Wendell Pierce

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Wendell Pierce
Pierce in January 2007
BornWendell Edward Pierce
(1966-12-08) December 8, 1966 (age 47)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
EducationJuilliard School (BFA 1985)
Years active1986–present
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Wendell Pierce
Pierce in January 2007
BornWendell Edward Pierce
(1966-12-08) December 8, 1966 (age 47)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
EducationJuilliard School (BFA 1985)
Years active1986–present

Wendell Edward Pierce (born December 8, 1966) is an American actor, best known for his work in HBO dramas, including his portrayals of Detective Bunk Moreland in The Wire, trombonist Antoine Batiste in Treme and Michael Davenport in Waiting to Exhale.

Early life[edit]

Pierce was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, one of three sons born to a teacher and a decorated World War II veteran who worked as a maintenance engineer.[1] His father's segregated Army unit helped U.S. Marines win the Battle of Saipan in 1944. Pierce said of his father's experience:

“When the country wasn’t loving my father, my father was loving his country. It’s the ultimate act of patriotism.”[2]

Pierce was raised in the black middle-class community of Pontchartrain Park. It was the first African-American post-war suburb. His father, along with many black veterans, bought into the neighborhood after returning home from the war. The neighborhood was wiped out during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, including Pierce's family home, which was flooded with 14 feet of water.[3][4]

After first attending Benjamin Franklin High School, Pierce graduated from the New Orleans Centre for Creative Arts (along with Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Harry Connick Jr., and Lolis Eric Elie) where he was a Presidential Scholar of the Arts.[5] As a young actor, Pierce appeared in The Winter’s Tale at the Tulane Shakespeare Festival. He produced and hosted Think About It, a youth themed talk show, for the local NBC affiliate station, and also hosted a weekly jazz show on WYLD-FM RADIO called "Extensions from Congo Square."[6]

He then attended the Juilliard School's Drama Division (Group 14: 1981–1985) where he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.[7][8]


Pierce has been in over 30 films, appeared in nearly 50 television shows and has performed in dozens of stage productions. He worked on the HBO dramas The Wire and Treme. He appeared in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 as "J. Jenks".[citation needed]

For his role in Treme, Pierce learned to play the trombone, though relies on “sound double”, Stafford Agee, of the Rebirth Brass Band. Agee actually records the music, while Pierce shadows the sound.[3]

Pierce was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead for his portrayal of "Joe" in Four, playing a married, closeted gay man who steps out on his family with a young white man he met online. The film was released on September 13, 2013, around the same time that The Michael J. Fox Show debuted on NBC, in which Pierce played Michael J. Fox's character's boss until the show's cancellation some five months later.[9][10]

Feature film[edit]

1986The Money PitParamedicRichard Benjamin
1989Casualties of WarMacIntireBrian De Palmawith Sean Penn and Michael J. Fox
1989Family BusinessProsecutorSidney Lumetwith Sean Connery and Dustin Hoffman
1990A Matter of DegreesWells DennardW.T. Morgan
1991A Rage in HarlemLouisBill Dukewith Forest Whitaker and Danny Glover
1992Malcolm XBen ThomasSpike Leewith Denzel Washington
1993Manhattan Murder MysteryPolicemanWoody Allen
1994It Could Happen to YouBo WilliamsAndrew Bergmanwith Nicolas Cage
1995Bye Bye LoveHectorSam Weismanwith Rob Reiner
1995HackersAgent Dick GillIain Softleywith Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller
1995Waiting to ExhaleMichael DavenportForest Whitakerwith Lela Rochon
1996Get on the BusWendellSpike Lee
1996SleepersLittle CaesarBarry Levinsonwith Brad Pitt, Jason Patric and Robert De Niro
1998BulworthFredWarren Beattywith Don Cheadle and Halle Berry
1999The 24 Hour WomanRoy LabelleNancy Savocawith Rosie Perez, Melissa Leo and Chris Cooper
1999Shadows of the Past (aka Abilene)Reverend TillisJoe Camp III
2002Brown SugarSimonRick Famuyiwawith Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan
2003The Fighting TemptationsReverend LewisJonathan Lynn
2004A Hole in OneDanRichard Ledeswith Michelle Williams
2004Land of PlentyHenryWim Wenderswith Michelle Williams
2004RayWilbur BrassfieldTaylor Hackfordwith Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington
2006Stay AliveDetective ThibodeauxWilliam Brent Bellwith Adam Goldberg, produced by McG
2007I Think I Love My WifeSeanChris Rockwith Kerry Washington
2010Night Catches UsDavid GordonTanya Hamiltonwith Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington
2010Love RanchNaasih MohammedTaylor Hackfordwith Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci
2011The MorticianWendell SimmsGareth Maxwell Roberts
2011Horrible BossesDetective HaganSeth Gordonwith Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Spacey
2011ForeclosureActorRichard Ledes
2012Lay the FavoriteDave the RaveStephen Frearswith Bruce Willis and Catherine Zeta-Jones
2012The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2J. JenksBill Condonwith Kristen Stewart
2013ParkerCarlsonTaylor Hackfordwith Jason Statham
2013MöbiusBobÉric Rochantwith Jean Dujardin and Tim Roth
2013FourJoeJoshua SanchezIndependent Spirit Award Nomination
2014Elsa & FredArmandeMichael Radfordwith Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer
2014SelmaHosea WilliamsAva DuVernay
2015The Runner


