Exclusive: Tray Chaney Talks The Wire Casting and HBO’s We Own This City
HBO has been churning out heavy hitting dramas for years. You can look back at shows like The Sopranos or at ones with more contemporary hype like Euphoria and see critics laud them for their execution — barring mixed reviews on the ending of The Sopranos, that is.
If you were to make a list of the greatest HBO series of all time, in both execution and commercial success, you wouldn’t be surprised if The Wire was added to the conversation. After all, it did receive the Directors Guild of America Award, Writers Guild of America Award for Television: Dramatic Series, Peabody Award, and the acclamation could go on.
The number of recognizable names from the cast is also impressive; Idris Elba, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kenneth Williams, Method Man, and more. Some of which were well-established prior to the series, and others who saw their career reach new heights because of their involvement with it. That latter holds true for Tray Chaney, who plays the character Poot, a drug dealer on his way up.
“I have to be honest with you, I didn’t expect it.”
How Tray Chaney Landed The Role of Poot
With just a few acting gigs prior to being cast as Poot, Chaney was mostly coming from the hip-hop and dancing world. “When I was discovered in 2001 by a woman named Linda Townsend, she said, ‘I don’t specialize in submitting dancers and rappers. I only work with actors.’” He explained, noting she did trust him, though. She knew he didn’t have any stage fright, and that he did have some acting education from high school.
“She said, ‘I’ve got this pilot. It’s called The Wire.’ I remember going in to read for Pat Moran, the casting director for The Wire in Baltimore. I actually read for the character Wee-Bey… I got a call back and read for David Simon, the creator. And all the producers were in it. And then I got another call back saying, ‘Hey, you didn’t book the role of Wee-Bey… but you got the role of Poot.’”
While breaking everything down, Chaney also recalled having to learn on the spot. “I didn’t know what a slate was. I didn’t know how to profile… Pat Moran had to walk me through it like, ‘Say your name, height, who you’re reading for.’” Fast-forward 20 years, and Chaney now has many projects on the go.
What’s Tray Chaney Doing Now?
Chaney’s latest role is a character named Tango_Unchained in We Need to Talk, a gamer-comedy starring James Maslow, directed by Todd Wolfe. “I wasn’t [a gamer] before the film, but now, every now and then I have to get a little bit of Call of Duty in… I’ve got a 16-year-old son, and he’s a gamer, so it’s funny to me because I’ve been in this business for so long and with my son watching all of my different films and projects that I’ve been in, he’s most excited about We Need to Talk.”
Chaney also booked the role of a police officer in HBO Max’s series We Own This City, which is based on the book and released on April 25, 2022. It’s about the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force, which has had members caught for racketeering, has had accusations of witness coaching, and have had many members deemed unreliable, resulting in requests to courts to throw out hundreds of convictions.
“It’s from the same creator of The Wire… to come back 20 years later with the same crew that we shot The Wire with in Baltimore… I’m really excited about that… Being in a business for 20 plus years, it’s like man, I never gave up. I stayed the course and had the willpower to keep going no matter what.” Added Chaney. “I couldn’t thank God enough.”
Some of Chaney’s other projects include independent work, like his 45-minute documentary “that captures how I started in this business at eight-years-old, and then I made the transition to becoming an actor. I started as a dancer, a hip-hop artist, but making that transition in 2002 when I was cast for The Wire, which was the first audition I ever went on… when it ended in 2008, I found myself in a tough spot and had to rebrand who I was… it shows me 20 years ago trying to find a way, and it’s really an encouragement to men, women, and children to never give up on your dream.”