’t mean to take this time off. You gotta sort certain things out. You gotta really figure out what you want in life, man. You want this or you want the streets, what you want?
What were you arrested for?
Conspiracy about a bunch of bullshit. Conspiracy to what? I let my brother lay his head down at my house, and they found out. “Oh that’s Snoop house he laying at. So pull her in it.” That’s how I got in. I did eight months on house arrest and 38 days in jail.
In the movie Dr. Hess is investigating blood rituals. What do you know about blood rituals?
That’s some old voodoo, spooky type stuff. [Laughs.] I don’t know nothing about no blood rituals. That shit can stay over there.
Let’s talk about The Wire, you down to talk about that? I want ask about Michael—Tristan Wilds.
That’s my son, man. That’s my family. I go to his parent's house and eat dinner, all that. It's family.
Did you know he was going to become this R&B singer Mack Wilds?
Yeah, he was always singing. I’m glad he got out of his shell because he’s very talented. I've been knew he was talented.
There’s been a Wire resurgence since they re-released it on HD. One thing that came up was when Avon and them went down, Marlo and you and Chris came out of nowhere. Was there originally a back story?
Yeah, Marlo was based on Anthony Jones. Anthony was like my hood father. He was a big time drug dealer. He paid for my lawyer and all that. But it’s crazy that I played Mookie, and Chris Partlow, he played my homeboy Jarred.
Damn. They were based on real people too?
Yeah, exactly, and I already knew who it was. If you look at Marlo, and look at Anthony Jones’ picture, see the lazy eye, you know all that. Anthony look just like Marlo. So it’s nothing.
I have a past. It’s ok. I mean everybody has a past, but don’t keep on trying to put me in my past, when I’m trying to move forward.
It’s like you guys just came out of nowhere on the show.
They got me straight off the streets. Michael K. Williams brought me in.
I heard about that. You met him at a party, right?
Yeah, it was a club called One in Baltimore. They shut it down now, but it was like the poppin-est club. Everybody used to go in there and whatever. On that particular night, Mike K. kept looking at me. And I was like, “Who the fuck is him?” For real I was gonna go outside and leave for his dumb ass. He was lucky somebody told me that was him.
I had never watched The Wire though. I was always outside trapping, doing what I do. My cousin was like, “That’s Omar from The Wire. He ain’t ‘bout nothing.” I used to always be paranoid. So Mike said: “Man, you a actress? You a girl or boy?” I was like, “What? I’m a girl. I don’t get down like that, nigga,” and he was like, “Nah, nah, nah, nah.” [Laughs.] One thing led to another. I met him on set, which was like two blocks from my grandmother's house.
Soon as I started talking, the writer and producers, were like: “Wow. We're gonna write you in.” Because I was ready to say forget it. They had me on the corner, just not doing nothing. Giving me $50. Nigga is you trippin’? [Laughs.]
That show ended up changing your life.
Yes it did.
Your past life helped your acting. It was like a fish to water.
Yeah, it was. Just coming in, just breathing the air. The only thing that the writers and producers wanted to see was if I can remember stuff. And once they seen that, they was like, “Wow. She’s a natural.” Yeah, like I could remember it just like that. It was just like, once I put my mind to something, I’m willing to work.
When you used to trap, you used to bag up without a scale?
Yeah, eyeball it. I eyeball the work. [Laughs.]
We have this thing in the office for durags and The Wire loved durags.
Yeah, I told them take that shit off. Ain’t nobody wear no durags in Baltimore.
That's a New York thing.
You don't wear a durag for your braids when you sleep?
Nah, I don’t, I can’t sleep in a stocking cap. I get it done over. You probably see me with my shit nappy. [Laughs.] I can’t sleep with it on my head. I get a headache.
OK. Back to Da Sweet Blood of Jesus. People are going to be surprised to see you in this new role.
Best believe people gonna be talking about this shit. You think I should say that? That I’m half-way ass naked in this motherfucker. [Laughs.]
Word? You're showing some skin?
I take jokes and all that. I don’t care nothing about that, it’s only acting. I don’t care. That’s what I told Spike, I don’t care, what you got for me? What’s up?
What kinda game Spike gave you?
I was kinda nervous because of my voice. I’m in speech class and acting class right now, too. And he was like, “You're beautiful, once you put the makeup and all that shit on, nobody knows who you are. You look just like a little sexy lady. Soon as you open your mouth, then, niggas be like ‘Oh alright.’ But they don’t care though. They don’t care. Long as you're looking pretty, they don’t care.” And I had embedded that in my head, so I could pull that role off. Because it was very challenging.
I ain’t want no nigga touching me. Get the fuck out of here. He ugly as shit. I told Spike, I said, “You coulda at least got me a cute nigga.” This nigga ugly as shit. [Laughs.]
Your scenes are with the doctor? Did he try to get your blood?
Yeah, all that, you're gonna see it. It’s very interesting. You gonna love it though. You gonna be like, “Look at Snoop. She wylin’.” You could call me Felicia. “Look at Felicia.”
I hope you get more opportunities, man. Hollywood be frontin’ on people of color, man.
Yeah, they do, and on your sexuality. All the time.
Angel Diaz is a staff writer for Complex Media. Follow him @ADiaz456.