1987Vietnam War StoryFrench"The Pass"
1989A Man Called HawkDerrick West"Never My Love"with Angela Bassett
1988-1989The EqualizerDr. Wolff""The Last Campaign", "Starfire"
1990Capital NewsConrad WhiteAll Episodes
1991General Motors Playwrights TheaterSergeant Kelly"Avenue Z Afternoon"
1991The 10 Million Dollar GetawayParnell "Stacks" EdwardsTV Movie
1991I'll Fly AwayCharles"Coming Home"
1992Law & OrderChief Ola-Gimju Nwaka"Consultation"
1992Unnatural PursuitsCabbie"I Don't Do Cuddles"
1993StrappedDistrict AttorneyTV Movie, directed by Forest Whitaker
1995Law & OrderJerome Bryant"Rage"
1995New York NewsJesus"The Using Game"
1996New York UndercoverDr. Anthony Fisher"Bad Blood"
1996Never Give Up: The Jimmy V StoryJohn SaundersTV Movie
1996-1997MaloneyDA Calvin Patterson5 Episodes
1997413 HopeTaffyPilot Episode
1997The Advocate's DevilJustinTV Movie
1997-1998The Gregory Hines ShowCarl StevensonAll Episodes
1999The ExpertDr. WorseleyPilot Episode
1999Law & OrderMr. Wade"Disciple"
1998-2000The Brian Benben ShowKevin La Rue7 Episodes
2000God, the Devil and BobVoice Only"In the Beginning", "Date from Hell"
2000Third WatchOfficer Conrad 'Candyman' Jones5 Episodes
2000City of AngelsNorbert Grimly"Straight Flush"
2001My Wife and KidsDr. BoucherPilot Episode
2000-2001The Weber Show/CursedWendell SimmsAll EpisodesShow name change in middle of season
2002GirlfriendsAnthony Jackson"Childs in Charge"
2004Judging AmyHarry Benton"Sins of the Father"
2004Law & OrderRoger Porter"Gunplay"
2004Law & Order: Trial by JuryDr. Richard Link"The Line", "Eros in the Upper Eighties"
2006Close to HomeSam Carter"Prodigal Son"
2007Life SupportSlickTV Movie, with Queen Latifah, NAACP Image Award Win
2007The Wire: The ChroniclesDet. William 'Bunk' Moreland"2000: Bunk and McNulty"
2002-2008The WireDet. William 'Bunk' MorelandEntire Series2 NAACP Image Awards Nominations
2008Women's Murder ClubBill Schroeder"Father's Day"
2008In Plain SightDr. Warren McBride/Warren Morris"It Doesn't Live Here Anymore"
2008House of PayneJeffrey Lucas"The Last Supper", "We've Come this Far by Faith: Part 2"
2007-2008Numb3rsWilliam Bradford4 Episodes
2009Fear ItselfWiilbur Orwell"Something with Bite"
2009HawthorneMichael Schilling"Trust Me"
2009Drop Dead DivaNeal David"Grayson's Anatomy"
2010Tim & Eric Awesome ShowDetective"Re-Animated"
2010-2013TremeAntoine BatisteEntire Series
2013-2014SuitsRobert Zane5 episodesRecurring Role
2013–2014The Michael J. Fox ShowHarris GreenRegular cast
2014Ray DonovanRonald Keith2nd seasonRecurring Role
2015The Odd CoupleTeddyRegular cast
Pierce with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake after a Saints loss to the Ravens in Baltimore, December 2010


Pierce has been in numerous stage productions. He was lauded for his performance as Holt Fay in Queenie at the John F. Kennedy Center. He has performed on Broadway in staged productions of The Piano Lesson, Serious Money and The Boys of Winter. He has performed off Broadway in The Cherry Orchard (for which he was nominated for a VIV Award for Lead Actor, Waiting for Godot (which was set on a New Orleans rooftop post-Hurricane Katrina, and Broke-ology, performed at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.[11]

Other performances include Cymbeline (at The Public Theater), The Good Times Are Killing Me, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Tis Pity She's a Whore and Ms. Ever's Boys performed at the ACT Theatre.

Pierce is also a theater producer, having produced the Broadway show, Clybourne Park. The show was nominated for four Tony Awards. It went on to win the Tony Award for Best Play in 2012. [12]


In 2009, Pierce became the host of the nationally syndicated, Peabody Award-winning radio program, Jazz at Lincoln Center, which features live recordings from Jazz at Lincoln Center's House of Swing.

Business and philanthropy[edit]

Pierce considers himself a "true capitalist" and a "classic entrepreneur."[3][4]

In 2013, Fast Company named Pierce one of the "100 Most Creative People in Business."[13]

Pontchartrain Park Community Development Corp.[edit]

Pierce started the non-profit, Pontchartrain Park Community Development Corp., to build new affordable solar and geothermal homes in the area for families displaced by Hurricane Katrina.[14]

Sterling Farms[edit]

Inspired in part by Michelle Obama's initiative to bring more supermarkets to “food deserts” – where residents lack easy access to fresh produce – Pierce, along with 2 partners (Troy Henry and James Hatchett), started a chain of grocery stores, Sterling Farms, in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans in 2012.[15] Sterling Farms also has a convenience store division called "Sterling Express." The stores are named after Sterling Henry, his business partner's father who ran a pharmacy for about 40 years at the Lower 9th Ward.[16]

Personal life[edit]

Pierce is "tri-coastal", splitting his time between L.A., New York and New Orleans.[17] New Orleans locals nicknamed him "Saints Wendell."[15]

He attended the 2012 Democratic National Convention, was one of President Barack Obama's top campaign fundraisers in 2012 (along with Harvey Weinstein and Eva Longoria), and once escorted Gwen Ifil to a White House State Dinner.[4][18][19]

When first cast in The Wire, Pierce and his cast mates doubted the show would be a hit:

"I remember the first time we all sat around and watched the pilot. We all turned to each other and said, ‘Man, I don't think this s--- is going anywhere.'"[15]

He is an avid supporter of Irish soccer team St. Patrick's Athletic F.C.[20]


  1. ^ "Wendell Pierce profile". Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  2. ^ "Seen and Heard in New York: Wendell Pierce, Cory Booker, Alan Rickman". Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  3. ^ a b c "Pierce's New Orleans". Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  4. ^ a b c "Why "Treme" Star Wendell Pierce is Getting into the Supermarket Business". Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  5. ^ Associated Press (2008). "Actor wants to revive Pontchartrain Park". KATC Channel 3. Archived from the original on 2008-08-27. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  6. ^ "Wendell Pierce Award Winning Actor and President of the Pontchartrain Park Community Development Corp.". Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  7. ^ "Alumni News". The Juilliard School. September 2007. Archived from the original on 2011-11-11. 
  8. ^ "Wendell Pierce". All Movie Guide. The New York Times. Retrieved April 5, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Controversial Award-Winning Film". Retrieved 2013-07-22. 
  10. ^ "NBC Announces Fall Premiere Dates for New Season". The Futon Critic. June 21, 2013. Retrieved July 3, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Cast: Wendell Pierce". Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  12. ^ "New Orleans Natives Bring Home Tony Award". Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  13. ^ "100 Most Creative People in Business 2013 Business". Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  14. ^ "Exploring the Big Easy: Wendell Pierce, Hometown Hero". Pool & Spa News. Retrieved July 27, 2012. 
  15. ^ a b c "Treme's Wendell Pierce". Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  16. ^ "Wendell Pierce on "The Wire", "Treme" and Food". NPR. Retrieved July 27, 2013. 
  17. ^ "New Orleans' Favorite Son". Scene Magazine. Retrieved July 27, 2013. 
  18. ^ Tran, Vivyan (September 7, 2012). "Celebrities spotted at the Democratic National Convention". Politico. 
  19. ^ "Obama Campaign Releases List of Top Campaign Fundraisers". Retrieved 2013-07-27. 
  20. ^ "‘Bunk’ from The Wire revels in St Pats’ FAI Cup triumph". Retrieved 2014-11-02. 

External links[edit]